This year marks a half century since Volvo introduced the three-point safety belt – an invention the OEM says has saved more lives in traffic than any other technical feature. The belt was invented by Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin in 1959.
“We immediately gave free use of our patent to all manufacturers and today the safety belt is a natural feature in virtually all trucks and cars,” said Carl Johan Almqvist, traffic & product safety director for Sweden-based Volvo Trucks, parent firm of both Volvo Trucks North America and Mack Trucks. “That is why we can say that there is a bit of Volvo in every vehicle on the road – irrespective of make and model.”
However, the truck maker points out that while the three-point belt has been around for decades, its use is “still worryingly low among truck drivers in some countries.” On Swedish roads, only four out of ten truck drivers use the belt, while France, owing to tough legislation, has boosted safety belt use to 80%, according to Volvo Trucks.
The consequences of not using the belt are well documented in Volvo Trucks’ own accident research. Of 15 truck driver fatalities on Swedish roads over the past three years, for instance, only one was wearing a safety belt, the company reported.
“The human being does not have a built-in speedometer so we do not perceive speed as dangerous, especially not when we sit high up in a large vehicle,” pointed out Almqvist. “Every year a large number of drivers die while not wearing a safety belt and their lives might have been saved by the truck’s most obvious safety feature. This is something we must rectify, a challenge that is as big as the development of new technologies for accident avoidance.
“We have safety belt reminders in our trucks, but ultimately it is the drivers themselves who must realize the risks they are taking when they drive without wearing the safety belt,” he continued. “Virtually our entire systematic safety approach is bypassed if the belt is not given the chance to hold the seat occupant securely in place during an accident. This applies equally if the driver is thrown around inside the cab or is thrown out of the cab if the truck rolls over.”
The world’s first vehicle with three-point safety belt as standard, a Volvo PV544 passenger car, was delivered in Karlstad, Sweden on August 13, 1959.