Seeing isn’t believing: Laminated glass safer

Gopal Krishna, working with an advertising agency, sees only with one eye. Not because he was born this way but because his Maruti 800 had a tempered windshield when he met with an accident late one night in May 1995.

Krishna damaged his right eye then. The shrapnel of the windshield blinded one eye and partly damaged the retina of the other.

Naveen, 28, had his face lacerated when a cricket ball from nowhere hit and shattered the windshield of his car. Doctors say he is partially blinded for the rest of his life while the lacerations on his face will leave behind ugly scars. The accident occurred a week ago when Naveen was reversing the car outside his uncle’s Saket residence.

In both the cases, the windshield was made of tempered glass, which gets shattered to smithereens when hit, as against laminated glass where the shrapnel hold on to the PVB film in the glass.

Gopal regrets, ‘‘Had I known about the advantages of using laminated windshield, I would have taken care to get the glasses of my car checked when I bought it second hand.’’ He is one of the persons on whose initiative the government passed a law in 1996, making laminated windshield mandatory for new cars.

The law was passed in accordance with Section 110(d) of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 1988, which allows the Central Government to make rules regarding the use of safety glasses.

However, Ratish Ramanujam, chief operating officer of windshield replacement agency Windshield Experts, says: ‘‘The law is flawed as it only makes it mandatory among car manufacturers to provide laminated windshields while the replacement agents are bound by no such rule.’’

He says a majority of workshops and garages take advantage of this loophole, replacing broken windshields of cars with tempered glass and compromising on the safety of the driver and the passengers.

Lack of awareness among car owners adds to the problem. A survey conducted by Windshield Experts shows that such accidents occur on the Capital’s roads every day.

M.R. Gupta of Vasant Motors in Connaught Place says: ‘‘Most of the car owners who come to us for replacement of glasses are unaware of the difference between laminated and tempered glass.’’ But there are many who know the difference but won’t go for laminated glass because they are costlier, he says. A tempered windshield costs Rs 1,100 while a branded laminated windshield, such as Asahi India and Sekurit Saint Gobain, costs around Rs 2,300.

Shantanu Tiwari, a corporate bank manager who recently got the windshield of his Hyundai Accent replaced, says: ‘‘I came to know about the two varieties only when the windshield of my car was shattered about a month ago.’’ Tiwari got a laminated windshield. ‘‘It feels safe’’ he says.

600450 Seeing isn’t believing: Laminated glass safer

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