Three-point seatbelts patent was granted on this day in 1962

While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was still eight years from being formed, a significant step forward for auto safety occured on this day in 1962. The United States Patent Office granted Nils Bohlin, an engineer for Volvo, the patent for three-point safety belts.

Volvo started using Bohlin’s design three years prior to the patent date, but it was not the first three-point belt design. It was merely the first practical and widely applicable design. Other three-point designs lacked the ease of use and ability to keep occupants safe in a wide variety of situations. Bohlin drew from his prior experience designing airplane catapult seats in his time at Volvo, which led him to focus on creating the simplest design that accomplished the task.

Bohlin’s design was simple enough that even children could use it, and it was quickly adopted by other manufactures. That adoption was because Volvo filed the design as an “open patent.” This meant the Swedish automaker received credit for the design, but did not pursue royalties or fees from other companies that chose to employ the safety advancement into their vehicles. This led to a safer automobile for all drivers and passengers, while establishing Volvo as a leader in safety technology.

Bohlin continued to develop safety advancements for Volvo until 1985. His resume included side impact protection and rear seat belts, such significant advancements that he received a gold medal from Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Science in the early 2000s.

We hope you’ve never had to rely on a three-point belt to save your life, but if you have, take a moment to thank Nils Bohlin for the strapping success he created more than 50 years ago.

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