So there was this huge uproar and much debate on Twitter and Facebook about certain Indian small cars failing the Global NCAP safety test. At the outset, I am glad that this test happened because at least it got people talking about safety.
It has been a much-ignored subject in a country that has possibly the highest amount of road deaths in the world. But I feel the problem lies more in our attitude and acceptance of what is, rather than manufacturers trying to sell us what we are now deeming sub-standard products.
The problem starts at the beginning, when we go to the RTO to get a driving license. Where else in the world can one get a license by simply putting the car in to first and then second and maybe reversing into a parking space. Licenses are issued too easily, and half the drivers on our roads really shouldn’t be behind the wheel of a car. How many slip the car into neutral and coast to a signal or on a highway to save fuel, do they have any idea how dangerous that is? Does even a tenth of the drivers out there even know what our road signs mean?
Which brings me to how many of them actually know what airbags and ABS can do. I remember very early on in our Autoshow days, we aired a shot of a Mercedes-Benz S 500 on a partially wet track at the Bosch test facility with and without ABS. The number of mails I got on that visual was amazing. People couldn’t fathom that even such a high-end car would be susceptible to accidents without ABS. That’s the extent of knowledge. It’s sad that whilst we hanker for more technology, we really don’t know the basics.
How many of you walk into a showroom and ask about NCAP safety ratings of a car? Ok that’s stretching it, I know, but really, how many people walk into a showroom and want to know how safe the car they are going to drive away in is? They are more concerned about Bluetooth, a sunroof, alloy wheels and music systems!
Though I agree that regulation for safety is the need of the hour, I really feel education is necessary too. Buyers out there need to know more. Stop blaming everyone else for the problems; they exist because we accept them.
If no one bought these cars, manufacturers would be forced to offer better options. The reason they are there on sale is because most people would rather pay Rs 50,000 less for a version without ABS than one with, and the same people will shell that amount out for features like a sunroof and voice controls, which they would barely use. It’s our mentality that needs a huge change too, not only when we buy cars, but also when we drive them.
How many of us cut through a red light because it’s early morning and no one is around? How many ride without a helmet? We wouldn’t dare do the same in another country. We need to get tough with ourselves. We need to follow the laws instead of complaining about cops that don’t do their job.
Sure we need better policing, better licensing regulations and better laws but before that happens begin with trying to improve the situation ourselves. It sounds very moralistic, but it annoys me when people jump onto the bandwagon of an issue when they don’t do much to help it themselves.
The only argument that I’ve heard over the past few days that I agree with, though, is that manufacturers offer ABS and airbags most of the time only on top end variants to make buyers shell out more than they can afford. This needs to change! Safety shouldn’t be an option, but if it is, it should be available to all.