About two months after announcing the government will make it mandatory for carmakers to install a minimum of six airbags in all passenger vehicles, Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways Nitin Gadkari today said the proposal will be effective from October 1, 2023. The decision comes a week after the Centre issued draft rules to make it must for carmakers to install an alarm system for seat belts in the backseat of cars.

The Centre’s decision to allow a minimum of six airbags, along with rear seat belt alarms, will push the cost of all vehicles, especially economic models, higher, thereby putting huge pressure on auto companies that are yet to recover from Covid and chip shortage crises.

"Considering the global supply chain constraints being faced by the auto industry and its impact on the macroeconomic scenario, it has been decided to implement the proposal mandating a minimum of 6 Airbags in Passenger Cars (M-1 Category) w.e.f 01st October 2023," Gadkari said in a tweet short while ago.

"Safety of all passengers travelling in motor vehicles irrespective of their cost and variants is the foremost priority," Gadkari added.

The Centre had first issued a draft notification in this regard on January 14, 2022, which mandated vehicles of category M1, manufactured after October 1, 2022, to fit two side or side torso airbags -- one each for the persons occupying front row outboard seating positions, and two side curtain or tube airbags, one each for the persons occupying outboard seating positions.

In June 2022, Gadkari again said that though the government was determined to make six airbags mandatory for cars, some companies were "constantly making opposition". "We want to save the lives of the people and that is the reason we need cooperation from the stakeholders," he had said in New Delhi.

As per the Union minister, there is a higher domestic demand for star-rating cars, which are much safer. He even slammed some auto companies for producing cars in India that are "not up to the standard" but making them of international standards when they are shipped overseas.

The government data shows that there are around 5 lakh accidents and 1.5 lakh deaths and 3 lakh serious injuries in the country every year. There are 400 accidental deaths per hour, and the socio-economic loss due to this is 3.14% of our GDP and 70% of deaths are in the age group of 18-40 years. The government is looking to reduce road accident deaths by 50% by 2024, and mandatory airbags, along with mandatory rear seat belts, will play a crucial role in achieving this target.

Notably, the road, transport and highway ministry had last week issued draft rules, which propose to make it mandatory for carmakers to an install 'alarm system' for seat belts in the backseat of cars. This means a system dedicated to alerting the driver will be installed in each car when the driver, co-driver and all other front-facing seat occupants do not use the safety belt.

The decision came after Tata Sons former chairman Cyrus Mistry's death in a car crash last month. Police in its probe had found that Mistry was seated in the backseat and was not wearing a seat belt when the Mercedes car he was travelling in hit a divider. After the fateful accident, Gadkari had said there will be a provision to penalise drivers if passengers in the backseat of a car are not wearing seat belts.

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