Do we need safer cars or better road sense? Nissan’s road safety initiative

Cars are getting safer, but unfortunately in India drivers are not, and safety is not a big priority with many car buyers as well. Carmakers such as Nissan, Ford and Maruti have undertaken road safety awareness programs to try and educate road users on safer driving practices but sadly not much is coming of it.

Look at the statistics and it should give you an idea of just how bad India fares in the world. We are the No.1 country, with the highest death rate in road accidents in the world! According to 2011 data, 1.42 lakh people died in road accidents in India, an increase of 7,000 people from 2010. An annual 1.47 lakh serious accidents take place each year in India according to insurance figures.

Nissan Micra roll-over simulator
Photo: Nissan Micra roll-over crash simulator

So what do we need? Safer cars or better road sense. Both actually.

Nissan is trying to address the former and is setting up simulators to demonstrate how ABS, airbags and seat belts help in reducing injury risk during an accident. This initiative is being held in three cities – New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai, in a bid to educate car buyers about these features and how they function, through its Nissan Safety Driving Forum. Ford continuously conducts similar exercises through its Driving Skills for Life program, while Maruti undertakes a driver training program to encourage safe driving.

Nissan also spoke of its future technologies as well – such as a forward collision avoidance assist system, lane departure alert, distance control assist, backup collision intervention etc – all technologies that exist and could make it into future cars, but won’t come in unless the government mandates it. For the moment, it is only ABS, airbags that need better acceptance. Seatbelts, thankfully, have been made mandatory by law. Also read: Safest diesel sedans under Rs. 11 lakh

Why not make safety features mandatory?

The trouble is, almost all carmakers offer safety features such as airbags, ABS, EBD etc, but only in their top-end models, which makes these cars more expensive, and many buyers opt for lower variants. If the government makes it mandatory for all cars to have ABS and airbags (like it did with seatbelts in the Central Motor Vehicles Rules amended in 1989), we wouldn’t have a choice, but to buy cars with these features – which would significantly reduce some fatalities. Also read: Petrol hatchbacks with ABS, EBD and airbags

However, the larger issue is general road sense lacking among drivers. Education and information dissemination has a large part to play in this. Every driver is also a pedestrian at some point of time, and every other pedestrian may be a driver at some point. Unless road users follow rules diligently and law enforcement is really strict, accident rates will continue growing in India – we’ve already set the world records for accident rates and are beating our own records. Roads are improving and with it the accident rate is also increasing.

Our expert community at CarToq has always advised buyers to pick the “safest” car variant when choosing to buy a car. And that’s because we can’t educate the larger population of ignorant road users out there – it’s best that you, the car buyer, keep yourself and your family safe. Even if the government doesn’t make it compulsory – always buy the car variant that offers the most safety features. Think of the extra money spent as a good life insurance policy. You never know when you may need it. Also read: Airbags and ABS are they worth the extra cost?

Always wear your seatbelts and drive safe!