The road transport ministry has said it will make it mandatory for carmakers to provide a minimum of six airbags in motor vehicles that can carry up to 8 passengers for enhanced safety of occupants from October this year.
The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) in a statement said that in order to enhance the safety of occupants of the motor vehicle against lateral impact, it has been decided to enhance safety features by amending the Central Motor Vehicles Rules (CMVR), 1989.
"A draft notification has been issued on January 14, 2022, which mandates that vehicles of category M1, manufactured after October 1, 2022, shall be fitted with two side/side torso air bags, one each for the persons occupying front row outboard seating positions, and two side curtain/tube air bags, one each for the persons occupying outboard seating positions," it said.
An airbag is a vehicle occupant-restraint system which interferes between the driver and the vehicle's dashboard during a collision, thereby preventing serious injuries.
In a series of tweets, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari had said his ministry had already mandated the implementation of fitment of the driver airbag with effect from July 1, 2019 and front co-passenger airbag with effect from January 1, 2022.
"In order to enhance the safety of the occupants in motor vehicles carrying up to 8 passengers, I have now approved a Draft GSR Notification to make a minimum of 6 airbags compulsory," Gadkari had said. GSR here stands for General Statutory Rules.
He had further said that to minimise the impact of frontal and lateral collisions on the occupants seated in both front and rear compartments, it has been decided that 4 additional airbags be mandated in the M1 vehicle category.
"...i.e. two side/side torso airbags and two side curtain/tube airbags covering all outboard passengers. This is a crucial step to make motor vehicles in India safer than ever," he said.
According to Gadkari, this will ultimately ensure the safety of passengers across all segments, irrespective of the cost/variant of the vehicle. According to latest government data, total 1,16,496 road accidents occurred on national highways (NHs), including expressways, in 2020, causing 47,984 deaths.
Last year, Gadkari in an interview to PTI had said small cars, mostly purchased by lower middle-class people, should also have an adequate number of airbags and had wondered why automakers are providing eight airbags only in big cars bought by rich people.
His remarks had come against the backdrop of the automobile industry raising concerns that high taxation and stricter safety and emission norms for vehicles have made their products expensive.
Mostly, lower middle-class people buy small economy cars and "if their car won't have airbags and when accidents happen, then it may result in deaths. So, I appeal to all car manufacturers to provide a minimum of six airbags across all variants and segments of the vehicle," he had said.
The minister had acknowledged that additional airbags in small cars will increase their cost by at least Rs 3,000-4,000.
Explaining further, the statement said side/side torso airbag means any inflatable occupant restraint device that is mounted to the seats or side structure of the vehicle interior, and that is designed to deploy in a side impact crash to help mitigate primarily torso injury and/or occupant ejection, for the persons occupying front row outboard seating positions.
Side curtain/tube airbag means any inflatable occupant restraint device that is mounted to the side structure of the vehicle interior, and that is designed to deploy in a side impact crash or rollover to help mitigate primarily head injury and/or occupant ejection for the persons occupying the outboard seating positions.