India’s Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has extended the deadline for mandatory installation of dual front airbags in all existing car models to 31 December, 2021 from the previous deadline of August end. Earlier in March, the Government of India had announced the mandatory provision of dual airbags in the front row of all cars manufactured and sold in India. For newer models, the deadline was set as 1 April, 2021, while for the existing models it was decided as 31st August, 2021. However, it must be noted that in existing models only a driver-side airbag is mandatory.
This decision has been taken by MoRTH due to the recent COVID-19 second wave that has impacted the auto industry. The surge in the number of covid cases forced several state governments to go into a lockdown, thereby affecting the sales and production of automakers in India.
The Indian government extended the deadline after the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) urged the government to provide automakers with the said extension, suggests a PTI report.
The mandate for dual airbags is based on suggestions of the Supreme Court Committee on Road Safety and had been issued as an important safety feature for vehicles on Indian roads. The notification added that the airbags will need to meet the AIS 145 standard under the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) specifications.
The decision to make dual front airbags mandatory will improve passenger safety in the country. Safety has never been a priority for the carmakers in India, especially in the budget segment, in order to keep the cars’ prices competitive. But due to the lack of even very basic safety features in the four-wheelers, the country has been constantly reporting an alarming number of deaths in road accidents for the past many years.
According to a World Bank report, India accounts for 11 per cent of the global road accident deaths, the highest in the world. As per researches, adding front airbags can decrease driver fatalities by 29 percent and front-seat passenger fatalities by 32 percent. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has earlier estimated that offering a combination of airbags and seatbelts can reduce fatalities by 61 percent where the airbags alone can reduce the chances by 34 percent.
However, making airbags mandatory will most likely make the cars a little expensive (around Rs 5000 – 7000). This increased cost is likely to impact sales of passenger cars in the country, especially in the entry-level segment. But, SIAM has requested automakers to absorb the cost of the additional airbag and not transfer that to the customers.
The Government of India has been very active when it comes to automotive safety, and it’s a good thing. It has been continuously rolling several plans to make the automotive sector greener and the roads safer. In the same series of efforts, the government is also working on making the Electronic Stability Program and Autonomous Emergency Braking mandatory on the new vehicles that are being sold in India. The new rule is expected to be implemented in 2022-2023. However, because of the pandemic and slow sales, this date could also be postponed in order to provide automakers enough time to implement the new technology in their vehicles. In India currently, only MG provides Autonomous features in its full-size SUV, the Gloster.