Govt drafts rules mandating the rear seatbelt in cars and SUVs

Following the unfortunate demise of businessman Cyrus Mistry in a road accident, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has prepared a draft for mandating the use of seat belts by rear seat passengers. As per this draft, the new passenger vehicles might have to come with seat belt reminders even for the rear seats. For these new draft rules, the Central Government will be taking public comments into account till October 5, 2022.

The Central Government has become stricter on emphasizing the use of rear seat belts after the death of Cyrus Mistry in a car crash, which took place in early September. At the time of the accident, Mistry was seated in the back seat of the Mercedes-Benz GLC, which crashed on a bridge due to the driver losing control because of over-speeding. The initial investigation revealed that Mistry was not wearing a seat belt when the accident took place.

Even during a discussion in the parliament, the Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari, said that he will be introducing a new law, under which a seat belt warning alarm system will be introduced for the rear seats as well. Until now, only the rear seats came with the mandatory safety feature.

Different rules for side-facing passengers

In this new draft issued by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, certain amendments have been made to the Automotive Industry Standards (AIS156). In these amendments, all the front-facing rear seats will feature standard safety equipment in the M and N categories of passenger vehicles. However, this draft has no such provisions for the side-facing rear seats, which are seen in UVs like Mahindra Scorpio and Bolero Neo.

In addition to this, the draft rules also do not specify additional penalties for those who will not be wearing seat belts. Earlier, during a parliamentary session, Gadkari had said that certain penalties will be introduced for those not wearing seat belts on the rear seats. The government is already planning on mandating six airbags in all passenger vehicles which have a seating capacity of up to eight passengers. The government had already issued draft rules in this direction, which are expected to start on October 1st, 2022.

Following Central Government’s aggressive focus on mandating seat belts for rear passengers, prominent cab operators of the country, Ola and Uber. Both the cab operators have directed their drivers to ensure that both the front and rear passengers seated inside wear seat belts.

Rear seat belts mandatory under MV Act

The use of seat belts for both front and rear seat belts is mandatory under Rule 138(3) of the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, avoiding which can attract a fine of Rs 1,000. However, in the majority parts of the country, this rule is not followed by motorists, and even traffic police turn a blind eye to them.

The government is also working on making seat belt alarms mandatory for rear seat passengers, to ensure that the new rule is followed religiously by people. For now, the seat belt reminder feature is available only for front seat occupants. As per this feature, if the front seat occupants are not wearing seat belts, the security system of the car will continue producing alert sounds, until the seat belts are not fastened. This rule was made mandatory in all new cars in July 2019. The new rule will be in sync with the government’s planning of making six airbags mandatory in all new cars, as airbags usually deploy only if the seat belts are fastened in a car.

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