Safety drive

How? And why? ARAI ( is now carrying out impact tests for all nine-seater vehicles for steering columns, seat anchorage and seat belts. From 1 May 2003 every nine-seater vehicle should comply with our standards. Next will be full frontal crash tests for ascertaining the deformation of the whole cabin on models that are plying and likely to ply on Indian roads, he says.

Pressure too is building up on ARAI to tone up its vehicle-testing procedures and facilities from unexpected quarters. The Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (IRDA) may set up full-fledged vehicle-test facility along with some consumer associations. IRDAs interest stems from the fact that insurers are made to pay huge claims in the event of an accident due to poor vehicle construction.

Thrust on quality
And with the arrival of several highway projects the real test tracks for India-made vehicles and components (like tyres) vehicle quality will have to be compulsorily improved to make them safe for driving. Already the Pune-Mumbai highway is turning out to be a death stretch for several vehicle drivers and passengers as tyres burst failing to withstand vehicle speed.

Says Bhanot: We are planning to build vehicle-test facilities in Delhi and Chennai. According to him the central government is expected to spend around Rs 1,500 crore towards vehicle-test facilities.

We have asked for Rs 500 crore for our expansion and upgrading. Another Rs 500 crore will be required to have a full-fledged crash-test centre, he adds. ARAIs present facility is located on 105 hectares in Pune but the area has been declared as forestland since expansion has been stopped.

Building and maintaining a full-scale vehicle-test centre with indoor test labs using dummies and outdoor facilities will cost more and require huge tracts of land. For instance, in the seventies it cost around $70 lakh to set up the 50-acre asphalt pad at the Transportation Research Centre of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, USA, with an annual maintenance cost of $1 lakh. The maintenance cost of an indoor lab every year is around $6.5 lakh there.