The History of Seat Belts

March 1, 2021 by No Comments

Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, it wasn’t uncommon to see children hanging out of car windows, or traveling in the back of a pickup truck without any safety restraints. Often, more people were crammed into a car than could be considered safe. However, these are fond memories many people have about their childhoods, especially when it came to long family road trips. Wearing seat belts was not the norm back in the day and we often take for granted the safety advancements that have been made in the last 50 years.

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There are two common types of safety belts that come equipped in automobiles these days. These two styles are the lap belt and the three-point belt. Often times, you’ll see a lap belt in the middle seat where a shoulder connection isn’t available. The three-point belts are located on the side seats. A lap belt is a simple, single strap that reaches across the hip area and it serves to keep people secured to their seat during an accident. A three-point seat belt has a lap belt connected to a shoulder strap that runs diagonally across the body. This style of seat belt provides more side protection in the event of an accident, along with keeping you from being thrown from the vehicle. These are the most common styles of safety belts in cars, although many other styles exist in alternative vehicles. Race cars will use a very more secure 6 point harness whereas airplane pilots use an even more restrictive 7 point harness to strap them in Belt and Road.

The history of safety belts dates all the way back to the 1800’s with patents issued in the later 19th century. However, Volvo was the first manufacturer to offer it in their vehicles in 1949. Unfortunately, it took many years for other car manufacturers to climb on board with the idea and it was a rarity until later in the 20th century. Volvo can also be credited with unveiling the three-point seat belt in 1959 which is now the standard for belts in automobiles. Around this time, the other manufacturers began to offer them as a standard option for their customers. Finally, by the 1970’s the government started to pay closer attention to the safety advantages of seat belts but any sort of legislation was slow to respond with government regulations. The first country to require the use of a safety belt by law, was Australia. Many additional countries followed their lead and by the late 80’s, it became common practice around the world.

The safety benefits of seat belts have been evident from the very beginning, however, the information was always based around adult passengers and drivers. Not until much later were any studies conducted to research the safety of seat belts in regards to child passengers. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that it was even considered that child and adult passengers would have different safety needs. Through recent studies, they found that children secured with a seat belt designed for an adult actually have a higher rate of injury. These findings have sparked laws that now require children of a certain age and size to be placed in child-specific safety restraints such as a car seat. Luckily, modern vehicles come equipped with advanced seat belt technology and government laws require the use of seat belts. Wearing your seat belt and putting your children in safety restraints specific to their size is the easiest and most effective way to protect yourself in the event of a car accident.

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