Dec. – 16: COVER STORY

 Buying a car? Know about the safety features

We talked to automobile and road safety expert Samir Pathak who has over 30 years of experience in the field.  

Q.   What are the safety features available in Indian cars, especially in small cars?

A.   There are no major safety features available for small cars in India. The primary gspg27(a)reason is lack of safety awareness among Indian consumers. People buy cars focusing on the looks, comfort, speed and fuel efficiency.

In other countries, consumers insist on safety features compelling manufacturers to provide them. Drivers there have to undergo theory sessions before getting a licence where they are taught the importance of these features. In Europe, before launching, cars are even tested to see how easy it is to rescue victims in case of a crash

Q.   What are the key safety features in cars that buyers should look for?

A.   This depends on the pattern of usage. A small car is good for city driving. Ensure that the entire structure of the car is strong by checking the weight of the vehicle. Also, opt for Antilock Braking System (ABS) and airbags. Check for ‘Front Crumpled Zone’ – in case of a frontal accident, there is some portion before the engine which takes the maximum impact and reduces overall impact on passengers.

If usage of the car is more for highway driving, don’t go for a small car. The braking efficiency of the car reduces as the speed increases, especially after 70-80 kmph. Also, the tyres are smaller and don’t have proper grip on the road which can be a dangerous situation if the road is wet. Small cars with tall body structure are more unstable especially during sharp turns and applying of hard brakes.

Q.   What is ABS and ESC?

A.   ABS is designed to stop your wheels from locking up under hard braking. This is important because a car can only be steered while its wheels are rotating. Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is in place when you are trying to accelerate. Sensors monitor the speed of the wheels and if they recognize that one wheel is turning faster than the others, they use the device connected to that wheel to slow it down.

Q.   What if buyers find certain safety features costly?

A.   Safety features like ABS and airbags are a must. They can significantly reduce accidents and fatalities. A thorough research about the benefits of all available safety features is necessary before you buy a car.

Q.   What are the major causes of car accidents in India?

A.   The number one cause is human error – error committed by the driver. A small percentage of accidents are due to road conditions, malfunctioning of cars, weather conditions and other factors. Errors committed by drivers are mainly related to speeding and getting distracted.

Q.   What can drivers do to reduce the number of road accidents?

A.   Drivers should take regular breaks for rest. They should not drive if stressed, unwell or under the influence of alcohol. They should know the skills of defensive driving. Drivers should slow down on wet roads and in bad weather and be aware of blind spots – areas where their visibility is obstructed.

Cars should not be overloaded as it would result in decreased braking efficiency. Tyres should be in proper condition. Drivers should observe the speed limits specified as they are determined after a thorough study of the area. They should keep a safe distance while following large vehicles.gspg26

Q.   What should passengers do to ensure safety?

A.   All passengers, including kids, should ensure that they are wearing seat belts properly. They should also ensure that there are no loose items scattered in the car. Such items may roll and come under the brake pedal and create problems for the driver. The weight distribution of passengers should also be balanced.

Q.   What can consumers look forward to in the New Motor Vehicle Act?

A.   The New Motor Vehicle Act, which will come into effect by October 2017, makes it mandatory for all cars to have ABS, airbags and an overspeeding warning system which beeps when the car crosses the speed by 80kmph, thus alerting the driver. The government is also going to install cameras to check overspeeding and proposes penalties in the range of Rs. 1000 to Rs. 4000. It is also thinking of launching a road safety app that will have options for contacting hospitals, ambulances, blood banks, pool of active citizens, police and the district administrative office for help.

The bill proposes to increase penalties which will deter people from violating traffic rules. Stricter provisions are being proposed with respect to offences like driving without licence, speeding, juvenile driving, drunken driving and overloading. Increase in compensation for hit-and-run cases from Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 2 lakh and provision of compensation up to Rs. 10 lakh in road accidents fatalities are also on the cards.

Driving a car safely is a result of both following safe driving practices and the safety features provided in your car. Never compromise on safety by avoiding purchasing these features either due to ignorance or to save money. Only if Indian consumers demand the features will manufacturers provide them.

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