Hurray! At last, 'safety' is being spoken about in India.

It was a casual conversation over dinner last week. A friend's friend, who had approached us a few months back to help him zero in on his new car was downbeat about the choice he made. While he did get himself a spanking new Grand i10, a car that we recommended based on his requirements, he decided to save a few ten thousands by going for a variant sans ABS and airbags, much to our disappointment. That was it. Before he could complete, the entire group was talking about "safety" or, to be precise, the lack of it in cars manufactured and sold in India. It soon became one big collective rant against the car manufacturers and the law-makers in our country. 

So, what made this group of gentlemen and several others pan India suddenly realize the importance of safety in automobiles? Aren't we the ones who choose to flaunt diamond-cut alloy wheels and spoilers over airbags and ESP? Aren't we the ones who wouldn't hesitate to open our wallets for a high-end audio install but think twice to tick the optional ABS in the feature list? Isn't lack of strong demand one of the reasons why Hyundai, that once offered 6 airbags in the i20, to pull the variant out of the market? Aren't we Indians and our car-buying preferences pretty much the reason why our market is in a dire state like this? 

And that brings us back to the conversation over dinner.

Global NCAP's decision to test base variants of popular cars sold in India was just the fillip that we Indians needed to change. One after the other, Tata Nano, Maruti-Suzuki Alto 800, Hyundai i10, Ford Figo and Volkswagen Polo failed to secure a star rating from the agency in the standard frontal offset crash test conducted earlier this year. A few weeks back, the agency crash-tested the ever-popular Swift and the new Datsun Go as well but the results, unsurprisingly, were similar. Though the absence of ABS and airbags was the primary reason behind all these cars failing to secure even one star, let's also not forget that only the Polo and Figo had stable structures that could withstand the impact. The structures of other cars collapsed at varying levels during the test that equipping them with ABS and airbags would have made no difference to the results. It is this fact and the social media that spread the word that has finally brought about the change that we automotive enthusiasts, journalists and bloggers always wanted.

No, we aren't questioning the realization that has finally dawned on us. In fact, we are so grateful that this happened. An estimated 231,027 deaths last year due to road accidents in our country didn't make us realize this. That's about 26 lives lost every hour of every day of 2013 and it had no effect on the rest of the clan. Rash driving is still the norm, rules and regulations exists only on paper and we continue to show scant respect to our fellow road users. Safety isn't a priority. Money is and creature comforts are!

Now that the awareness amongst the car-buying public is at an all-time high, the onus is on the law-makers and the manufacturers to capitalize. On it's part, the Government of India has joined hands with the automotive industry to create the National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project (NATRiP). As part of its efforts to make Indian roads and automobiles safer, a Bharat New Car Assessment Program would be rolled out sometime next year in the lines of Euro NCAP, Austalia NCAP and ASEAN NCAP. There are even unconfirmed reports that the law-makers are considering making safety features such as ABS and airbags standard on all new cars. Phew, finally!

It is about time for car-manufacturers to join the safety bandwagon too. Instead of making stupid comments for not offering safety features in their bread and butter models, the who's who of the industry should join hands in making safety a necessity and not just an optional luxury. It's a pity that, almost an year since the Global NCAP results were out, it is only Volkswagen that has reacted by making ABS and airbags standard on all its variants sold in India. If we were Volkswagen's marketing team, we would have cashed in on the opportunity and splashed full page adverts on leading newspapers boasting this! Sadly, other manufacturers are yet to follow suit.

It may take time, but we are sure that the safety siren has just started blowing in India. We are glad that it is being spoken about and hope that this trend continues.


  1. It's pathetic that there are no laws mandating even basic safety of consumers in India. Worse still, car makers are milking us by taking advantage of this instead of promoting safety.

    1. You are very right. We are hoping that things would change going forward.