50 Years of Seat belt Safety

2016 was the 50th anniversary of the seat belt fittings becoming compulsory in the UK, which was made possible because of standards.

Seat belts make a profound difference to motoring safety, so much so they have been called the biggest contribution to safety in the history of motoring. This claim came from World Health Organisation research.


  • How did seatbelts develop?
    • The first seat belt was invented in early 1800s by George Cayley for a fixed-wing flying machine that he had pitched.
    • In 1913 a proposal for a restraint in vehicles was made. 
    • Even though the idea didn’t catch on until the 1950s, US physicians had started fitting belts in their own vehicles and asking manufactures to do the same.
    • In 1954 Sports car club of America required all competing drivers to wear lap belts.
    • The US based society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) appointed a Motor Vehicle seatbelt commitee.
    • Volvo created a 2-point cross chest diagonal belt as an accessory which was then launched in 1956 and went on to provide anchors for a 2-point diagonal belt in 1957
    • In 1958 Nils Bohlin, a Volvo design engineer, patented the 3-point safety belt with two straps that we now have today.
    • Volvo had introduced this belt in Sweden as a standard in 1959.

    It was then that the modern seat belt was born.

  • The evolution of the legislation
    • It took 13 attempts between 1973 and 1981 to pass a legislation that made it compulsory for front seat occupants to wear a seat belt.
    • The transport act was amended at the last minute, and the seat belt law then came into effect as a three year trail in January 1983.
    • During the three-year trial period there were less road deaths, which meant the seat belt law became permanent in 1986.
    • In 1987 it was then made mandatory for rear seat belts, in new cars in Britain, even though most cars had them for some time now before the law. 
    • In 1989 there were changes in child seat laws as well. It was required for rear children under the age of 14 to wear a seat belt, and this was then made compulsory for adults as well in 1991.
    • Today it is now the personal responsibility of each adult occupant of a vehicle to ensure that he or she complies with the law in regards to seat belt safety, and is considered an offence if a seatbelt is not worn. 
    • For children, child booster seats must be used if the child is under 12 years or 135 centimetres tall.