At a recently-held seminar in the city on automotive passive safety designs and requirements to prevent accidental deaths on Indian roads, automotive engineers working in vehicle manufacturing company or related industry were briefed about the crucial aspects of automotive safety. “The main intention was to show the importance of impact injury biomechanics methods and tools in the development of safer vehicles,” says Dr Chandra Thorbole, a traffic safety consultant and an engineer from the United States.
India leads the world in traffic-related deaths on the roads. “This fact mandates a systematic and scientific approach to solve the problem,” he adds. The seminar showed how the science of injury biomechanics facilitates a safety engineer to develop an innovative passive safety system. Thorbole, a key speaker at the seminar, has been working in this area in the US for more than a decade with emphasis on vehicle technologies and innovations that saves lives in the event of traffic accidents. He has also started a Pune-based company with the core competence in accidental injury biomechanics and innovative passive safety solutions for Indian vehicles.
Automotive passive safety, he says, mainly focuses on passenger injury prevention in the event of a road accident. It primarily consists of vehicle structure design and its strength that protects the passenger in the event of an accident. “The safety systems installed in the vehicle such as seatbelts and airbags are an important part of passive safety along with the overall protection offered by a strong vehicle structure. Injuries to passengers are not caused by the accident but the inferior vehicle design and structures that fail to protect them in the event of an accident,” he points out. Vehicle passive safety performance plays a crucial role in protecting passengers during survivable accidents. Hence, superior automotive passive safety is extremely important for protecting occupants, he stresses.
In India, Thorbole stresses, a majority of passenger cars running on road at any given time lack adequate passive safety systems and demonstrate poor vehicle structural strength to protect its occupants in the event of an accident. The state-wise accidental death data from government records clearly indicates that it is very challenging to drive and be safe on Indian roads. “The driver and passenger must always thus remember to use the seatbelt. It is a primary restraining device and an important passive safety system. Furthermore, vehicles with no airbags make seatbelts extremely important and an effective device to protect occupants in traffic accidents,” he adds.
Speaking of road safety laws, the Government of India has already announced to make airbags compulsory for passenger cars and SUVs. “This is a right step in the right direction. However, poor vehicle structural strength around the occupants eliminates the effectiveness of airbags in protecting them. Hence, overall vehicle crash performance must be assessed and ranked to motivate manufacturers to design and develop safer cars for Indian roads. Strong vehicle structure around the occupants and effective restraint system increases the level of passenger safety,” he says.
“Bharat New Car Assessment Programme is the proposed intervention scheme to rate the cars sold in India based on their passenger safety performance. This will have a positive effect on the vehicle design in terms of its capability to protect its occupants,” says Thorbole adding, “The current Indian Automotive Industry Standards (AIS) regulations are inadequate and ineffective in protecting occupants in a crash.”