Is Granting license to Quadricycles fatal for the safety on Roads?

Safety tests are not carried out after manufacture and before registration of the vehicles, even though the Motor Vehicle Law mandates it, opines experts.

Oct 11, 2015 05:10 IST India Infoline News Service

Expressing serious concern about high number of fatalities on Indian roads, experts have pointed out that stringent safety tests must be mandatory before a vehicle is granted license to sell and ply on the Indian roads.

Bajaj Auto is planning to begin exporting its quadricycle, christened as Qute, across various global markets, according to a recent report.  The four-wheeler mini passenger vehicle would be launched as Bajaj 'Qute' in 16 markets in Latin America, Africa, Europe and Asia at around USD 2,000. All you need to know about Bajaj 'Qute'

Meanwhile, speaking at a seminar organised by Indians for Road Safety here in national capital, experts from road, infrastructure, civil society and legal experts, expressed particular concern about the move to permit unsafe and untested vehicles like quadricylces to ply on Indian roads.

It may be pointed out that India records highest number of road accidents in the world with more than a million lives lost in the last one decade. A major reason being authorities allowing the manufacture and granting of license to unsafe vehicles. In the similar line of practice quadricycles being an unsafe vehicle is introduced by GoI.  It remains a matter of grave concern that there are no adequate safety standards for four wheelers in India.

Speaking on the occasion Mr Tripurari Ray, Advocate, Supreme Court of India, pointed out that road safety needs as much attention as food safety and environment safety. Taking off on the subject of quadricyles, he said that the European concept may be for last mile connectivity but the accident rate as well as the efficacy of safety measures must be proven in crash tests before they can be on the roads. He said that replacement of allegedly unsafe auto-rickshaws by another unsafe vehicle like quadricylce must not be allowed simply for allowing corporates to book profit. "We are putting corporate profit before safety and human lives."

He further pointed out that in the existing state of affairs, a new category of four wheeler Quadricycle is being sought to be introduced by the Government of India without proper study and prescription of adequate safety standards.  Quadricycle are proven as a unsafe vehicle in Europe. But here the new category Quadricycle are permitted under the Motor Vehicle law in four wheeler category enabling manufacturers to use materials of their choice which will be lighter in weight and greater in risk to occupants of Quadricycle.    Quadricycles, despite being a four wheeler vehicle is exempted from Frontal Crash test despite GoI admitted in courts of law to prescrive frontal crash test for quadricylces; whereas other four wheeled vehicles are required to undergo Frontal Crash test.

Mr Ray also questioned quadricycle on pollution and environmental front. "Quadricycle has been prescribed to meet emission standard of 2 wheeler and 3 wheeler.  It will emit more and more air pollution when its weight of 450 kg / 550 kg fitted with auto rickshaw engine, where as a auto rickshaw weighs only 300 kgs. It is not known why a proven unsafe vehicle in the world is introduced in India.  Four Wheeler vehicles require stringent norms of safety.  Authorities are not properly acting in the interest of public safety."

Experts also pointed that Indian small cars failed in crash test conducted by Euro NCAP, an internationally reputed NGO.  It reveals the fact that no crash tests are conducted by testing agencies of Government of India. Incidentally, testing agency ARAI has now only created a full fledged testing facility.  No safety tests are carried out after manufacture and before registration of the vehicles, even though the Motor Vehicle Law mandates it.  Vehicles are allowed to ply on road, which are registered only based on the prototype approval. Motor vehicle law in India does not provide a regulation on manufacture of automobile to declare 'safety of their vehicle' similar to the declarations made in food products, pharma products etc.

An Indian is killed every four minutes on the deadliest roads in the world. In the last decade alone a million Indians have died in road accidents. The economic cost of road accidents is estimated to cost approximately three percent of GDP, close to Rs 3.8 lakh crores.

To make roads safer for everyone, the government must regulate the vehicles running on our roads. The regulations concerning crash and vulnerability tests are too vague taking advantage of which automobile manufacturers are introducing all kinds of vehicles which are essentially unsafe and likely to add to the 4.5 lakh road accidents that took place in 2013 leading to about 1.5 lakh deaths.

Indians for Road Safety, a civil society organisation dedicated to raise the awareness of safety in road users, got together an array of eminent experts in the field of road safety, laws and regulations in a seminar in New Delhi on Saturday. Experts like Kiran Kapila, chairman, International Road Federation & also Head of Indian Road Safety Congress, and former Chief Justice of India Justice G.B. Patnaik, spoke of the need for stringent crash and safety tests of any new vehicle aiming to enter the Indian roads.

Some sections of the automobile industry are trying to introduce potentially unsafe vehicles like quadricycles on the premise that anything on four wheels is safer than those that run only on three. The government should insist that any new vehicle trying to get on to Indian roads are rigorously tested so as to minimise the damage already be caused by road accidents. While those who drive vehicles must have the safety of all road users on their minds, it is also logical that they are not allowed to use unsafe vehicles to add to the myriad forms of transportation already on Indian roads.

Justice Patnaik said Kolkata used to present the worst traffic conditions in his student days but that 'honour' has been taken over by New Delhi. He said 1.2 million Indians die every year on the roads and 50 million are injured. Accidents cost 4% of GDP and that simple safety measures like seat belts could reduce fatalities by 61%, mandatory child restraints by 35%, helmets by 45% and strict enforcement of drunken driving can cut deaths at least by 20%. With 3 million kms of roads, India has the largest road network although only 60% of it is paved.

Kapila, Chairman, International Road Federation said India accounts for 11% of road fatalities in the world and 17% to 18% of those fatalities happen in urban spaces. There were 87 lakh vehicles on the road in 2008 which had grown to two crores by 2014. He recommended that all vehicles must be safety compliant and that last mile connectivity vehicles like quadricycles must ensure that all safety features are on board before they are allowed to ply on public roads. If a four-wheeler is to be safer than a 3-wheeler it should pass all crash and safety tests before being allowed to ply on Indian roads.

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