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How often do you wake up to the news of a road accident that killed a few people in some part of the country? Almost every day, right? Then you quickly browse through the other news and life goes on. Every year, over 80,000 people die on Indian roads; every five road accidents leave one dead. Yet, it's just a statistic, which hardly changes our apathy towards road safety. Yes, road safety is an unpleasant, boring subject, but remembers, it affects us all.

 

How safe is the car you are driving or about to buy? How does one rate safety and who does it? We have compiled some information on a handful of cars that are available across the world and are also on sale in India, and their safety features and test results. We think you have the right to know. The European NCAP carries out the most stringent crash tests, as well as pedestrian and child safety tests vis-à-vis other assessment programmes. Euro NCAP is collaboration between governmental and automotive associations and is overseen by the FIA (Federation International Automobile).

 

The seat-mounted side airbags and head curtain airbag were impressive in the side impact test, as it also protected passengers in the rear. The well designed front bumper protected the pedestrian dummy well. The child occupant rating suffered as the child restraints did not hold. Also, the presence of a front passenger airbag with no option to disable it could prove harmful for the child. Still the Elantra is one of the few cars built in India which is fully loaded with safety features. So here's a good reason to buy one.

 

The Ford Mondeo, Grand Vitara, Honda CR-V and Nissan X-Trail are fully imported CBUs, hence they come with the same safety gizmos as their European siblings. A good way to guarantee your security, if you can afford their rather high price tags. Car manufacturers in India probably won't see their cars get shiny stars in these tests for want of safety equipment. Legislation in India doesn't require much safety equipment as standard. ARAI (Automotive Research Association of India), India's premier automotive research facility, has been focusing more towards environmental tests and seem to have put safety on the back burner.

Although their seat-belt regulations are at par with the Euro NCAP, the frontal offset impact testing is yet to take off, and ARAI has not yet set a deadline for its implementation. Child safety is something that is not heard of in India. Child restraints as well as other safety features haven't seen the light of day in many Indian models. Airbags found their way into Indian cars in 1994, and yet are offered only in premium segment cars, with the exception of a few. Electronic stability systems, electronic devices which are highly recommended to aid driver control, are yet find their way on Indian manufactured cars.

 

It is the sole responsibility of manufacturers to introduce these safety systems, if not as standard equipment, but as options. And not at exorbitant prices, but at premium. This will at least generate greater awareness amongst us. However, manufacturers need not wait for legislation and red tape to catch up to bring down the death rate in road accidents.

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