Tycoon Cyrus Mistry’s death prompts India to tighten lax driving rules

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India, known for notorious driving violations and bad roads, wants to enforce road safety rules more stringently amid mounting criticism after tycoon Cyrus Mistry died in a weekend car accident.

The government has started the process of adding an alarm system that will sound if passengers in the rear seat don’t fasten their seat belts, and also mandate automakers provide at least six airbags in cars, Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said in an interview on Wednesday. Fines of 1,000 rupees ($12.50) will be imposed for not wearing a rear seat belt, he said.

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Indian drivers are infamous for ignoring road rules, including speeding, running red lights, and overtaking on the wrong side, resulting in frequent accidents. India accounts for about 10 percent of road crash fatalities worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, as drivers and passengers often compromise on safety precautions such as wearing seat belts.

In addition to implementing stricter road norms, the government will conduct a safety audit of all national highways, Gadkari said. India is planning to reduce road accidents and deaths by 50 percent by 2024, he said.

In 2020, the country reported more than 3.6 million road crashes and 1.3 million fatalities, according to the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Mistry, who was 54, was sitting in the rear of a Mercedes that veered off the road and hit a divider on a bridge near Mumbai. Newspaper reports suggest he wasn’t wearing a seat belt.

Less than 1 percent of people use rear seat belts in India, according to a 2019 study by SaveLIFE Foundation, a non-profit organization working on improving road safety in the nation. Fines for driving without a seatbelt can be as low as just over $1 in India.

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