Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on Wednesday said had Gopinath Munde worn a seat belt, he would have been alive. It is a misconception, he said, that the rear seat belts are not required to be used.
Harsh Vardhan said his ministry will start a campaign to ensure road traffic safety — something that is ordinarily the mandate of the Ministry of Road Transport.
Union Rural Development Minister Gopinath Munde died on Tuesday after his car was hit from the side by a motorist who had allegedly jumped a light. The damage to the Minister’s car was not great, but the force of the throw-forward within the confined space of the car damaged the atlanto axial joint in his neck and severely injured the spinal cord.
“I lost my friend to a misconception. Most people think that the rear seat belts serve only a decorative purpose. In fact, wearing them is as necessary as wearing the seat belt in the front seat. They can save lives in the event of an impact. The damage to the human body is often greater when the victim is not ejected from the vehicle. Scientific tests have proven that wearing seat belts gives them a hope of survival,” Harsh Vardhan said.
The minister made the statement before leaving for Beed to attend Munde’s funeral. Under the traffic laws, wearing a seat belt is not mandatory for passengers in the rear seat.
He said the Health Ministry will launch a multi-media campaign soon to make people aware of road safety measures. The focus would be on children orphaned by such accidents.
“The focus would be child victims of such accidents. I would like to seek the cooperation of associations of petroleum dealers in order to utilise pumps as points ofinterface with motorists. Perhaps, a system could be developed under which petrol and diesel can be denied to those who don’t use seat belts and helmets. A new law, which makes non-use of seat belts and helmets a punishable offence, is necessary.” the minister said.
The minister claimed that research in the UK has shown that wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of fatal injury to front seat passenger car occupants by 45 per cent, and risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 per cent.
For those in the rear of vans and sport-utility vehicles (SUVs), rear seat belts were 73 per cent better in preventing fatalities, he said.
Harsh Vardhan pointed to the accident in which Princess Diana was killed and also the one which claimed the life of former Delhi CM Sahib Singh Verma to drive home the importance of seat belts.