Seat Belt On?

06 October of 2014

The History

Originally the three-point seat belt was invented by Nils Bohlin, a Swedish inventor who provided the basis for something that is now standard in most cars. I mean what car doesn’t have a seat belt? In January 1962 a British survey showed that the effectiveness of seat belts would reduce the likelihood of death and serious injury by at least 60%. This then influenced the law that struck Europe in 1965 as it became compulsory for seat belts to be fitted in all cars. Two years later the UK passed law that Great Britain requires a three-point seat belt in the outboard position, this is also known as the common seat belt today, and hasn’t varied much since the original idea.

The British government tried to pass bills on the enforcement of wearing seat belts in the UK, however both times they attempted this, they failed. However they eventually passed the act and in 1983 January they voted to make it compulsory for all drivers and passengers (including adults and children) to wear seat belts for a three year trial period. Over 90% of drivers complied at the time, however by the time 1986 came both houses of Parliament voted overwhelmingly to retain the requirement permanently and so forth in the following year all rear seat belts were required to be fitted as standard in all new cars.

2003 marked the 20th anniversary for the seat belt, in that period an estimated 50,000 lives had been saved. By the time 2009 came around a seat belt survey indicated that over 95% of car drivers wear seat belts and 96% of front seat car passengers wear seat belts or use child car restraints. Only 89% of rear seat passengers wear seat belts and rates in other vehicles such as vans were as low as 69%.

The Combination

Firstly the two-point seat belt was discovered in the US, this is where the restraint system has only two points of contact, also knows as a lap belt. The three-point seat belt was deemed to be the most safe belt as it has both a lap and a shoulder portion, having three attachment points – normally one shoulder and two hip points of contact (the ones we have in our car today).

Child Car Seats

The very first child car seats were invented in 1921, triggered by the Henry Ford’s Model, although these seats were very different from the ones available on the market today. The earliest version of seats was basically a sack of potatoes with a drawstring attached to the back seat. The US was the first country to make a law in 1978, stating that they require a child safety seat in all cars where a child is being transported.

Safety First

Seat belts are without a doubt one of the most critical parts of vehicle safety and quality is key. Every year over 400,000 vehicles fail their MOT test due to the seat belts. Since 1998 the law changed so that every seat belt fitted into a car has to be MOT tested annually. Things you should be looking out for when checking your seat belts are:

  • Does it lock? You must be able to lock and retract seatbelts in case of an emergency
  • Enough retraction? The seat belt should have a minimum retraction force to prevent slack in the belt
  • Mark of approval? Ensure your belts have been stamped with approval  to ensure they are of the highest standard, you should be easily able to spot this
  • Pre loved? Has the belt been used before? It is possible for belts to be faulty so make sure your belts are new and they have little slack

Not only should you check the seatbelts in your own car but in any car which you get into. For example, if you are planning a trip away and are looking at using an airport transfer service to Stansted, Heathrow or Luton etc. you should check the seatbelts of the vehicle which is taking you there. After all, you don’t want to miss out on your holiday because of someone else’s negligence – stay safe when it comes to seatbelts, it may just save your life.

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