V-shaped three-point seat belt which was invented by Volvo Engineer Nils Bohlin in 1959 is Volvo’s visionary open patent which granted free use of the design to all other car manufacturers. Easily fastened with one hand, it secures the seat’s occupant in place with a belt across the chest and another across the hips – a vast improvement on the previous two-point waist restraint.
Today, the simple ‘click-clack front-and-back’ has been recognized worldwide as the most widely used and significant safety innovation in the automobile’s more than 120 year long history. It is estimated that more than a million people owe their lives to the seat belt, and it has saved many times that number of people from serious injury. It is also one of the eight patents to have the greatest significance for humanity during the hundred years from 1885 to 1985.
“The decision to release the three point seat belt patent was visionary and in line with Volvo’s guiding principle of safety,” says Alan Desselss, managing director of Volvo Car Australia. “It’s why we like to say there’s a little bit of Volvo in every car.”
The first legislation came from Victoria, which was the first state worldwide to draw up legislation in 1970 requiring not just the fitting of seat belts, but also their actual use. In the first year of law, traffic fatalities in the state dropped by 18 per cent. New South Wales followed with similar legislation a year later and today, everyone but taxi drivers are legally required across Australia to wear seat belts front and back.
In 1927 Volvo’s founders Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larson stated that: “Cars are driven by people. The guiding principle behind everything we make at Volvo therefore, is – and must remain – safety.”