In a world where airbag counts are starting to move into double-digit territory, the three-point seatbelt may seem far less relevant. But 50 years ago, it started a revolution in passenger safety that to date is credited with saving over a million lives and can reduce the chance of death or serious injury in a collision by over 50 percent. The man responsible for this innovation was Nils Bohlin, a Volvo
engineer. Prior to going to work for the Swedish automaker, Bohlin had been an aviation engineer who was involved with the development of the ejection seat. Well versed in the kind of life-threatening forces that could be generated by severe impacts, Bohlin set out to improve on the conventional two-point lap belt. In 1959, Volvo received a patent for Bohlin's three-point belt and shortly thereafter, became the first auto manufacturer to equip its vehicles with these devices, making them standard equipment on the home-market PV544 and Amazon models. In 1963, Volvo launched the three-point belt in its U.S. lineup for front-seat passengers; and in 1967 made them standard equipment for the rear seats as well. "This is a great day in the history of automotive safety," said Doug Speck, president and CEO of Volvo Cars of North America. "While the three-point safety belt was not the first safety innovation from Volvo, it certainly has proved to be the most prolific. There really is a little piece of Volvo in every car on the road."