A horrific crash involving a brand new Maruti Suzuki Baleno has left four occupants of the car dead and two critically injured. The car, designed to seat five passengers, was said to be carrying one more passenger when it was reportedly hit by a truck carrying potatoes. Following the impact, the car rolled over to the other side of the road on the National Highway 1, killing three of its occupants in the process. The fourth was declared brought dead to the Panipat civil hospital. The driver of the Himachal Pradesh registered truck fled the spot, and is yet to be nabbed. The Baleno was bought on Diwali eve.
Driving the car at the time of the mishap was Mr. Sanjay Sehgal (52), a businessman based out of Jalandhar. Sanjay, his wife Kiran (48), his nieces Pallavi (16) and Parul (17), and nephews Sonu (20) and Anshul (18), were in the car during the accident. The accident happened in the wee hours of Thursday morning (19th November). The family left Jalandhar at 1030 PM on Wednesday, to Faridabad. the accident happened near Gharonda, Karnal. Sonu and Pallavi are battling for their lives after being critically injured. Details on whether the occupants of the car were wearing seat belts at the time of accident, and on whether airbags were deployed during the crash, remain unknown.
Notably, the Maruti Baleno is the only budget hatchback in India that features twin airbags and ABS+EBD as standard safety features across variants. The car is also the lightest in its class, with Maruti Suzuki claiming that high strength steel has been used to keep kerb weight low. In fact, the Baleno is about 75 kilograms lighter than the Maruti Swift, a much smaller hatchback. The car involved in the accident seems badly crumpled. This is bound to raise questions on the structural strength of the car’s lightweight body. Crash test ratings will help buyers choose cars based on their safety rankings. India currently doesn’t have one.
Meanwhile, without knowing the exact nature of the accident and the speeds involved, it’s hard to tell if a heavier car would have withstood the mishap better. To put things into perspective, a truck vs car collision will leave the car badly crumpled, 9 times out of 10. It won’t really matter if it’s a Maruti Baleno or a Volkswagen Polo. Taking basic precautions such as wearing seatbelts at all times and doing sane speeds on Indian highways is crucial for road safety. Also, airbags will deploy only if seat belts are worn. There’s no point buying a car with airbags and driving around without wearing seatbelts.
Editor note: Information available on the Tribune suggests that the ill-fated Baleno was struck by a truck as the former attempted an overtaking maneuver. The Baleno jumped the divider, overturned and was hit by another oncoming truck. These multiple impacts are perhaps the reason for the badly mangled state of the Baleno. Most, if not all cars, would have sustained similar damage.
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Maruti Suzuki’s cars have come under heavy criticism in the past, for featuring weak body structures.