In 1959, Volvo invented the 3-point seat belt, then gave free license to all other car manufacturers to use it.
A 3-point belt is a Y-shaped arrangement, similar to the separate lap and sash belts, but unitized. Like the separate lap-and-sash belt, in a collision the 3-point belt spreads out the energy of the moving body over the chest, pelvis, and shoulders. Volvo introduced the first production three-point belt in 1959. The first car with three point belt was a Volvo PV 544 that was delivered to a dealer in Kristianstad on August 13, 1959. However, the first car model to feature the three point seat belt as a standard item was the 1959 Volvo 122, first outfitted with a two-point belt at initial delivery in 1958, replaced with the three point seat belt the following year. The three point belt was developed by Nils Bohlin who had earlier also worked on ejection seats at Saab. Volvo then made the new seat belt design patent open in the interest of safety and made it available to other car manufacturers for free.
Seat belt History
Seat belts were invented by English engineer George Cayley in the early 19th century, though Edward J. Claghorn of New York, was granted the first patent (U.S. Patent 312,085, on February 10, 1885 for a safety belt). Claghorn was granted United States Patent #312,085 for a Safety-Belt for tourists, painters, firemen, etc. who are being raised or lowered, described in the patent as “designed to be applied to the person, and provided with hooks and other attachments for securing the person to a fixed object.”
In 1903, French inventor Gustave-Désiré Leveau invented a special kind of seat belt.
In 1911, Benjamin Foulois had the cavalry saddle shop fashion a belt for the seat of Wright Flyer Signal Corps 1. He wanted it to hold him firmly in his seat so he could better control his aircraft as he bounded along the rough field used for takeoff and landing. It was not until World War II that seat belts were fully adopted in military aircraft, and even then, it was mainly for safety reasons, not improved aircraft control.
In 1946, Dr. C. Hunter Shelden had opened a neurological practice at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, California. In the early 1950s, Dr. Shelden had made a major contribution to the automotive industry with his idea of retractable seat belts. This came about greatly in part from the high number of head injuries coming through the emergency rooms. He investigated the early seat belts whose primitive designs were implicated in these injuries and deaths. His findings were published in the November 5, 1955 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in which he proposed not only the retractable seat belt, but also recessed steering wheels, reinforced roofs, roll bars, door locks and passive restraints such as the air bag. Subsequently in 1959, Congress passed legislation requiring all automobiles to comply with certain safety standards.
American car manufacturers Nash (in 1949) and Ford (in 1955) offered seat belts as options, while Swedish Saab first introduced seat belts as standard in 1958. After the Saab GT 750 was introduced at the New York Motor Show in 1958 with safety belts fitted as standard, the practice became commonplace.
Glenn Sheren of Mason, Michigan submitted a patent application on March 31, 1955 for an automotive seat belt and was awarded US Patent 2,855,215 in 1958. This was a continuation of an earlier patent application that Mr. Sheren had filed on September 22, 1952.
However, the first modern three point seat belt (the so-called CIR-Griswold restraint) used in most consumer vehicles today was patented in 1955 (US Patent 2,710,649) by the Americans Roger W. Griswold and Hugh DeHaven, and developed to its modern form by Swedish inventor Nils Bohlin for Swedish manufacturer Volvo—who introduced it in 1959 as standard equipment. In addition to designing an effective three-point belt, Bohlin demonstrated its effectiveness in a study of 28,000 accidents in Sweden. Unbelted occupants sustained fatal injuries throughout the whole speed scale, whereas none of the belted occupants were fatally injured at accident speeds below 60 mph. No belted occupant was fatally injured if the passenger compartment remained intact. Bohlin was granted U.S. Patent 3,043,625 for the device.
The world’s first seat belt law was put in place in 1970, in the state of Victoria, Australia, making the wearing of a seat belt compulsory for drivers and front-seat passengers.