As Safety is a Volvo core value, the protection of occupants, especially children, is of utmost importance. Everyone in a vehicle should be buckled when the vehicle is in motion. Children must be in appropriate child safety seats or booster seats and should be seated in the proper place; NOT in the front seat!  Volvo urges you to keep this in mind and help educate your family and friends in the importance of seat belt usage whether you are driving or traveling as a passenger. The ultimate goal of 100% usage remains a formidable one. A recent Volvo independent survey shows seat belt usage amongst Volvo customers exceeds 90%, something we can definitely be proud of!

It all started with a Volvo PV544 delivered to a dealership in the town of Kristianstad, Sweden.  The three-point belt was invented by Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin, who was looking for a better way of keeping people secure in a collision.

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 and engineer Nils Bohlin, more evenly spread impact forces across the passenger's torso and helped to keep the upper body in place.  Bohlin, a former aviation engineer at Saab who worked on airplane catapult seats, came up with an ingenious solution that combined a lap belt with a diagonal belt across the chest. He anchored the straps low beside the seat so the geometry of the belts formed a "V" with the point directed at the floor.  The design was created to help absorb the force on the pelvis and chest, while keeping the belt in position and not moving under the load.

Even after 50 years of automotive safety innovation, the three-point safety belt remains the most effective protection for occupants in the event of a collision. The belt reduces the risk of fatalities and serious injuries from collisions by about 50 percent. A design as obvious as it is intelligent, the three-point belt is perfectly suited to the seat occupant's body. It is the safety belt's ability to keep the occupant in the seat that is of crucial importance.

We take them for granted nowadays, but the three-point belt was revolutionary when it appeared on Aug. 13, 1959. In the years since, the V-shaped safety belt has saved well over a million lives. It has been called one of the most significant inventions of the 20th century, and it remains the most widely used safety innovation in automotive history. Every single car sold today uses three-point belts.

In 1963, Volvo introduced the three-point belt in the United States after performing a number of crash tests that validated their claims that it offered the best protection to occupants. In 1967, the Swedish automaker presented data from collisions in Volvo cars over a one-year period that found the seat belt saved lives and reduced injuries by 50-60 percent. That same year, Volvo offered the seat belt as standard on front and rear outboard seats.

  • Within five years, three-point belts appeared in cars throughout Europe and the U.S. Bohlin's invention has saved hundreds of thousands of lives and prevented or reduced the severity of injuries for countless people. That makes the three-point safety belt the single most important safety device in the 120-year history of the automobile.
  • The real breakthrough in legislation actually came from Victoria, Australia, which was the first state worldwide to draw up legislation in 1970 requiring not just the fitting of seat belts, but also their actual use. In the first year of law, traffic deaths in the state dropped by 18%.
  • Consumer Reports blog states that in the year 2006, the use of seat belts saved an estimated 15,383 lives. During the five-year period from 2002 through 2006, seat belts have saved over 75,000 lives.
  • Currently all U.S. states except New Hampshire have seat belt laws. However, 18 states do not have primary enforcement laws, meaning penalties can only be applied if the car is pulled over for another infraction. Studies show that stronger laws lead to higher use rates.  Seat belt use continues to climb in the United States with 83% of all occupants buckling up.
  • "What makes the three-point belt unique is that it improves safety for all types of occupants, in all types of accidents," says Hans Nyth, head of the Volvo Cars Safety Center. "In both the front and the rear seats. One often talks about the protective effect in head-on collisions, but the belt also helps prevent the car's occupants from being thrown out of the car in a rollover, for instance.

    Bohlin and Volvo saw the significance of what they'd created, but they didn't keep it to themselves. Volvo patented the design under what was called an "open patent," meaning it was available to anyone.

The reason the three-point seatbelt is so widely adopted is actually because Volvo opened up the patent so that any car manufacturer could use it in their design. They decided that the invention was so significant, it had more value as a free life saving tool than something to profit from.

Volvo's managing director Alan Dessell is quoted as saying: "The decision to release the three-point seat belt patent was visionary and in line with Volvo's guiding principle of safety."