Vehicular speed that kills millions of Indians annually



Traffic collisions in India - Wikipedia

by Nava J Thakuria   12 September 2022

The tragic death of a young entrepreneur in a road accident has
created ripples in social media about the safety of a luxury car which
may run at a higher speed but with satisfactory control over the
vehicle in case of an emergency. The debate also touched on the
mandatory use of seatbelts in rear seats by the passengers, necessary
safety features in the vehicle- designed to move fast, all weather
road condition, modern traffic signaling system, etc. A graduate
engineer’s forum also added another measure to install a speed data
recorder (similar to the black box that records various parameters of
an aircraft) in a speedy vehicle.

The news broke on a lazy Sunday afternoon that Cyrus Mistry (54),
iconic industrialist and former Tata Sons chairman, died while
returning from Udvada (Gujarat) in a Mercedes-Benz SUV. The accident
took place at around 2.30 pm as the vehicle hit a divider on
Ahmedabad-Mumbai Highway in Palghar area. Dr Anahita Pandole, a
well-known gynaecologist, who drove the vehicle couldn’t turn it as
the highway was narrowing from three-lane to two-lane ahead of Surya
river bridge and it hit the divider. She and her husband Darius
Pandole, both were in front seats wearing seatbelts, survived with
serious injuries.

Mistry and Dr Anahita’s her brother-in-law Jahangir died on the spot.
Both were in rear seats and reportedly did not use the seatbelts. The
vehicle is understood to run with the speed of 130 kilometer per hour
(which is above the permissible limit in India) just before the 4
September 2022 road accident. However, the German car manufacturer
authority claimed that the ill-feted vehicle was at around 100 kmph
and Dr Anahita used the brake just 5 seconds before the collision. The
electronic control module chip (which helps find some technical
faults), installed in the car, has already been sent to Germany for
necessary analysis.

Union road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari, who has been
pursuing for increasing the speed limit for vehicles running on both
national highways and expressways (meant for very fast travel),
declared that the government will make the (wearing of) seatbelts
mandatory for both the front seaters and rear (back) seaters. The
automobile companies, which supply vehicles for the Indian roads, are
being ordered to put seatbelts in backseats and also an alarming
system in all new cars. The current speed limits of private cars vary
from expressways (120 kmph) to national highways (100 kmph) to other
roads (60 kmph). Gadkari argues for an increase of speed by 20 kmph on
various roads across the country.

The developed countries, where the road qualities are properly
maintained, normally approve the vehicular speed limit up to 120 kmph
only. Those countries also set a standard time for the driver’s rest
after a four to five hours journey and maximum nine hours driving in a
day. No such rules exist in India where the professional drivers are
often compelled to work overtime with no specific time for rest. A
significant number of road accidents took place on Indian roads
because of the driver’s fatigue. India loses over a million people per
year to road mishaps and a few millions have to suffer from the wounds
till their last breaths.

Realizing the concern of millions of automobile users in India
expressed after Mistry’s death, All Assam Engineer’s Association
(AAEA) urged the Mercedes-Benz authority to clarify if the inbuilt
safety measures like crash sensors, airbags (both frontal and side),
side-curtain bags, anti-lock brakes, traction control, electronic
stability control, lane-keeping assist, forward-collision warning,
brake assist, automatic emergency braking, tire-pressure monitor, etc
were installed in the affected SUV and all those features functioned
properly and on time.

The forum emphasizes on installing more advanced safety features in
the vehicles, particularly those that run with 80 kmph (or above)
speed. It advocates for a speed data recorder in every highspeed
vehicle so that the actual cause of its crash can be identified, and
those parameters can be studied and scientifically addressed by the
automobile manufacturers in the newer models coming to the market.
After all, the life of every passenger should (must) be considered
precious all the time.

The writer, a professional journalist with the academic qualification
of engineering (mechanical/automobile), is based in northeast India