Seat belts? Kashmir doesn’t care!

 Seats belts in Kashmir? Are you crazy? We in the Valley are too brave, too smug to wear a seat belt even if the entire world belts up not just in the front but in the rear seats too. Strange but true.

NOTWITHSTANDING the renewed focus on rear seat belts in the country, particularly in big cities and towns, the culture of wearing a seat belt even by the driver is alien to Kashmir.
Why am I raising this issue again? Well, with the commencement of the Spring tourist
season, domestic tourists, particularly from north India, prefer to travel to Kashmir by road. Currently, Srinagar city is flooded with private vehicles and cabs bearing registration numbers from other states. Now, how does one tell local from non-local vehicles without looking at number plates? Well, the answer is simple. If the driver and the one sitting on his or her left are wearing seat belts, it’s a given they are non-locals. And if the one at the
wheel is without a seat belt, and over that, is also using a mobile phone, chances are he is a local.

The culture of wearing seat belts is yet to take roots in Kashmir. It’s the conscious and the highly educated class alone that seem to understand the importance of seat belts here. Go to rural Kashmir and you may see no one using a seat belt. And unfortunately, the traffic cops and the traffic regulating authorities don’t exactly seem enthusiastic about enforcing the culture of seat belts among the commuters. This fails me – this whole lack of
action against those who violate traffic rules, particularly related to seat belts. In contrast to this, wearing a seat belt while driving, is mandatory in Jammu, and cops act
swiftly against violators. And here in Kashmir, not wearing a seat belt is seen as an act of bravado.
I recently came across this mind-blowing detail I didn’t know earlier. The seat belt actually activates the airbag. I always thought that the airbag automatically pops out in case of an accident. I had no idea that it is the seat belt which actually stimulates and activates the airbags in case of an accident. All across the country, it is mandatory to wear seat belts – whether you are sitting in the rear or the front seat – for the reason being that the airbags get deployed only when seat belts are worn! Not wearing a rear seat belt is a punishable fine almost all across the developed world. Some of the best brands in cars make sure you get nowhere without the seat belt on. In brands like Lexus, the warning siren for not wearing the backseat belt becomes a continual drone, rising in intensity unless the call is heeded. Some of the Volvos won’t even drive and will keep switching off or throwing
fits unless the rear seat belt is worn.

In India, we started wearing seat belts in the front much later than others. But now it has become a habit. Kashmir, however, is an exception. Strange but true.


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