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.

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.

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.