Nils Bohlin

Who? On this day in 1962 Swedish-born engineer Nils Bohlin, working for Volvo, received a US patent for the three-point safety belt. From this site comes this description:


“N. l. BOHLIN SAFETY BELT July 10, 1962 Filed Aug. 17, 1959 -United 3,043,625 SAFETY BELT Nils Ivar Bohlin, Goteborg, Sweden, assignor to Aktiebolaget Volvo, Goteborg, Sweden, a corporation of Sweden Filed Aug. 17, 1959, Ser. No. 834,258 Claims priority, application Sweden Aug. 29, 1958 2 Claims. (Cl. 297-389) This invention relates to a safety belt for use in vehicles, especially road vehicles. Safety belts comprising a chest strap adapted to be strapped obliquely across the chest are frequently used in order to prevent a driver from being thrown against fore parts of the vehicle, such as a wind-shieldor steering column, in case the vehicle is colliding or upon hard application of the, brakes. In certain cases, the chest strap has been combined with at waist or hip strap adapted to be strapped across the waist.”

“The object of the present invention is to provide a safety belt which independently of the strength of the seat and its connection with the vehicle in an effective and physiologically favourable manner retains the upper as well as the lower part of the body of the strapped person against the action of substantially forwardly directed forces and which is easy to fasten and unfasten and even in other respects satisfies rigorous requirements.”


The description is actually much longer. It should be noted that Volvo then made the new seat belt design patent available to other car manufacturers for free. From is (supposedly) a picture of a 1959 Volvo 122, which was the first car to have the three-point safety belt as standard equipment:


See the source image


Bohlin was a former aviation engineer at Saab who had worked on airplane ejection seats. He knew an effective belt must absorb force across the pelvis and chest yet be so easy to use even a child could buckle up. He came up with an inspired solution that combined a lap belt with a diagonal belt across the chest. He anchored the straps low beside the seat so the geometry of the belts formed a “V” with the point directed at the floor. That design meant the belt would stay put and not shift under a load.

While no one can know exactly how many lives have been saved by Bohlin’s invention, Britain’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents estimates the three-point safety belt has saved more than 1 million lives worldwide. NHTSA estimates that the belt saves 11,000 lives in the US every year. According to a NHTSA survey (uh, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), about 90% of American drivers/passengers use seat belts, which is significantly higher than just 20 years ago when that rate was about 67%. Of course, stated preferences are not always the same as actual/revealed preferences.

I always wear my seat belt and will not drive until my passenger(s) has(have) done the same. What about you?



Why am I showing these photos? This morning I decided to take my wonderful wife’s car (the one in the top photo) to get breakfast. As noted here, she is out of town on business. As her car is still new and well below the 500 miles needed for the first oil change (mandatory with a dry-sump system) I took it easy and never let the engine rev above 2,500 RPM.

I have to admit that her car is superior as a daily driver to mine. While plenty of power rests under the hood, noticeable even below 2,500 RPM, the car is well-behaved. My Z06 is like a barely-tamed beast that will bite hard if you don’t pay attention. Intellectually I understand that my car is equipped with features that actually make it difficult to get into trouble. Still, that is my visceral reaction.

From a February, 2015 story in Road & Track by Sam Smith (part of which was a fictitious letter to his boss) via Steve Magnante’s 1001 Corvette Facts:


“If I bought one of these things [a C7 Z06], I would get dead. Not injured, not arrested, but dead. Not because the Z06 is hairy, but because it so effectively relocks your street-car comfort zone that you end up at decisions that you never thought you’d see. When you factor in price, this is possibly the most dangerous, frightful device ever thrust upon mankind. Please give me a raise so that I may buy one.”


My next-door neighbor has a beautiful McLaren 570S. The car probably cost him about $200,000. Its engine produces 562 HP/443 LB-FT of torque, which enables the car to accelerate from 0-60 MPH in about 3 seconds and do the quarter-mile in about 11 seconds. It can do 1.05g on a skidpad test. My 2016 Z06 stickered for $101,000 new (I paid $62,000 including shipping). The Z06 engine produces 650 HP/650 LB-FT, the car accelerates from 0-60 in 3 seconds and does the quarter-mile in 11 seconds. It can pull 1.2g in a skidpad test. Subjectively, I think my car looks better and sounds better. Different strokes for different folks.

As always, I welcome thoughtful comments.








If you like this blog please tell your friends and share the blog URL ( Thanks.




7 thoughts on “Nils Bohlin

  1. If I knew the history of the 3 point seat belt, I had certainly forgotten it! Thank you for this.
    We ALWAYS buckle up! For one thing, when I get the opportunity, I open the “Mazda-rati” up and let its inner sports car run free. A good solid 3 point belt makes it easier to toss the car about in turns. • I really like the red on your ‘vette …


    1. Thanks, sir. Yes, I have seen many stories on the electric, autonomous Bentley. Sorry, but to me they’re just of that company that I cannot support.

      As for your “constrained” three-vehicle Ultimate Garage, my wonderful wife and I aren’t far off. We’re even quite fond of our 2011 Kia Sportage although we probably could use just a tad more storage space for those high-volume trips to Wegmans. 😉


      1. You could do an entry level version-Mazda Miata, Hyundai Genesis, Honda CR-V-a mid level, and a “Ultimate Garage” version.


Comments are closed.