The driver and co-passenger in the sedan that smashed into a Metro pillar are critical but alive. But the three seated in the rear that sustained the least damage died on the spot. The difference between life and death was a 2-inch-wide strapping that all three in the rear seat had ignored to buckle on.
“Passengers in a vehicle, who are not wearing a seat belt , can become projectiles during an accident . Unbuckled passengers can very easily be ejected through the front, rear or side windows, resulting in death. Occupants can also die of internal haemorrhage caused by being violently thrown forward and upward, smashed into the front seat and over and bumped into the dashboard or the windscreen. Head injuries apart, they would have suffered chin and facial damage, rib fracture and spinal injury,” said Institute of Road Traffic Education director Rohit Baluja, an expert on road safety, who helped frame the Motor Vehicles Driving Regulation 2017, that has made the driver responsible for the use of seat belts by all occupants of the car.
In Kolkata, only 50% of front seat occupants wear seat belts. None in the rear seat do so. Not just Kolkata, a countrywide survey showed that only 15% of those who travelled in the rear seat wore seat belts. In 2017, 16,876 passengers were killed, and 61,942 passengers were injured due to non-use of seat belts according to government data. According to WHO, use of rear seat belt reduces the probability of being killed by 25% and injuries by 75%.
In this crash, the difference between the occupant who wore seat belt and the ones that didn’t, was stark. The blood spatters in the car told the tale. The co-passenger’s seat next to the driver was clean as was the air bag that had inflated on impact, indicating that Sarbjyot Singh, who was seated there, had his seat belt on. Hours after the accident, he walked out of the hospital and headed home.
In the driver’s seat, Mohit Jain was critically injured and is battling for life. The airbag on the steering wheel had inflated as well but the blood smears on it indicated that it had smashed into an unrestrained occupant, causing major injuries. “An airbag can cause more damage than harm if the seat belt is not fastened,” explained Baluja.
Automakers acknowledge no matter how expensive the cars and how advanced its safety features, it is the seat belt that makes all the difference. “Seat belts are meant to restrain passengers and prevent them from being smashed into the steering wheel or back of the front seat, or thrown out of the car. Three quarters of people who are thrown from the car in a crash are killed,” explained an automotive expert on crash tests.
Passengers in the rear seat are particularly vulnerable in an accident as they usually don’t see it coming and don’t get the split second warning to brace for impact. A few years ago, Union minister Gopinath Munde died in what appeared to be an innocuous road accident in Delhi that did not cause much damage to the car.Source: The Times of India