Accident Prevention Highlight: Feb. 1885 1st Seatbelt Patented

32517940_mSeatbelts are an everyday part of life now. They have been required equipment in all new cars in the U.S. since 1968. That was more than 80 years after the first seat belt was patented. On February 10, 1885, Edward J. Claghorn, of New York, was granted the first U.S. patent for a seat belt. He called it a safety belt, and it looked much more like a climbing harness than the seat belts we use today. It was intended for use by tourists, among others, and was, “to be applied to the person, and provided with hooks and other attachments for securing the person to a fixed object.”

Seat Belt Evolution

Safety technology is constantly evolving and we have become a society obsessed with safety, even if our behavior does not reflect it. Safety features were not always desired or embraced by automakers or consumers.

Given what we know about the benefits of wearing a seatbelt, you may not be surprised to learn that doctors started the push for installing seat belts in vehicles. In the 1930’s several physicians, prompted by the horrific injuries they had seen as a result of auto accidents, made their own lap belts and installed them in their own vehicles to test them out before urging automakers to follow suit.

In the 1950’s seat belts became an option in many new vehicles, but they were not standard equipment. Of course, these were lap belts. The three-point seat belt, meaning the type with the shoulder strap, was patented by Volvo design engineer Nils Bohlin, in 1958. Three-point belts became standard equipment in Volvos in Sweden the next year, but the company did not make them standard in their U.S. models until 1963.


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