A tilted signboard on seat belts in Bariatu, Ranchi. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Ranchi’s drivers, front and rear passengers find fastening seat belts a waste of time, never mind Union health minister Harsh Vardhan’s widely reported comment earlier in June that his good friend and cabinet colleague Gopinath Munde could have survived the road accident had he buckled up.
Ignoring the almost-three-year-old traffic signboards at Bariatu, Kanke Road, Ratu Road and other key areas of the city that said “seat belt lagana aniwarya hai (putting on your seat belt is compulsory)”, virtually all passengers inside four-wheelers were seen gliding by without the safety contraption on Monday.
A couple of weeks after the Munde tragedy, only a few car owners know that a seat belt, by preventing the wearer from banging into the steering wheel, dashboard or windscreen during a collision, reduces accident deaths by 50 per cent.
Fewer are aware that rule 138 (3) of Motor Vehicle Act mandates wearing of seat belts in India.
Instead, most say seat belts are too uncomfortable to wear and traffic police don’t fine them for not wearing them.
“Humlog se kabhi fine nahin liya jata. Yeh board hum pahli baar dekh rahein hain,” said Madhav Singh, a government employee parked his car near Bariatu Nursing Home.
Contacted, Ranchi traffic superintendent of police Rajiv Ranjan Singh said they did not believe in charging fines from four-wheeler passengers without seat belts.
“Charging fines does not seem to be the solution to this problem. Rather, our stress should be on generating awareness that will change mindsets. We do have signboards in different areas but they are of little use. Now, we have decided to generate awareness across traffic posts by roping in NGOs,” he said.
“It needs to be reiterated that seat belts and helmets are under the ambit of traffic laws only after studies proved they reduce the severity of injury during accidents,” he added. “Sadly, residents don’t care,” he added.
That’s why Ranchi traffic police have decided to depute 20 members of NGOs along with four traffic police personnel to distribute pamphlets and stand with banners on the safety aspects of seat belts.
The traffic SP added he had written to state road construction department to help them install new boards with hard-hitting messages.
Pranay Kumar, secretary of Consultants for Rural Area Development Linked Economy (CRADLE), a wing of state road construction department, said they worked with the traffic police to generate citizen awareness.
“Popularising seat belts is our agenda. We are planning to start campaigns, along with signboards displaying how a seat belt can save lives of the driver as well as front and rear passengers,” he said.
Do you agree that fining violators won’t help?