Seat Belts- A History with Height

Nils Bohlin

The first patent for a “safety belt” was issued by the US patent office in 1885 for workers working at great heights. With the advent of the airplane during this same period, safety belts were shortly adapted to be used in the first airplanes for better control of the plane during take-off and landing across rough fields. By World War II, seat belts were fully utilized in military airplanes as a safety feature for the wartime pilots. In 1959, the 3-point Safety Belt was invented by Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin―his design is still in use today.



The movement for requiring seatbelts in cars was initially championed by doctors in the 1920s and 1930s as they started seeing more injuries and fatalities due to automobile accidents. They also championed other safety features such as removing sharp edges from dashboards and designed the first retractable seat belts. Today, seat belt systems are just one part of the safety design of automobiles. Seat belts, airbags, and crumple zones all work together to absorb impact energy from a collision to help keep the drivers and passengers safe.

State legislation in both Wyoming and Colorado have made laws requiring seat belts to be worn while driving or riding in an automobile. It is not a primary offense, meaning that you cannot be pulled over for not wearing a seat belt, but if you are pulled over for another reason (i.e., speeding, tail light violations, improper turns, moving violation, probable cause, etc.) expect to pay additional fines.


According to the Wyoming Highway Patrol, men are less likely to use seatbelts than women. Sixty-percent of all fatal road accidents in Wyoming were related to people not wearing seatbelts. Seventy-five-percent of these fatalities were Wyoming residents.


“Everybody hates wearing their seatbelt. They aren’t fashionable and constrain you to certain limitations of movement. Although they are a nuisance, they have been put in place for a reason. I think that wearing one is very important. Before my crash, I always wore mine. I felt naked without it, and I’m glad I did. I shouldn’t be alive, and a big reason that I am still alive is because of my seatbelt. 

By Alyssa Blair, Project Engineer Supervisor