When Were Seatbelts Mandated – The History Of Seatbelts!

by Conner Mckay

Have you ever wondered a bit about the history of seat belts? And the seat belt laws history and you want to know when were seatbelts mandated? Well, if that is the case, then you are at the right place because there will be a lot to cover on this topic.

Learning a bit about history has never done anything bad. As they would say, if you don’t learn about history, you are destined to repeat it. This is why I, as an avid history fan I’m always recommending people to read about how things got into place and understand a bit about the background and some key historical events that happened in the past.

Especially when it comes to seat belts, the resistance against seat belts was very heated and people were literally furious that the government made them wear this safety equipment. But more in-depth, we are going to cover that later on in the article.

The first thing that we are going to learn about is what are seat belts in general and what are the different types of seat belts out there. We will also learn more about the seat belt diagram and learn how these belts work in real life and after that, we are going to discuss more about the history of when were seatbelts mandated and the resistance they faced when they were mandated. So, if you want to learn more, follow along.

What Are Seat Belts And Why Were Seatbelts Mandated

Now before we dive into more complex topics like the topic of when were seatbelts mandated. Let’s first take a look at what are seat belts in general. Since I bet that there are a lot of people who need a decent introduction to the topic. So, let’s get into it and cover this topic briefly.

So, what is a seat belt? Well, a seat belt is a safety device installed in the vehicle from the factory. This is a special belt that is designed to keep the person’s torso in place during a dangerous situation on the road. Namely, abrupt stopping, collisions, or rollovers. Safety seat belts are extremely tough and made out of special fibers that are almost impossible to tear apart and cause them to fail.

Even though a ton of people were ridiculing this system, in fact, it is rather effective when it comes to preventing serious injuries to the driver and the occupants if used correctly. So, why is this the case?

Well, imagine that you travel at the speed of the vehicle, which is about 20 mph. So, you crash into something on the road and the car stops. But your body still travels at 20 mph forward.

So, imagine that situation. In this situation, you will simply collide with the steering wheel and suffer some serious chest pain and damage to a lot of organs. Or potentially fly off the windshield and get killed. Either way, a situation that you would not prefer to happen to you. But when were seatbelts mandated? Well, more about that, we are going to cover later on in the article.

Why Seatbelts Are So Important

So, we learned what are seatbelts and more about their function. Now before we dive into when were seatbelts mandated, let’s take a look at why they are so important for you as a driver. This chapter will be really useful for you to remind you of the dangers of not wearing your seat belt properly.

So, why are seat belts so important? Well, let’s imagine a situation where you drive in the middle of the night on a dark road and suddenly a person pops out from the middle of nowhere.

In this situation, most people would slam on the brakes and turn the steering wheel away to avoid the person. And the same thing you are going to probably do as well.

When Were Seatbelts Mandated

Imagine that you are not latched, you slam on the brakes, turn the steering wheel and the car enters in a rollover. As the car rolls over, you will either end up with severe neck injuries or you will be thrown out of the vehicle and potentially get killed in the process. It could be a real miracle for someone to survive something like this.

Now let’s imagine that you wear your seat belt on. In this case, you will be secured both at the lap, as well as the shoulder. So, even if you roll over, you will still be tightly secured by the belt and your body will be in place. And after the crash, you could even walk out if you feel conscious.

So, you can see how seat belts save lives. You can drive for 30 years and nothing can happen. But things only happen once. So, remember that. But when were seatbelts mandated? More on that we are going to cover in a moment.

Types Of Seatbelts That Were Mandated

Since we learned more about the basics of seat belts and why seat belts are so crucial when it comes to our protection in cars.

Let’s now take a look at the different types of seat belts that are out there. Familiarizing ourselves with the different types of belts is rather useful before we jump into the history and learn when were seatbelts mandated. So, if you want to learn more, keep up with us.

Lap Seat Belt

Now before we start discussing more when were seatbelts mandated, let’s take a look at the first type of seat belt that was invented. And this type was the lap belt.

The lap belt is also known as a two-point seat belt because there are two points, one on each side of your body and they latch in the middle where your belly is.

This type of belt is the most basic type used on cars since the 50s and 60s era when these belts were first patented. And nowadays, there are practically no cars using this type of belt. Why is this the case?

Well, it is mainly due to its effectiveness. The lap belt might be doing the job of keeping your body on the seat. But is not helping out your torso in any way.

So, in case of abrupt braking, your torso will lurch forward as well as in case of a rollover, you could hurt your neck because you could simply slip out of the seat.

This is why these belts were ditched and something new and better was invented. And more on that, we are going to cover next before we start discussing when were seatbelts mandated.

3 Point Seat Belt

Let’s now move on and learn the next type of seat belt before we cover when were seatbelts mandated. And that is the three-point seat belt.

If you didn’t know, the three-point seat belt is the type of seat belt that we are using nowadays in cars.

As we noted previously, there had to be more than two points that will be holding the body in order for these belts to be effective. And something had to be done in this area. So, the three-point seat belt was mass produced since the 80s.

This belt is many times more effective in comparison to the lap belt and on top of that, it works really well with the airbag. Why so?

Well, in order for the airbag to be effective your body needs to be in a certain position. So, if the body in case of an accident moves left or right, the airbag activation could result in damage to your neck.

And this is why when airbags were introduced, seat belts were mandated. But when were seatbelts mandated? What year it was? Well, more on that, we are going to cover later on in the article.

The important thing for you to know as we mentioned is that these belts are used nowadays on all cars, except some classic cars produced in the 70s or prior (as well as being the most reliable classic cars). But what is worth noting is that there are also other types of seat belts. And that’s what we are going to cover next.

Multi Point Seat Belt

Now let’s take a look at the last type of seat belt before we dive into the seat belt diagram and learn when were seatbelts mandated. Which is the multi-point seat belt.

Multi-point seat belt is also known as a racing harness. And when it comes to safety, there is simply nothing better than this.

But is it practical? Not so much. This type of harness is used primarily on racing cars for driver safety. Usually, these belts are five-point belts. There are two belts on top of your shoulders, two from the sides, and one between your legs. And all these lock up in the middle. Keeping the driver locked up and safe while on the track. But when were seatbelts mandated? More on that we will cover in a bit.

Seat Belt Diagram

Another topic that we would like to discuss the seat belt before we learn more about the history and when were seatbelts mandated is the seat belt diagram. Let’s learn from what parts the seat belt consists of.

Many people think that the belt that goes around their body is actually its name. But that is wrong. The correct term for the belt in this connotation is webbing or a strap as would some people call it.

Then you have the retractor. The retractor is a mechanism in which the webbing retracts. And this retractor also reacts to abrupt movement. So, if you try to pull the belt from the retractor by force, it will lock up. So, we can say that the retractor is the brain of this system.

On the pillar next to your head is the pillar loop. This is the second point after the retractor where the belt is held. And the third point is the buckle on the other side next to the center console.

In order to latch the belt, you will need to find the latch plate and place it in the belt buckle. Once you do this, you will be properly secured. Whenever you want to go out, just press the button on the buckle and remove the belt. Simple as that, that’s all you need to know when it comes to wearing a seat belt. But when were seatbelts mandated? More on that, we are going to cover next.

When Were Seatbelts Mandated, History Part 1

Now let’s cover some of the history when it comes to seat belts and learn when was the first seat belt invented. Then we will discuss when were seatbelts mandated.

The first practical seat belt was invented by an English engineer named George Cayley. He invented this type of seat belt in order to use them for his glider. And this was back in the 19th century.

Cars as we all know, came to the market a lot later, more precisely at the beginning of the 20th century. But it was only until 1946 when the first ideas about installing these belts in cars were brought to life.

More precisely in 1946, doctor C.Hunter Shelden invented the first practical invention in the automotive industry with his idea to create a retractable seat belt.

He was a neurologist and as a doctor, he came across hundreds of people who suffered some kind of injury in a car crash. So, he began to dive into the matter and see what could be done to prevent these injuries in the first place. So, this is how the first retractable seat belt was invented.

But it was three years later, in 1949 when seat belts were offered to the market. This was done by Nash. Nash was one of the American automakers at the time. They offered a lap belt in their car as a factory option.

They produced the first 40,000 cars with this option. But customers didn’t really like them. They even had a problem selling these cars and customers demanded the seat belts be removed. And only 1,000 customers chose to keep the belt. But when were seatbelts mandated? More on that in a bit.

When Were Seatbelts Mandated, History Part 2

Now let’s continue our story about the history of the seat belts before we dive into when were seatbelts mandated.

Nevertheless, car manufacturers looked into ways to improve the safety of their passengers. And soon after Nash, Ford also wanted to put some effort into popularizing this safety feature among their customers.

So, they offered seat belts as a factory option in 1955. And they also achieved little success in doing that. With only 2% of their customers opting for seat belts in 1956.

Besides the retractable seat belts, Dr. Shelden in 1955 also proposed the implementation of recessed steering wheels, roll bars, automatic door locks, reinforced roofs, and other safety features to be implemented.

In 1955, the first patent for a three-point seat belt was introduced by Roger W. Griswold and Hugh DeHaven. And this is the type of seat belt that we have now in our cars. But what is interesting to note is that even though his type of belt was patented in 1955, it was only introduced in the 80s as a standard. Till then, only lap seat belts were widely used by most companies.

The first carmaker who introduced seat belts was the Swedish carmaker Saab. In 1958, they introduced seat belts as standard safety equipment with their GT 750 model.

And also in 1959 Volvo’s three point seatbelt was also introduced. Volvo started using this type of equipment as a standard in their vehicles.

Volvo performed a great study of over 28,000 accidents in Sweden. And by doing this, they proved that the people who were wearing seat belts came out of the car with slight or no injuries. While people who haven’t worn seat belts were severely injured or even killed.

When Were Seatbelts Mandated

Now let’s dive into the topic of when were seatbelts mandated and the seat belt laws history. When was the time when laws were introduced that made not wearing a seat belt to be illegal?

The first state in the US that started everything was Wisconsin. In 1961, they required that all cars in the state to have seat belts after 1962.

But it was in 1984 when a law was put into place in New York, mandating every driver and passenger to wear a seat belt, if else he will be fined.

Later after New York, other states followed. But it was the 90s when most of the states made wearing a seat belt to be a mandatory obligation. In fact, Georgia introduced this law in practice in 2021.

When Were Seatbelts Mandated

Even though, there are some states that do not have primary enforcement of this law. But only secondary enforcement. But what does this mean?

This means that if you get pulled over, you will highly likely not be fined if you are only pulled over for the belt alone. There should be another bigger offense in order for you to get fined for not wearing a seat belt.

Some of the states where this type of infraction is secondary enforcement are, Colorado, Idaho, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming.

The only state in the US that currently has no laws on seat belts is New Hampshire. As their license plates say “Live Free Or Die”. So, New Hampshire people really appreciate their freedom and do not allow anyone to put it into question.

Resistance Against Seatbelts

During the 80s and 90s when were seatbelts mandated, there was a big resistance against seat belts in the USA.

Many people simply wanted to get a fine than wear a seat belt. People were thinking that with the seat belts, their freedom was taken.

This is a relatively normal thing because you are basically enforcing something on the people. And as people in the US are known for their respect for personal freedom, this was not especially welcomed.

But as the years went by, people understood that this is for their own good. So, nowadays people don’t even care about this and always wear their seat belts.

Frankly, there is nothing wrong with wearing a seat belt. Even though it is repetitive and boring to use it all the time, it is for your own good and you should definitely wear it because you never know when you are going to need it.

Also, in some states that are more strict, you could get fined for this infraction. And that’s why it is rather good to wear one of these seat belts.

Facts about the History of Seatbelts:

  1. Wisconsin became the first state to require seatbelts in the front seats of cars in all models built in and after 1962 on September 25, 1961.
  2. Seatbelts had been around since the 19th century, but few people used them, and they did not protect passengers’ heads or torsos.
  3. Nash Motors became the first company to offer seatbelts in 1949, and by the 1920s, Nash was one of the nation’s bestselling car companies.
  4. Despite increasing scientific research in the 1940s and 1950s affirming their value in saving lives, seatbelts aroused heated debate, and opposition remained fierce.
  5. Some opponents argued that the decision to use a seatbelt should be personal rather than legal, and some car owners cut the seat belts out of their cars.
  6. An engineer at Volvo devised the three-point seat belt in the late 1950s, securing the chest and hips with a single belt, which became mandatory in all new United States vehicles in 1968.
  7. Lap belt models kept passengers from flying out of the car but did nothing to protect their heads or torsos.
  8. Nash opened plants in Milwaukee and Racine as well as in Arkansas.
  9. Many street cars had lap belts in the 1930s, but few people used them.
  10. Some arguments put forth against seatbelts were that they could cause internal injuries, that they prevented easy escapes from cars submerged in water, and that devices frequently failed, all of which were disputed by researchers.

Conclusion To When Were Seatbelts Mandated

In this article, we have covered quite a bit when it comes to the topic of seat belts. First, we learned what are seat belts and the different types of seat belts that are out there.

Then we moved on and learned more about the history of seat belts and how they were implemented and the timeline. Lastly, we learned when were seatbelts mandated in the US and became the law.

F.A.Q To When Were Seatbelts Mandated

Now let’s cover some frequently asked questions.

When Were Seatbelts Invented

The first seatbelt was invented by British engineer George Cayley in the 19th century. The first practical automotive seat belt was introduced in 1946 by C. Hunter Shelden. A doctor who was dealing with injuries of people who participated in car crashes.

Why Are Seatbelts Important

Yes, they are important. They might not be important 99% of the time. But when it comes to that 1%, they do matter and are sometimes the difference between life and death.

Is It Illegal To Not Wear A Seatbelt

In some states, yes, it is illegal not to wear a seat belt. In some states, not wearing a seatbelt is a secondary offense. This means that you need to make a bigger offense to get fined for the seat belt. Only in New Hampshire, it is fully legal to drive without a seatbelt.

Which Automaker Introduced The 3 Point Seatbelt

Volvo was the first carmaker to introduce the 3-point seatbelt in 1959. They conducted a great investigation of about 28,000 car crashes and determined that seat belts should be mandatory.

When Did Seatbelts Become Mandatory

In the US, the first state to make seatbelts mandatory was New York in 1984. Then other states followed. Nowadays only New Hampshire is the only state that doesn’t mandate wearing a seat belt.

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