One of the most important safety features on any motor vehicle is the seatbelt, which has drastically cut down the severity of car accidents. However, the inventor of the modern seatbelt made very little money off of it – instead of profiting, they opened their patent for others to use.
Volvo Engineers Responsible for Modern Seatbelt Design
All the way through the 1950s, seatbelts were not standard safety features in cars. Those that were installed were only lap belts. These did nothing to keep the occupant’s torso from driving forwards from the force of the collision. Spinal, head, and other severe injuries were disturbingly common. The inflexible restraint could even cause internal organ damage.
In 1959, Nils Bohlin, a safety engineer at Volvo, then a small car manufacturer in Sweden, developed the modern 3-point seatbelt, which had not one, but two points of origin: One by the occupant’s waist and another up by their head. The belt could be pulled across the occupant’s body and buckled into an anchor by the occupant’s opposite hip.
The 3-point restraint was easy to put on, secured the torso to the backrest, and was not so rigid that it would cause internal injuries during a collision.
Inventor Secures Patent, Then Opens It for Others to Use
On August 17, 1959, Bohlin applied for a U.S. patent for his new seatbelt design. On July 10, 1962, the U.S. Patent Office issued him patent number 3043625. The patent was to last for 17 years, during which time Bohlin and Volvo could either keep it exclusive for their vehicles or charge other vehicle manufacturers a licensing fee to use.
Bohlin and Volvo did neither. Instead, they immediately opened the patent for others to use for free. Other automakers quickly adopted the design and began to make them a standard safety feature in cars.
Effects of Seatbelts on Car Accidents
To say that seatbelts are effective is an understatement. They are likely one of the most important safety features ever created for the automobile, including the air bag system.
Every year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that seatbelts save 15,000 lives in car crashes. This is in addition to the 2,500 people who were not wearing a seatbelt when they died in a car accident, and who likely would have survived if they were wearing one.
Put another way, in 2019, 90.7% of drivers wore seatbelts when in a vehicle. Meanwhile, of the 22,215 vehicle occupants who died in car crashes that year, 47% of them were not wearing one at the time of the collision.
Car Accident Lawyers at the Smith Law Office in St. Joseph
The personal injury and car accident lawyers at the Smith Law Office serve accident victims in St. Joseph, Kansas City, Springfield, and the rest of western Missouri. Contact us online or call our law office at (816) 875-9373 to recover the compensation that you deserve.