• Aug 14, 2009
Volvo's three-point seat belt - Click above to watch the video after the break

Back in 1958, most Americans wouldn't have been caught dead wearing a seat belt. That was mostly because safety belts were optional equipment in every car sold in the U.S. and drivers were suspicious of the things.

Just one year later, though, Nils Bohlin of Sweden invented and patented a three-point safety belt system that Volvo immediately made standard on its Amazon model. Variations on that system are still being used today in virtually every modern car.

Volvo, as you might expect, is pretty proud of itself, bragging that Mr. Bohlin is personally responsible for saving a million lives and that the three-point safety belt is Volvo's most important innovation and "almost certainly the most important invention in the whole history of traffic safety." Hmm. Maybe, but what about the, um, stop sign? Or double yellow line? Just saying. Then again, Volvo says the German patent office called the three-point belt one of the eight patents that had the greatest importance to mankind between 1885 and 1985. Surely that's now been trumped by 24-7 cable news networks.

Regardless, if you want to celebrate 50 years of safer driving with Volvo, chill the beer, fire up the grill and watch the video after the break. There's some great historical footage including one of a crash test with a live person as well as, more importantly, gratuitous footage of a girl in short shorts. Hit the jump to watch the video and read the full press release from Volvo.

[Source: Volvo]

VIDEO:


PRESS RELEASE:

Happy Birthday to Volvo's Three-Point Seat Belt


ROCKLEIGH, N.J., (August 12, 2009) - Over 1 million people are celebrating their birthday this year thanks to a Swedish engineer whose cleverness led to an evolutionary technique to make a simple passenger restraint system: the three-point seat belt, the single most effective life-saving device ever used in road transportation.

In the U.S., the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that each percentage increase in seat belt usage would save 270 lives a year. Studies by the Global Road Safety Partnership in Europe show that another 7,000 lives would be saved if every European Union (EU) country had the same usage statistics as the top-performing countries. The potential is even greater in parts of Africa, Asia and South America where the number of vehicles is increasing very quickly. Think of how many more birthdays could be had with just a simple 'click', more birthday cakes, candles, and happy faces.

"We all know we should buckle up, but very few understand the forces involved in an accident," states Adam Kopstien, Manager, Product Safety & Compliance at Volvo Cars of North America. "An unbelted 160-pound man, hitting a tree at about 30 miles per hour is subject to approximately 150 G's (gravity-force) or an impacting force of around 12 tons. To put that into perspective, a jet fighter pilot performing a tight turn is subject to 9-12 G's (gravity-force). That's why it is so critical for people to wear their seat belts."

Seat belts save lives, that's a given. The reality is some people believe an airbag will save their lives. Airbags are Supplemental Restraints Systems (SRS) and are meant to aid a seat belt but not act as the primary restraint in a collision. An unbelted occupant increases the risk of impacting the steering wheel or dashboard or being ejected through the windshield. Nothing protects better than a three-point seat belt.

How to calculate impacting body weight:

This example is an approximation of impact forces transmitted to the human body. In general, this assumes a car hitting a tree at 30 mph with a 160-pound driver.

* Belted with belt webbing that is elastic: 20 Gs (gravity-force) meaning the driver now weighs 1.6 tons
* Belted with belt with no elasticity in the webbing: 30 Gs, which equals 2.4 tons.
* Unbelted: 150 Gs equaling 12 tons.

DIY calculations: Weight times G force. 160 pounds times 20 Gs equals 3,200 pounds (1.6 tons)

"August 13th is our three-point seat belt's 50th. We are very proud to have added so many birthday candles to so many people's birthday, even those who have never driven our cars" comments Kopstein. "We are very proud that there is a little bit of Volvo in all cars."


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 29 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Volvo could spend more time testing their seatbelts and crash safety systems if they spent less time putting makeup and jewlery on their crash test dummies.
        • 5 Years Ago
        .... as if Volvo, of all companies, needs to spend more time testing their seatbelts and crash safety systems.
      • 5 Years Ago
      As I recall, for years the seat belts offered as options on American cars were only lap belts (two-point-without a shoulder belt), and I believe U.S. automakers needed much government "persuasion" to make seat belts standard equipment. Even then, drivers went to lengths to avoid wearing them.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Signs and lines are patented inventions...?
      • 5 Years Ago
      We still need that 4th point. (to cover the other clavicle, add redundancy over the thorax, and help keep the abdomen centered)
        • 5 Years Ago
        I was going to suggest a neckbelt -- goes right around your throat, attaches to the headrest. As an added safety precaution, once the neckbelt system senses a high amount of tension due to a collision, it will automatically release the 3-point belt and disable the airbags.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think that girl *may* be Angela Sarafyan- aka, the really hot one with the sultry eyes from the State Farm commercial. Dunno tho...
      • 5 Years Ago
      Gotta love that pre-1967 footage of Swedes driving LHD cars on the left. Switching to driving on the right probably saved more live than the three-point belts that year.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Dumb question. If Volvo patented the 3-point safety belt, how come every car has one??? Its a good thing they do, but just saying, why patent?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Sorry, is there a seat belt in that picture? *drool*
        • 5 Years Ago
        Huge boobs are overrated.

        She is perfect.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Aloysius Vampa--amen to that! I was hoping to see her in the video lol!

        Oh and happy birthday to the 3-point seatbelt. Truely is a life saving invention. Will 4-point harnesses become standard next?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Truly cruel to have the picture not link to a gallery.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yes it's just between her bo...

        Oh never mind, it's the boobs that are missing!!
        • 5 Years Ago
        I'm in love with a dummy!
        • 5 Years Ago
        Darn, I was hoping the girl in the picture was in the video. But speaking of boobs, I appreciated the older footage of the engineer putting the seatbelt on the woman for the demo. I bet it was the highlight of his workday.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Back in 1958, most Americans wouldn't have been caught dead wearing a seat belt. That was mostly because safety belts were optional equipment in every car sold in the U.S. and drivers were suspicious of the things.

      Brock Yates is probably still suspicious of the things.
      • 5 Years Ago
      At 30 MPH it still hurts, I think I give more credit to air bags for my wife not being hurt.
        • 5 Years Ago
        True, just saying that the seatbelt actually hurt her more then anything in that crash (whiplash and frontal burns for a 20-30 mph crash), but guess it did the job. LOL @ flying through the windshield, like no one would know that and they use a tractor trailer where your sitting high up facing a HUGE windshield. I know someone who had that happen in a tractor trailer, would have less damage if he had gone through the windshield (lost all his teeth, broken back, neck and more) otherwise people rarely go through the windshield and out, half your body is below the stering wheel, physics says no.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Without seatbelts you would fly though the windshield.

        Old video example:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UthhJLekANU

        Congratulations Volvo on creating an indispensable safety device.
        • 5 Years Ago
        SRS Airbag - >Supplemental< Restraint System - airbags cannot work on their own, seat belt are the most important safety instrument. Without seatbelt airbags wouldn't work properly.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "just saying that the seatbelt actually hurt her more then anything in that crash (whiplash and frontal burns for a 20-30 mph crash"

        that's why the same company that brought you the 3 point seatbelt now has the 'WHIPS' device!
        • 5 Years Ago
        @MajorGeek
        If I were you, I would praise the people who invented the seatbelt... If it didn't "hurt" your wife, then the dashboard could have cause some serious damage in the event of a crash. Even at 30 mph!
        It's unfortunate that car crashes happen at all... however a proper seatbelt and a solid and heavy car are best at protecting you and your loved ones.
        • 5 Years Ago
        when you crash into ANYTHING, something's going to hurt.

        your complaint is like falling off a building and landing on a stack of pillows. then you complain that the lumpy pillow hurt you the most. boo fucking hoo, try jumping off the building without anything to cushion you.
        • 5 Years Ago
        just stop majorgeek...you post some of the dumbest replies on autoblog.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm going to spill some birthday cake on my seat belt today while driving to celebrate.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Those yellow and black markings indicate where my.... never mind.
        • 5 Years Ago
        hahaha..Good one ;)
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