Car crash death of Indian business tycoon sparks major overhaul of rules on seat belts

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Indian authorities are looking to roll out stricter road-safety regulations in the wake of the death of leading tycoon Cyrus Mistry who was killed in a car accident over the weekend.

All car passengers, including the ones sitting in the rear seat, will now have to mandatorily wear seat belts, federal transport minister Nitin Gadkari announced on Tuesday.

Not complying with the new regulation will invite a Rs 1000 (£10.9) fine, the minister said.

“Taking fine from people is not our intention, we want to raise awareness in the mind of the people,” he explained.

There is already a law in place that fines front-seat passengers for not wearing seat belts.

Another measure announced by the minister was for safety alarms in cars.

Typically, alarms in India ring only for front-seat passengers who have not fastened their seat belts.

But it will now become imperative for car manufacturers to install alarm systems for rear-seat passengers as well.

The announcement of the rules come two days after the death of Mistry, the former chairman of India’s leading multinational business conglomerate Tata Group.

The businessman was in the rear seat of a car and travelling to Mumbai city.

Police officials said Mistry was not wearing a seat belt and the car had covered 20km (12.4 miles) in just 9 minutes – racing on an average to cover 2.23km (1.3 miles) in just a minute.

Known as one of India’s top business faces and leaders, Mistry’s sudden death shocked the country despite India’s infamy of bad road infrastructure and high rate of driving violations.

Noting that Mistry was a friend, Mr Gadkari said people think rear-seat passengers don’t need to wear the safety devices.

“I don’t want to make any comments on any accident. But both front-seaters and back-seaters need to wear seat belts,” he had said a day prior to announcing the new rules.

India reports 500,000 accidents every year and 150,000 of these result in death, the minister said.

Among other measures to heighten road safety, the minister said the Indian administration will carry out a safety audit of all national highways as it looks to reduce road accidents and deaths by half by 2024.

India sees the highest road accidents in the world, he added, and urged for cooperation from people.

He clarified that the new rules will be applicable to all kinds of cars – big and small.

About 10 per cent of road crash fatalities across the world can be tracked down to India, shows data from the World Health Organisation.

The country reported more than 3.6 million road crashes and 1.3 million fatalities in 2020, a study by the Stanford Social Innovation Review pointed out.

Another study, from Indian nonprofit SaveLIFE Foundation showed less than one per cent of people use rear seat belts in the country.