Automotive Fun Fact: A Brief History of Seat Belts

March 29, 2024

boy putting on a seat belt

Auto Repair Mechanics in Akron, Strongsville and Mentor Aim to Increase Seat Belt Use.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nationwide seat belt use was 85% in 2010. It is hard to imagine a day when seat belts did not exist. This simple invention saves thousands of lives each year. But who invented it?

During the 1930s, several physicians recognized the dangers of driving and began installing their own seat belts in their personal vehicles. They began urging auto manufacturers to install them on each vehicle. However, it wasn’t until 1956 that the modern seat belt was made available in some vehicles. Some sources suggest seat belts may have been used in various racing activities and air planes prior to the 1930s. These safety belts were a two-point system which offered one belt which restrained a person at the waist.

The modern seat belt, with a shoulder strap, lap strap and buckle (called the three-point safety belt) was invented by Nils Bohlin, a Volvo engineer, who patented the shoulder/lap safety belt in 1958. Ford and Chrysler also began offering seat belts in some of their models and began advertising the company’s commitment to safety during this time. The Highway Safety Act and the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Acts of 1966 required all auto manufacturers to make seat belts a standard feature in all models produced. However, no law was passed mandating the use of these seat belts. Today, specific seat belt laws are passed and enforced at the state level.

Auto technicians and experts agree, safety belts are the most important safety tool to keeping you safe inside your vehicle in the vent of a collision. However, keeping your vehicle properly maintained can prevent breakdowns and consequential accidents. You should have your vehicle professionally inspected two to three times per year depending on how much you drive. These inspections can alert you to undetected problems which could cause accidents. For example, our technicians can detect the life of a vehicle’s battery, brakes and more. If you suspect you may need a brake repair, contact your local Rad Air for a safety inspection. With locations all throughout Northeast Ohio including Westlake, Mentor and Medina, our #1 goal is to keep Ohio families safe on the road!

Video on the history of seat belts.