Toronto, Ontario – Volvo is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the standard three-point safety belt, which was first used in a PV544 delivered to a Volvo dealer in Kristianstad, Sweden on August 13, 1959.
The company said that over the next 50 years, the V-shaped three-point safety belt has saved more than one million lives, and is the most widely-used and most significant safety innovation in the automobile’s 120-year history.
Other belts were offered prior to the design produced by Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin, and in the 1930s, American doctors were beginning to impose demands that vehicles should be equipped with safety belts. The two-point lap belt was common and there were different variants of the three-point safety belt, but they did not protect their users sufficiently and effectively, especially at higher speeds.
Bohlin’s belt absorbed force across the pelvis and chest where the body is strongest, and was easy to use and adjust. The most important properties of his design were that the system consisted of a lap belt and diagonal body belt, that the straps were anchored at a low attachment point beside the seat, that the belt geometry formed a V-shape with the point directed toward the floor, and that the belt stayed in position and did not move under load.
On the Nordic market, the PV544 and 120 were the first vehicles to feature the innovation, making Volvo the first automobile manufacturer to equip its vehicles with three-point safety belts as standard equipment. The company applied for an open patent on the technology, ensuring anyone was granted free use of the design. The company launched the three-point safety belt in the U.S. and other global markets in 1963.