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Volvo's Nils Bohlin, Creator of the Three-Point Safety Belt, to Be Inducted Into the National Inventors Hall of Fame


AKRON, Ohio, Sept. 16 -- Nils Bohlin, a retired engineer for Sweden's Volvo Car Corp., will be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) during a ceremony in Akron, Ohio on Sept. 21. His achievement? The creation of a feature found in every vehicle manufactured today, 43 years after its invention: the three-point safety belt.

Bohlin will be among 16 inventors inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame this year. More than 168 inventors have been immortalized in the NIHF during the past 30 years -- individuals whose creations have shaped the way in which we live, such as Eli Whitney for the cotton gin, Orville and Wilbur Wright for their flying machine, among others.

According to the Volvo Car Corp. Traffic Accident Research Team, the three-point safety belt reduces the risk of injury or death in automobile accidents by 75 percent. It is believed to have saved as many as one million lives since its development.

In 1959, Volvo introduced the patented three-point safety belt in European markets. By the mid-1960s, its use and availability became widespread in the United States. Today, nearly 70 percent of Americans buckle up and 49 states have safety belt laws. One hundred percent is the goal by most safety organizations and lawmakers.

The induction ceremony will be broadcast on select U.S. public television stations. Bohlin, who currently resides in Sweden, will be unable to attend. His sons, Gunnar and Hakan Ornmark, will accept the award on his behalf.

"Bohlin's accomplishment is extraordinary, considering the countless lives saved and innumerable injuries prevented by his invention. His efforts embody the commitment to safety that remains a core value at Volvo today," said Vic Doolan, chief executive officer and president of Volvo Cars of North America, LLC. "We're delighted that the National Inventors Hall of Fame is recognizing his achievement and that Volvo is associated with such a prestigious organization."

Bohlin Sought Simple, Effective and Convenient Solution

Bohlin began his career in engineering in the mid-1950s in the Swedish aviation industry, designing efficient ejector seats. At the time, safety belts in cars were anchored behind the car seats, strapped across the body, with the buckle placed over the abdomen. Unfortunately at high-speed crashes, this design allowed the body to move, and with the awkward position of the buckle, the belt itself could cause injury to body organs.

Based on his experience designing ejector seats, Bohlin understood the limitations of restraint devices and turned his attention to restraining the human body as safely as possible under extreme movements. In 1958, Volvo recruited Bohlin as the company's first safety engineer, and shortly thereafter, he translated his ideas into reality.

"I realized both the upper and lower body must be held securely in place with one strap across the chest and one across the hips. The belt also needed an immovable anchorage point for the buckle as far down beside the occupant's hip, so it could hold the body properly during a collision," Bohlin said. "It was just a matter of finding a solution that was simple, effective and could be put on conveniently with one hand."

Three-point Safety Belt Among Numerous "Safety Firsts" for Volvo

"Inventions and innovations in safety have been the core of Volvo's brand throughout its 75-year history," Doolan added. "With the invention of the three-point safety belt, you could say there is a little bit of Volvo in every modern car."

Among Volvo's safety milestones: -- 1927: Safety glass windshields with automatic windshield wipers installed -- 1944: Steel cage created to help protect passenger compartment -- 1960: Padded instrument panels installed -- 1984: Anti-lock brakes (ABS) installed -- 1991: Side Impact Protection System (SIPS) installed -- 1995: Side-impact air bags installed -- 1997: Roll Over Protection System (ROPS) installed -- 2000: Volvo's Whiplash Protection System created -- 2002: Volvo's pioneering efforts in safety continue next month when the company launches its first sport utility vehicle, the new XC90, which will be equipped with an innovative Roll Stability Control (RSC). The system uses gyroscopic sensors to help prevent the vehicle from rolling over.