Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Why Car Seats For Kids Should Be Mandatory In India

Just like many Indian couples, till now my daughter, now 2.5 yrs, would sit in my lap, as my husband would drive the car. And so, it was unusual for her to see Momma driving and her restlessness was disturbing to me.
Hence, when time came for her school we decided to buy a Bolster (a toddler's car seat) which I felt necessary for her safety as I would be dropping and picking her up.

This made me reflect on the fatal accident that happened few weeks ago involving actor and politician Hema Malini where a 2 year old got killed, being thrown out of the car. While much has been written, said and criticized about the whole unfortunate event, a very important point is yet again overlooked by everyone. As a nation where are we heading? Mudslinging, criticizing, defending - all this has become a trend these days. The real needs of our time gets buried deep down somewhere in the pile of egoistic fights between ideologies.

I would not waste time in discussing who was at fault or who could have acted more responsibly. For it's a simple fact that in this fast moving age, accidents do happen. But, we can’t just sit back to witness and curse the tragedies. What does civilizations exactly mean? It means irrespective of the difficulties, of the unknowns we strive to make our society better by following the three point approach:

1. Introducing proper laws, rules and regulations
2. Creating awareness in the general public about the laws,
3. Firm implementations by public servants.

Although, being a large, densely populous country we are mired in lot of problems including complicated and contradicting heap of laws but there is never too late to fix anything. We can take proper lessons from such accidents. One of them can be, why don’t we follow any rule that mandates families to have child seat in cars for kids? People argue that in India speed limit is less and also there is much slow moving traffic, hence no need for special baby gear in Vehicles but I disagree. In the last decade or so, more than 1.2 million people in India have died in road accidents. In fact, India's road safety is among the worst in the world, with leading causes of fatalities being driving over the speed limit, driving under the influence and not using helmets and seatbelts. Children are particularly vulnerable to injury, but as data from the US reveals, proper seats and restraints can reduce the risk of injury and death for children by as much as 71% for kids under one year of age and by 54% for toddlers between one and four years. This is a clear indication to me that car seats should be mandatory everywhere, including India. Yet there is no such law, and it remains up to the parents whether to buy one or not.

 That means having compulsory Car seat for our kids is a dire need of our time. I asked many people but nobody is sure if we have any such law!

That brings me to the second point. If we have such commandment, then are people educated about them and sensitized enough on the importance of abiding them? Even privileged Indians seem unaware of the hazards of having kids on board without proper seating gear. Nor will you ever be accosted by a traffic cop telling you to strap your baby into a proper seat. My girl was born in the biggest hospital of Bangalore and nobody was bothered about how we were taking her in our car. In many developed countries, the hospital staff refuse to hand over a baby to parents unless they have this important safety feature in their car. Back here, few of my friends have car seat for their kids. We all behave as if nothing bad can happen to us when the fact of life is we have no control on it.

How can we bring about the awareness? Indian manufacturers should be incentivise to produce safe and affordable car seats for kids. Car dealers, maternity homes, schools, traffic personnel, all such institutions and people should keep enforcing this on parents. If public can be charged toll taxes without any exception, why can't they be conditioned to follow important safety practices? Indians are not bad followers of rules and regulations because the same person who breaks rules here feels proud in following rules in other developed country. It just tells that somewhere either they are not properly educated about the rules or the authorities have failed considerably in implementing them.

Here comes the third point of firm enforcement and that in India boils down to corruption! Public understand they can get away with anything by offering bribes to dishonest officials. But can’t we see now that ill effects of corruption leaves nobody? Not even people in power else Hema Malini would not had to deal with such unpleasant incident. That's why it has become absolutely necessary to tackle bribery now. If each department decides to cleanse themselves from such misconducts, change can no longer be a distant dream.

Let us be a mature nation now. I request our government, to take lessons from this mishap and please enforce the use of Car seat by car owners for kids in India and yes, the other equally important rules. Please take the urgent two steps - properly educating people about the rules and guiding your officials to be honest guardian of law and order. Only that can bring and maintain the “achche din”.

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This post have been published in slightly different version on The Huffington Post.