Let’s go back to the prairie land. Back before motorized vehicles existed. Remember The Little House on the Prairie or John Wayne westerns? If you took note of the time era entertainment depictions, you may have noticed that transportation was best either via foot, horse or in a horse drawn carriage or wagon. If you ever have gone on a hay ride, you know just how bumpy transportation of those days could be. Edward J. Claghorn noticed the need for a safety belt and drew up his patented design in 1885. However, the patent application indicated its use to secure a person to a fixed object but did not clearly define that object as a vehicle, wagon or even a horse!
Within the next 100 years, seat belts were further redefined but were only found in certain vehicle models and in aeroplanes. Racing cars were also among those who received early use of the seat belts. This century also set a precedent when the most populated countries in Europe and United States started establishing the standardization of seat belts in newly manufactured vehicle models. Did you know: Volvo was the first to roll out the commonly used 3-point seatbelt.
Major seat belt news, at least for North America, was found between the1960s and 1980s. According to John Moore William’s article, the United States instated the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 1964 to follow suit with the European equivalent. Lap belts were mainly the type used for both aerial and automotive use. Lap belts in American vehicles were often disregarded until the mid 1980s to mid 1990s when both federal and state governments stepped in to say it was the law to wear it.
Today, we still see the lap belt and the three-point belt, which is commonly known as the chest belt. There is also the five-point or six-point belt, which are common in race cars, and the aerobatic aerial seven-point belt. Before the five, six and seven-point harnesses were made, some will remember vehicle models which featured automatic seat belts and belt in seat types. According to the South Jersey Traffic Safety Alliance, there are also experimental versions of seat belts being explored including:
- Criss-cross chest belt – chest belt with an extra cross automatic belt to vehicle frame
- Three plus two safety belt – chest belt with a built in lap belt and an extra lap belt to be fastened
- Four-point suspender belt – the dual belt runs from the seat’s headrest and is fastened near the navel to the centre lap belt connector.
- Inflatable seat belts – air bags within seat belts, which is commonly found in rear seats
Statistics are run frequently to monitor seat belt use and the effectiveness of them since there were more than 33,500 fatalities in automobile-related accidents in 2012 alone. A recent study conducted by the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) shows that 87 percent of vehicle inhabitants applied the seat belt while in a moving vehicle. NOPUS’ statistics also broke down regional use and seat belt use per law type, since not all states strictly enforce seat belt use.
We cannot forget the importance of securing little ones in the back seat. Many fire departments and child-related organizations host baby seat training to ensure your little one is properly fastened. This helps to eliminate further dangers in the case of an inevitable car accident. Seat belts play a role with these training by holding down the child holding unit whether it is a car seat or a booster seat. Teaching children to properly use a seat belt at an early age can help set the habit for seat belt use as a driver and passenger.
Safety is important for everyone and means something differently to each person. For vehicle manufacturers and vehicle customization businesses, safety is the number one priority in the manufacturing process and for the consumers who will be using the products. If you would like more information on why seat belts are important and how they can be customized, speak to an automotive industry professional today!
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 “2012 Motor Vehicle Crashes: Overview. November 2013. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Retrieved February 19, 2014 from http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811856.pdf.
Pickrell, T.M. & Liu, C. “Seat Belt Use in 2013 – Overall Results. January 2014. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Retrieved February 19, 2014 from http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811875.pdf.
South Jersey Traffic Safety Administration. “Types of Seat Belts.” Retrieved February 19, 2014 from http://www.sjtsa.org/TYPES%20OF%20SEAT%20BELTS.pdf.
Williams, John Moore. “The Hotly Contested History of the Seat Belt.” 23 May 2011. Esurance. Retrieved February 19, 2014 from http://blog.esurance.com/seat-belt-history/#.UwUHt_ldVbc.