A passive system, the seat belts are one of the best safety features present in every vehicle. Be it a hatchback or an aeroplane you’ll find seat belts in all of them. Let’s take a look into the history of seatbelts and how they have changed the driving experience.
The Birth Of Seat belts
It was the last 1800’s when Sir George Cayley invented the seat belts to be used in his glider. He is considered to be one of the most important inventors in the aeronautics fields. The design was crude and was not exactly helpful in cars. It was then in 1885 when an American named Edward J Claghorn patented the first seat belt to be used in New York taxis. It was a simple strap that would go across your lap and secure you to a fixed object. Seat belts were getting famous but it was still not widespread.
Retractable seat belts
Then the next major breakthrough for seat belts came in 1946 by Dr C. Hunter Shelden. He figured out that the primitive design of the seat belts didn’t help that much and with this study, he made the retractable seat belts. He contributed to other safety systems as well such as recessed steering wheels and the idea of airbags. Around the 1950s almost all racing cars adopted seat belts and someplace made it mandatory for a car to have a seat belt in order to be eligible in a race.
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Seatbelts as an option
It was mid-1900’s when two American car manufacturers decided to offer seat belt as a purchasable option in cars. These were Nash and Ford. People at the beginning didn’t really opt to pay for seat belts as was confirmed by Ford which said that only 2% of buyers decided to buy the seat belts. A company from Sweden named Saab was, however, the first automobile company to provide seat belts as a standard.
Improving the seat belts even further
During this time people were still trying to make seat belts better. Another breakthrough in the history of seat belts came in 1955 when two Americans named Roger W Griswold and Hugh DeHaven designed the first iteration of the 3-point seatbelt that we see in cars today. This was later improved by Nils Bohlin, a Swedish inverter working for Volvo that made the modern 3-point seatbelt that we currently use. He was hired by Volvo as a chief safety engineer.
At that time a relative of the CEO of Volvo had died in a car accident which prompted the company to promote car safety and make stronger and safer cars. Volvo could have made millions from this but they made it free for everyone in interest of safety. It is estimated that since its inception till the year of Nils Bohlin death (2002) the 3-point seat belt had saved over a million lives.
Seatbelts become mandatory
After multiple studies, it was found out that seat belts help in reducing fatal injuries and thus governments started making them compulsory. The first place in the world to make seat belt wearing compulsory was in Australia in a state named Victoria in 1970. In India, they were made mandatory to be put in cars from 1994 for front seat belts and in 2002 seat belts were made mandatory for rear seats as well. Any car manufactured before 1994 was exempted from this legislation.
The Future Of Seat belts
There is a possibility of seat belts getting even better and making cars safer. Advancements like the retractable seat belt is a step in the right direction because it takes the normal three-point seat belt and makes it even better. As it doesn’t change anything outside people are still comfortable using it and are safer.
This was a brief look into the history of seat belts. This simple piece of technology has saved millions of lives. It will continue saving more as long as people are driving cars. So don’t forget ever forget to wear a seat belt and make others wear one too.