The Volvo Parts, Accessories &
Performance Specialists Since 1963

Happy Birthday to Volvo's Three-Point Seat Belt

2009-08-17 - Volvo Cars of North America

ROCKLEIGH, N.J., (August 12, 2009) - Over 1 million people are celebrating their birthday this year thanks to a Swedish engineer whose cleverness led to an evolutionary technique to make a simple passenger restraint system:  the three-point seat belt, the single most effective life-saving device ever used in road transportation.

In the U.S., the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that each percentage increase in seat belt usage would save 270 lives a year. Studies by the Global Road Safety Partnership in Europe show that another 7,000 lives would be saved if every European Union (EU) country had the same usage statistics as the top-performing countries. The potential is even greater in parts of Africa, Asia and South America where the number of vehicles is increasing very quickly. Think of how many more birthdays could be had with just a simple 'click', more birthday cakes, candles, and happy faces.

"We all know we should buckle up, but very few understand the forces involved in an accident," states Adam Kopstien, Manager, Product Safety & Compliance at Volvo Cars of North America. "An unbelted 160-pound man, hitting a tree at about 30 miles per hour is subject to approximately 150 G's (gravity-force) or an impacting force of around 12 tons.  To put that into perspective, a jet fighter pilot performing a tight turn is subject to 9-12 G's (gravity-force). That's why it is so critical for people to wear their seat belts."  

Seat belts save lives, that's a given. The reality is some people believe an airbag will save their lives. Airbags are Supplemental Restraints Systems (SRS) and are meant to aid a seat belt but not act as the primary restraint in a collision. An unbelted occupant increases the risk of impacting the steering wheel or dashboard or being ejected through the windshield. Nothing protects better than a three-point seat belt.

How to calculate impacting body weight:

This example is an approximation of impact forces transmitted to the human body. In general, this assumes a car hitting a tree at 30 mph with a 160-pound driver.

  • Belted with belt webbing that is elastic: 20 Gs (gravity-force) meaning the driver now weighs 1.6 tons
  • Belted with belt with no elasticity in the webbing: 30 Gs, which equals 2.4 tons.
  • Unbelted: 150 Gs equaling 12 tons. 

 DIY calculations: Weight times G force.  160 pounds times 20 Gs equals 3,200 pounds (1.6 tons)

 "August 13th is our three-point seat belt's 50th. We are very proud to have added so many birthday candles to so many people's birthday, even those who have never driven our cars" comments Kopstein. "We are very proud that there is a little bit of Volvo in all cars."



Device has saved more than one million lives since introduction in 1959

ROCKLEIGH, N.J.(Aug. 13, 2009) ­­- Today Volvo celebrates the 50th anniversary of the most important automobile safety device ever invented: the three-point safety belt. Invented by Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin in 1958 and patented in 1959, the device has saved more than one million lives and is now standard equipment on every car. Volvo was also the first carmaker in the world to equip its cars with front seat three-point safety belts as standard.

"This is a great day in the history of automotive safety," said Doug Speck, president and CEO of Volvo Cars of North America. "While the three-point safety belt was not the first safety innovation from Volvo, it certainly has proved to be the most prolific. There really is a little piece of Volvo in every car on the road."

Even after 50 years of automotive safety innovation, the three-point safety belt remains the most effective protection for occupants in the event of a collision. The belt reduces the risk of fatalities and serious injuries from collisions by about 50 percent. A design as obvious as it is intelligent, the three-point belt is perfectly suited to the seat occupant's body. It is the safety belt's ability to keep the occupant in the seat that is of crucial importance.

 The three-point seat belt stems from a long line of Volvo safety innovations, many now standard equipment, including multiple grades of steel throughout the vehicle, intelligent airbags, electronic vehicle stability systems, Roll Stability Control (RSC), Driver Alert, Blind Spot Identification System, Lane Departure, Adaptive Cruise Control with Collision Warning and Automatic Braking, just to name a few. Adding another chapter to its safety legacy, in 2009 Volvo introduced what might be termed the world's safest passenger vehicle, the 2010 XC60 T6 AWD, which features City Safety, a low-speed collision avoidance system.

 "From Nils Bohlin's invention 50 years ago to City Safety this year, we never stop looking for ways to keep passengers safe," Speck said. "Volvo has always safeguarded the passengers inside its vehicles, and with the introduction of Pedestrian Detection technology in the S60 concept car, our vehicles will be able to detect pedestrians outside the vehicle and reduce the vehicle's speed if the driver does not react to a pedestrian in the roadway."


Prince Michael of Kent Awards Volvo the Special International Road Safety Award to Mark 50 Years of the Three-point Safety Belt

His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent has awarded Volvo Cars a special international award(1) to mark the 50th Anniversary of the invention of the three-point safety belt and in acknowledgement of the company's vision to design cars that should not crash.

This announcement coincides with the anniversary of the fitment of the first three-point safety belt which was invented by Nils Bohlin, a Volvo engineer, in 1959. It is well recognized that wearing a safety belt can increase the chance of surviving a collision by 50 percent(2), meaning that the three-point safety belt is, and will remain, the car's most important safety device.

Announcing this Special International Award, The Prince, Royal Patron of The Commission for Global Road Safety(3), who founded his award scheme in 1987 said:  "I congratulate Volvo on its outstanding achievement. Its leadership and commitment will make a significant contribution to our aim of saving five million more lives across the world over the next ten years." (4)

Peter Rask, Managing Director of Volvo Car UK commented; "We are delighted and honoured to receive this very special and prestigious award. Volvo's invention of the three-point safety belt 50 years ago is a perfect example of how the protection of human life is intrinsic to the company's DNA. Now, it is a legal requirement that all cars on UK roads are fitted with the safety belt, I like the thought that there is a little piece of Volvo in every car.

"When Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larson created Volvo in 1927, they famously quoted 'Cars are driven by people. Therefore the guiding principle behind everything we make at Volvo is - and must remain - safety'. The company is now aiming towards a vision that by 2020, nobody should be killed or seriously injured in a Volvo and we are constantly innovating and developing safety systems and features that all contribute towards this vision."