On July 10, 1962, Swedish Engineer Nils Bohlin was issued a patent for a mechanism that would change the world: the three-point automobile safety belt.
(Welcome to Today in History, the series where we dive into important historical events that have had a significant impact on the automotive or racing world. If you have something you’d like to see that falls on an upcoming weekend, let me know at eblackstock [at] jalopnik [dot] com.)
Bohlin introduced the three-point safety safety belt while working at the Volvo Car Company. He hadn’t invented it; until that point, the three-point harness was used in racing while the traditional two-point lap belt was used in passenger cars. The two-point belt may have held a person to their seat, but with the head and chest unrestrained, their body would pitch forward and cause internal injuries. That third point held the upper body in place.
Bohlin introduced the three-point belt to Volvo’s passenger cars, and by 1959, the company was using it on most of its new passenger vehicles.
That same year, Bohlin filed a patent for the three-point belt in the United States, where he described his invention as, “The object… is to provide a safety belt which independently of the strength of the seat and its connection with the vehicle in an effective and physiologically favorable manner retains the upper as well as the lower part of the body of the strapped person against the action of substantially forwardly directed forces and which is easy to fasten and unfasten and even in other respects satisfies rigid requirements.”
He was awarded the feature three years later, and with the introduction of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966, the three-point belt became a mandatory feature on all new American vehicles from 1968 onward.
Without the three-point belt, it’s hard to imagine how many more fatal accidents we’d have had throughout history.