Airbags do not save lives of children sitting in front seat

accidents Bengaluru BMTC

India has no law prohibiting kids sitting in front

By Suryash Kumar

Front-seat airbags were made mandatory in 2021, but the potential danger for children below 12 years travelling in the front seat has been ignored. During crashes, seatbelts cannot hold children to the seat properly. An inflating airbag can pose great threat to their life.

In India, there are no special laws prohibiting children from sitting in the front seat.

A study by the NGO SaveLife shows that more than 55,000 children have died in road accidents since 2008.

The Observer found  children sitting or playing on the front seats of around 60 cars on Mysuru Road.

Umesh G, technical lead, Crash & Safety, ASM Digital Engineering Pvt. Ltd,  said: “Countries in the West had made airbags mandatory long back, but in India, airbags weren’t made compulsory until 2021 for the front seats. Implementation of (the) six airbags (rule) has been deferred.”

Airbags are not designed to be used without seatbelts. “If the occupant is without a seatbelt and a crash happens, an airbag, even if it inflates, will not protect the occupant or will not be as effective as with a seatbelt,” Umesh added.

“Seatbelts are not designed for kids. Kids do not have a suitable height, and they are below a position at which seat belts fail to restrain their movement during crashes. Airbags deploy with great speed, and it can hit children, leading to serious injury. In the US, children must sit in the rear seat and infants between 3-4 years must sit in the seats specially designed for them.”

Cars have a special seatbelt system for children above four years. Infant seats are rear-facing seats, so even if airbags deploy, the child will not come into contact with the airbag, he shared.

Vishwanath, a head constable at the Upparapet traffic police station, said: “Parents are responsible for their children’s safety; after that come the police. We should have a law that mandates children to sit in the rear seat.”

A traffic inspector who did not want to be named said: “Since we don’t have a law that mandates children sit in the rear seat belt, traffic police can’t do much.  Next time, we will include it in our awareness programme as advice.”

Sharan Kumar, a consultant at Mahindra and Mahindra, said: “Seatbelts are designed for adults in which an occupant’s height is assumed to be between 5.5 feet and 6 feet. If the occupant is below 5 feet, the seatbelt doesn’t get locked, and the impact of the airbag is worse than it would have been if the seat belt were locked.”

Krupanandan, a sales trainer at Viva Toyota, said: “The seatbelts are designed for adults, and not children. The impact of the crash can be deadly for children as their bones are fragile. Cars have child locks in the rear seat only because children below 12 years old should be seated at the rear.”

Shiv Kumar, Traffic inspector, Traffic Management Centre, BBMP, said: “We need separate seats for children, and parents can use separate seats.”

Asked if the Bangalore traffic police has any awareness drive to make parents aware of the dangers of children travelling in the front seat, he replied in the negative.


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