Three-point safety belt turns 50

On August 13, 1959, the world's first car with standard-fit three-point safety belts was delivered to the Volvo dealer in the Swedish town of Kristianstad.

the three point safety belt demonstrated
The ubiquitous three-point seat belt connects to the vehicle at the hips and over a single shoulder. Volvo Cars

The simple seat belt is one of the most ubiquitous, yet often overlooked bits of safety tech; but 50 years ago, this wasn't the case. On August 13, 1959, the world's first car with standard-fit three-point safety belts--a Volvo PV544--was delivered to the Volvo dealer in the Swedish town of Kristianstad. 50 years and about 1 million saved lives later, the V-shaped three-point safety belt can be found in just about every new car on the road. Happy birthday, three-point safety belt!

Nils Bohlin inventor of the three-point safety belt.
Nils Bohlin inventor of the three-point safety belt. Nice bow tie, BTW. Volvo Cars

Before the three-point belt, there was the basic lap belt. This two-point design did a good job of keeping passengers in their seats during a collision, but it failed to evenly disperse crash forces resulting in a bruised forehead or--at high speeds--a possible fractured pelvis. The three-point design, developed by Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin, more evenly spread impact forces across the passenger's torso and helped to keep the upper body in place.

Sure, some of the automatically deploying incarnations of the '80s and electronic nannies of today can make the seat belt a bit of an annoyance for some drivers, but having emerged unscathed from more than a few fender benders, I have first-hand knowledge of the value of this simple fabric strap. Trust me, you're better off wearing it.

Check out the video after the jump, which details more of the history and the future of Volvo's involvement with the three-point safety belt.

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