The United States has one of the largest auto markets in the world, so you might imagine that the U.S. would also have the highest number of auto deaths each year. It turns out, though, that safety regulations and investment in highway infrastructure actually saves lives. Who knew? On the other hand, one of the deadliest countries in terms of road safety, India, sees as many 150,000 people killed each year in auto accidents – over 400 a day. The U.S., meanwhile, sees around 110 deaths each day for a total of about 40,000 each year. Modernization is a high priority for the rapidly developing nation, so the Indian government has finally decided to tackle its road safety problems with a new bill that ushers in new safety regulations for vehicles and harsher penalties for traffic offenders.
The new bill was approved by the lower house of the Indian parliament in 2016 and is expected to go into effect in 2018 after approval by the upper house. The bill will require Indian car makers to include many safety features which are mandatory in other countries such as air bags or anti-lock brakes. In 2015, Renault introduced the Kwid to the Indian market without either of these rather basic safety features. The car sold over 100,000 units anyway, likely due to its low cost of around $4000 USD. For that price, I’m surprised it has a steering wheel.
While aimed at curbing traffic fatalities, India’s new auto safety bill isn’t without its critics. It’s estimated that car prices in India could go up 7 or 8 percent due to the new safety features which are being made mandatory. That could spell bad news for the fledgling Indian domestic car market, particularly in sales of less expensive cars. Still, the country will save in the long run; according to the World Health Organization, the average country loses about 3% of its GDP each year to the various costs associated with traffic fatalities.