Volvo, seatbelts and “The Philosophy” of safety by Kelechi Deca

Volvo introduced the use of Seat Belts in cars in 1959. But there was an issue with that seat belt. It consisted of two straps that joined at the hip level and fastened into a single anchor point. It could not hold the upper body from being thrown forward during collisions. That was not good enough for a car company that brands itself as building the safest cars in the world.

In 1962 a Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin designed a three-point system in less than a year. The three-point belt significantly reduced injuries by effectively holding both the upper and lower body and reducing the impact of the swift deceleration that occurred in a crash.

On July 10, 1962, the US Patent Office issued Nils Bohlin a patent for the three-point seatbelt.

Volvo released the new seat belt design for free to other car manufacturers and it quickly became standard worldwide. The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 made seat belts a required feature on all new American vehicles from the 1968 model year onward.

The use of seat belts has been estimated to reduce the risk of fatalities and serious injuries from collisions by about 50 percent . A Volvo research team recently found Bohlin’s invention had saved about 1 million lives.

In 1974, Bohlin was awarded The Ralph Isbrandt Automotive Safety Engineering Award, and in 1989 he was inducted into the Hall of Fame for Safety and Health.

He received a gold medal from Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Science in 1995 and in 1999, was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame. He retired from Volvo in 1985 and was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

The very fact that his design has not been tampered with 56 years later shows the quality of genius that went into that idea.

As you strap your seat belt on your way home, remember the name Nils Bohlin and give way to any Volvo on your lane as a sign of respect.

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