Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Malary. Malary Wonders, “Who invented the seatbelt” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Malary!

How often do you ride in a car or truck? Many people use automobiles every day! You might notice that each time you get in the car, the driver says the same thing to you: "Buckle your seat belt!"

Most people wear seat belts each time they go for a ride in a car or truck because they know seat belts keep them safe. You might be surprised to learn that people haven't always used seat belts! In fact, until the 1950s, only race car drivers wore them regularly.

What changed?

In the mid-1950s, the car company Volvo noticed a problem. They realized that thousands of people were being injured each year in car accidents. They set out to keep people safer in cars.

Volvo hired a man named Nils Bohlin in 1958. Bohlin, a Swedish engineer, became Volvo's first chief safety engineer. At that time, vehicles came with two-point seat belts. These belts strapped across the lap and attached to the car at two points. Bohlin found that these seat belts in vehicles weren't protecting auto drivers or passengers. In fact, they often caused worse injuries than car crashes. For that reason, many people weren't even wearing seat belts when they drove or rode in cars.

To help improve the situation, Bohlin designed a new seat belt that would both better protect drivers and riders and be easy to use. His design was the three-point seat belt, which we use in vehicles today. These belts strap across the lap and shoulder, attaching to the car at three points. He sent the design to Volvo for testing.

Volvo tested the design. They found that the three-point seatbelt improved the safety of drivers and passengers. so they started putting them in all of their vehicles. The company also gave the design for the seat belt to other automobile makers for free. They could have made a profit by selling the design, but Volvo believed improving automobile safety was even more important than making money.

By 1968, the three-point seat belt was required in all American vehicles. Nils Bohlin was then inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1999. It's estimated that the invention saved over a million lives during Bohlin's lifetime.

Today, 90.1% of Americans wear a seat belt when they drive or ride in an automobile. The most recent statistics say seat belts saved 14,668 lives in 2016. On the other hand, 48% of people who were injured in automobile accidents in 2016 were not wearing seat belts. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says there are three main reasons wearing a seat belt makes automobile travel safer.

First, buckling your seat belt helps keep you inside the vehicle. In a crash, being thrown from the vehicle would cause serious injuries. Your seat belt keeps you in the automobile.

Second, airbags are designed to work with seat belts, not separate from them. Many people are injured by their airbags when they don't wear seat belts. Buckling up makes you less likely to be injured by the airbag.

Finally, correctly buckling your seat belt reduces the chance of critical injury by 50% if you're in the front seat and 65% if you're in the back seat. The statistics are clear that a correctly worn seatbelt can save your life. Never ride with a seatbelt that is strapped below your arm or behind your back.

Do you wear a seat belt when you ride in a car or truck? If you don't, now is a great time to start! Even with seat belts, there is still plenty of room for improvement in automobile safety. What will be the next invention to save lives?

Wonder What's Next?

Tomorrow's Wonder of the Day will you have you searching for secret symbols!