How Seatbelts Were Born

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), properly using seatbelts can reduce the risk of serious injuries or death in a car accident by about half. Despite the potential to save lives, the adoption of seatbelts in motor vehicles took over 80 years.

The first patent for a seatbelt was granted in 1885, but it looked more like a climber’s harness than the three point safety belt used today. According to its patent, the belt was designed “for securing a person to a fixed object.” However, over the next few decades, seatbelts slowly transformed to fit a different need.

Around the time Henry Ford’s first Model T automobile rolled off the production lines, airplane pilots like the Wright Brothers were installing seatbelts in their planes so they could have better control of the aircraft during rough takeoffs and landings. The U.S. military adopted seatbelts in all military aircraft during World War II.

American Physicians Pave The Way For Mandatory Seatbelt Use

By the 1930s, some medical professionals began to realize that car accidents were causing increasing numbers of injuries and fatalities. To protect themselves, they installed seatbelts in their own cars, and began to urge car manufacturers to include them as standard safety features.

Unfortunately, this call went mostly answered for several more decades. The only cars that were outfitted with seatbelts were cars used in racing, and despite growing concern from the medical community, most cars were still not equipped with seatbelts.

By 1958, some cars did include an option for a two-point seatbelt, where the buckle was placed across the abdomen of the driver, but this had been shown to cause serious internal injuries. Seeing a need to increase safety, the Swedish car company Volvo hired Nils Bohlin to design a safer seatbelt for its cars. Bohlin created the three-point seatbelt that consumers still buckle into today. Volvo made the seatbelt available in all their cars beginning in 1959, and made the design accessible to all other manufacturers.

U.S. auto manufacturers had tried and failed to implement uniform motor vehicle safety standards throughout the 1950s. Manufacturers like Ford quickly realized that safety didn’t sell, and stopped offering seatbelts as an additional upgrade. Safety advocates including doctors and legislators worked tirelessly to impress upon the general public the importance of seatbelts. One of these individuals was Ralph Nader, a young political activist whose writings contributed to the passage of the 1966 National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act that required many standard safety additions to cars, including seatbelts.

Lubbock Auto Defect Attorneys

It took over 80 years for lifesaving seatbelts to be required as a standard safety feature on all motor vehicles, and auto manufacturers now have a responsibility to continue to provide safe cars for consumers. Sometimes auto manufacturers, whether knowingly or not, use defective component parts in cars that can cause serious injury or even death. If you or someone you love was injured in a car accident because of seatbelt failure, call the experienced auto defect attorneys at Liggett Law Group for a free consultation to discuss your potential claim.