Automotive history

Sixty years of Volvo’s seatbelt patent

by Nik Berg
13 July 2022 1 min read
Sixty years of Volvo’s seatbelt patent
A passenger wearing a seatbelt in Volvo's 1972 VESC (Volvo Experimental Safety Car) Photo: Volvo

On July 10 1962 the United States Patent Office granted Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin a patent for his three-point seatbelt invention.

Most importantly it was an “open patent” which meant that other manufacturers were free to use the design at no cost. The Swedish brand had already stolen a march on its competitors by using Bohlin’s design for three years, but believed that everyone should benefit from its life-saving technology, no matter what car they drive.

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Untold numbers of lives have been saved as a result, and the technology’s clear safety benefit led to them being fitted, and later worn, as a legal requirement in cars across the globe.

Seatbelts were made mandatory fitment in the front seat of cars in the UK in 1968, while their use was made a legal requirement in 1983. In 1991, it was mandated for rear-seat passengers too.

Today if you’re caught without one – whether driver, passenger, or if you’re allowing children under 14 to scoot around without one in the back seat, it’s a £500 fine – but the real reason to wear one is hugely reduced risk of death or serious injury in an accident.

Volvo didn’t stop with seatbelts of course, and its 60 years of car safety innovation have led to a wide range of developments, from rear-facing child seats to side-impact and whiplash protection systems.

Since 2019 the Swedish safety pioneer has also shared more than 40 years of real-world accident data with other carmakers under its E.V.A Initiative. Cheers to Swedish democracy!

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