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With over 230,000 people literally slain annually on our disgracefully dangerous roads, the time has come for drastic measures to be implemented. Good news is that the first steps towards curbing this shocking death toll are beginning to see light. India is to finally introduce crash test rules for vehicles sold in the country, beginning early next year.
Initially, however, the rules won't be mandatory, and it is unclear at the moment when the new rules will take effect, but it's a start. Until now, our country hasn't required auto manufacturers to meet the United Nations crash test standards or provide a report of crash safety for its cars.
The story continues in the next slide.
This new development comes in the wake of the shocking revelation that Indian-made automobiles are unsafe when compared to vehicles of other countries that have crash test standards in place. Five models including the Tata Nano, Maruti Suzuki Alto, Hyundai i10, Ford Figo, and Volkswagen Polo failed crash tests conducted by the Global New Car Assessment Program, and made authority figures finally sit up and take notice of the serious issue.
Global NCAP found that these models, that comprise around a fifth of all cars sold in the country, posed risk to life or serious injury in crashes at 64 km/h. The tests were carried out on entry level variants of the cars that lacked airbags. It's important to note that the VW Polo now features airbags as standard, but a few of the others still don't even have them as an option.
Car manufacturers defended themselves by claiming their products were in line with Indian safety standards, and that Indian customers were unwilling to pay extra for safety features like ABS and airbags. But the fact still remains that so many terrible accidents take place because drivers lose control of vehicles by locking the brakes in an emergency braking manoeuvre and lives are lost because of almost-zero active safety protection in the almost certain collisions that take place as a result.
KK Gandhi, an executive director of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers and a member of the panel creating the new regulations, said cars will be tested for front-on and side-on crashes. They will be given a star safety rating which manufacturers can use to market them. In addition, vehicles will be tested with new child safety regulations, since previously many cars were found by Global NCAP to be non-compatible with child seats despite being recommended so by the manufacturers.
Mr. Gandhi also stated that Indian rules will not differ drastically to Global NCAP rules, but will vary slightly, like how cars will be tested at 56 km/h and not 65 km/h. Tests will begin in two national facilities, with a third expected to be functional in early-2016.
The first steps are the hardest, but kudos to the authorities for finally biting the bullet.