Government has issued a draft order requiring six airbags in all cars .
Government has issued a draft order requiring six airbags in all cars .

NEW DELHI: As on October 1, the government has begun the process of making six airbags mandatory for all cars sold in India.

On Friday, the government released a draught notification requesting public and other stakeholder feedback on a proposed rule that will require car manufacturers to include six airbags beginning October 1. The government will analyse the comments received over the next month and issue a final notification, with any necessary revisions, to apply the rule.

The announcement on Friday is a response to Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari’s call to automakers on August 3 of last year to supply a minimum of six airbags across all vehicle versions and categories.

Currently, all automobiles must have two airbags, one for the driver and the other for the front-seat passenger. The rule requiring airbags in the driver’s seat went into effect on July 1, 2019, whereas the rule requiring airbags in the co-passenger seat went into effect on January 1, 2019.

To be sure, many Indian cars come standard with six airbags at the higher trim levels.

“I have now authorised a draught GSR notification to make a minimum of 6 airbags mandatory in motor vehicles carrying up to 8 people,” Nitin Gadkari stated in a series of tweets on the announcement before the formal notification was released online.

“To minimise the impact of frontal and lateral collisions to the occupants seated in both front and rear compartments, it has been decided that 4 additional airbags be mandated in the M1 vehicle category, i.e two side/side torso airbags and two side curtain/tube airbags covering all outboard passengers. “This is a critical step towards making India’s motor vehicles safer than ever before,” Gadkari added.

Hatchbacks, sedans, MUVs, and SUVs fall within the M1 vehicle category, which comprises passenger automobiles with a maximum of eight seats in addition to the driver’s seat.

WRI India’s executive director (Transport), Amit Bhatt, described the move as a significant step toward improving road safety. “India sells some of the world’s safest autos.” Nonetheless, when it comes to vehicles sold in India, safety takes a back seat since manufacturers believe it will increase the cost. As a result of the economies of scale, adopting a statutory safety requirement would result in safer automobiles and lower prices,” he stated.

However, according to a spokesperson for the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), the ministry’s priority remains on individuals inside cars rather than those outside on the road, such as pedestrians and cyclists.

“We’ve been arguing that the government’s decision needs to be backed up by accident data, and we’ve told the ministry about it.” To begin with, such a mandate does not exist elsewhere in the world. Even the requirement for a co-driver airbag, which we now have in India, does not exist anyplace else. Second, the safety of car occupants should not take precedence over or against pedestrian or two-wheeler safety. Finally, Indian crash regulations are completely in line with international ones. Fourth, there have been behavioural difficulties with four-wheeler drivers,” stated a senior member of SIAM who did not want to be identified.

Gadkari told the Rajya Sabha in the recently finished winter session of Parliament that 23,483 pedestrians died in traffic fatalities in 2020. According to the NCRB, 17,538 people died in car accidents in the same year.

The SIAM official further stated that once the new regulation is implemented, all vehicles will experience cost increases. “Since two-wheelers account for over 81 percent of India’s vehicular population, such a mandate will raise the cost of vehicles and expand the gap between two-wheelers and four-wheelers, making it impossible for people to shift to cars,” the official said.

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