A Quick History of Seatbelts

child with car seat belt

Everyone knows to buckle up when in a vehicle, but that wasn’t always the case. These life-saving tools didn’t hit the market until 1956. So, what did people do before then and when did the nation decide that these straps were a necessity? Here’s a quick history of seatbelts and how they became standard in the auto industry. 

The 1930s

The first automobile in America was made in Massachusetts by J. Frank and Charles Duryea back in 1893. Cars eventually made their way into consumer hands with the Model T and similar builds. Americans bought 26 million cars in 1920. By 1929, sales increased to 4.3 million. 

It wasn’t until the 30s, however, that physicians began to recognize driving as inherently dangerous. They began crafting makeshift seatbelts of their own and urging auto manufacturers to make them standard. No one listened, and the death toll continued to rise. 

The seatbelt as we know it didn’t see its first iteration until 1956. Even then, they weren’t standard for auto manufacturers. Seatbelts were, however, used in racing and in airplanes for at least two decades at this point. 

The 1958 Model

Two years after the first seatbelts for cars were made, an engineer for Volvo by the name of Nils Bohlin crafted a three-point safety system that combined a shoulder and lap strap along with a buckle. Chrysler and Ford also presented a few models and sold their new cars to consumers as a commitment to safety.

Safety was a major concern for the public moving into the 60s, with lawyers representing auto accident victims injured by a lack of safety features. So, the National Highway Safety Act and National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act were passed in 1966, requiring all vehicles to have seatbelts as a standard feature. At the time, there were no laws requiring that anyone actually used them. 

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Modern Times

Over the years, refusal to use seatbelts has led to hundreds of millions of accidents. This led lawmakers to pass legislation requiring drivers to buckle up each and every time they get behind the wheel. Even then, defective equipment still causes an unfortunate amount of accidents each year. 

Thankfully, consumers have the right to sue when a manufacturer’s seatbelt or other safety features fail. It’s vital that consumers know when to contact a car accident lawyer in relation to these accidents. If you think a defect is to blame, don’t waste time. Speak with a legal professional today. 

The Importance of the Seatbelt

Aside from the legality of wearing your seatbelt, the data behind how this simple strap system can save your life is staggering. It might not seem like much, but it can be the difference between life and death in an auto accident, especially at high speeds. 

It’s essential that you have your car inspected, which includes your seatbelts, at least once per year to make sure they’re functioning like they should. Without this simple invention, it’s difficult to say how many more people would die each year from auto-related injuries. 

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