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A Nils Bohlin-Volvo Invention in All Cars 3-Point Seat Belt, a Volvo Safety Development, Has Saved Thousands of Lives


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Nils Bohlin inventor of Three Point Safety Belt (1959)

3-Point Seat Belt, a Volvo Safety Development, Has Saved Thousands of Lives

SEE ALSO: Nils Bohlin Articles From The Auto Channel News Archives

IRVINE, Calif., May 26 -- "There's a little bit of 'Volvo' in every vehicle on the American road," says Anne Belec, president and CEO, Volvo Cars of North America. Such a bold assertion is based on Nils Bohlin's development of the three-point safety belt. No single safety device has saved more lives than the 3-point safety belt. In the 1950s, Bohlin, a passionate Inventor brought his background with aircraft pilot ejector seats and his concern for human safety to the Swedish automaker that shared his interests.

During this time the lap belt -- a safety belt anchored at two points, for use across the occupant's thighs/hips -- was the technology of the day. These crude implements managed to hold vehicle occupants in place, but were plagued by a variety of health issues resulting from the forces against the body during a crash. Lap belts were mostly used by race car drivers at that time, and were only available to motoring public as an option, and a not very popular one at that. In fact, given the choice between lap belts and white wall tires ... white walls won.

The ideas of Nils Bohlin came to the attention of Gunnar Engellau, then president of AB Volvo in Sweden. Engellau, who loss a relative in a car crash, brought Bohlin into Volvo and supported the continuation of his work. Applying the concepts of pilot restraint in the cockpit of a plane, Bohlin engineered a system combating 'decelerative forces,' such as the effect of abrupt stops characteristic in a car crash.

In 1958 Nils Bohlin, Volvo design engineer, patented the "Basics of Proper Restraint Systems for Car Occupants," better known as a three-point safety belt. A year later, Bohlin's lap-and-shoulder belt was introduced by Volvo as standard equipment on all of its cars, in Sweden. Today, the 3-Point Safety Belt -- not the first but the modern seatbelt -- is now a standard safety device in almost every car and truck.

The 3-Point Safety belt is a safety belt with both a lap and a shoulder portion, having three attachment points (one shoulder, two hips). Volvo's unique design allowed for the single belt to 'slip' through the center attaching point thereby increasing comfort and making adjustments a simple task.

In 1963, Volvo introduced the 3-point safety belt into the United States.

Beginning with New York and Texas in 1985, states began to make the use of safety belts mandatory in vehicles. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), if all vehicle occupants had used safety belts during the period of 1975 and 2000, nearly 315,000 deaths and 5.2 million injuries could have been prevented.

"Statistics clearly indicate that safety belts save lives," said Belec. "As we approach the Memorial Day weekend, one of the busiest driving periods of the year, initiatives like 'Click It or Ticket' bring awareness that we must do everything that we can to encourage people to wear them."

In 2002, Nils Bohlin was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, which honors men and women who have had a significant impact on the way people live through their patented technologies. CLICK HERE for complete story

Volvo Cars of North America (VCNA) -- part of the Volvo Car Corporation of Gothenburg, Sweden -- provides marketing, sales, parts, service, technology and training support to Volvo automobile retailers in the United States, and oversees Volvo operations in Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico.

  Volvo has been building cars with Safety in mind for over 75 years.

  Startling facts:

   Front 3-point safety belts reduce fatalities by 45% in cars and 60% in
   light trucks(1)

   Rear 3-point safety belts reduce fatalities by 44% in cars and 73% in
   light trucks(1)

   Safety belt usage has gone from 14% in 1984 to 80% in 2004(2)

   The rear seat is equally important.  A 60 pound child is the weight
   equivalent of 2,700 pounds upon impact at 30 mph.  It's like having an
   elephant in the back seat.

   1. NHTSA: Lives Saved by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and
      Other Vehicle Safety Technologies, 1960 - 2002, pg. 203

   2. NHTSA: Lives Saved by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and
      Other Vehicle Safety Technologies, 1960 - 2002, table 1-2.

   2. NHTSA: 19 City Survey, 1976 - 1991; NOPUS, 1994 - 2004