Do you know when seat belts became standard?

Do you know when seat belts became standard? Consider this a history lesson. I found it pretty fascinating. I can’t guarantee you will too, but if you have kids, have them read it. In my opinion, the seat belt is one of the greatest automotive inventions second only to the internal combustion engine.

DFW, did you know that there were no seat belts in cars when most of the ”baby boomer” generation was born, post World War II.  For that matter, there weren’t any Interstate Highways either.  That was a program championed by President Eisenhower after he took office in 1953.  Here’s an interesting time line.

In 1956, Ford tried, unsuccessfully, to interest Americans in purchasing safer cars with their Lifeguard safety package. (Its attempt nevertheless earned Ford Motor Trend’s “Car of the Year” award for 1956.)

In 1958, the United Nations established the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations, an international standards body advancing auto safety. Many of the most life saving safety innovations, like seat belts and roll cage construction were brought to market under its auspices. That same year, Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin invented and patented the three-point lap and shoulder seat belt, which became standard equipment on all Volvo cars in 1959. Over the next several decades, three-point safety belts were gradually mandated in all vehicles by regulators throughout the industrialized world.

In 1966, the U.S. established the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) with automobile safety one of its purposes. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was created as an independent organization on April 1, 1967, but was reliant on the DOT for administration and funding. However, in 1975 the organization was made completely independent by the Independent Safety Board Act.

Volvo developed the first rear-facing child seat in 1964 and introduced its own booster seat in 1978.

In 1979, NHTSA began crash-testing popular cars and publishing the results, to inform consumers and encourage manufacturers to improve the safety of their vehicles. Initially, the US NCAP crash tests examined compliance with occupant-protection provisions. Over the subsequent years, this NHTSA program was gradually expanded in scope. In 1997, the European New Car Assessment Program (Euro NCAP) was established to test new vehicles’ safety performance and publish the results for vehicle shoppers’ information. The NHTSA crash tests are presently operated and published as the U.S. branch of the international NCAP program.

In 1984, New York State passed the first US law requiring seat belt use in passenger cars. Seat belt laws have since been adopted by all 50 states, and NHTSA estimates increased seat belt use as a result save 10,000 per year in the USA.  In fact, fewer people died in on US roads and highways in 2008 (37,261) than in 1952 (37,500), despite an enormous increase in the number of drivers on the road.

Here’s what happens when you don’t wear your seat belt.

Hope you enjoyed this little history lesson from Freeman Grapevine.  Now buckle up, or you might be History.

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