Some of the biggest car safety improvements in history

Here at, one of the aspects of the road that we’re most interested in is car safety. Not only because telematics has been behind the latest upswing in driver behaviour, but also because the next few years are going to be very exciting when it comes to protecting drivers everywhere. Thanks to the creation of automated technologies, we’re going to be smarter, more aware and ultimately safer on the road than ever before. But that doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate traditional safety measures, so let’s take a moment to look back at some of the most important safety improvements in automotive history.

The first big one that AutoExpress tells us about, is the humble seatbelt. Originally invented and installed for the first time in a Volvo way back in 1959. Anchorage points for seat-belt installation became mandatory in vehicles in the UK in 1965. However it wasn’t until 1983 where front seat occupants had to wear seat belts by law. While many people complained, it ended up cutting deaths by an impressive 25 per cent. The 1991 compulsory rear seatbelt law also helped improve safety for everyone, since rear-seat passengers would no longer fly forward and strike the driver in the event of an accident.

Heading back to earlier in the 20th century for now though, the padded dashboard was the next invention. Again introduced by Volvo, it meant that passengers and drivers who struck the dash during an accident weren’t quite so badly injured as they were in the past. Volvo would go on to invent head-rests too in 1968, meaning those hit from behind had some protection from whiplash and neck cranks.


The seatbelt is still considered the most important car safety invention

Although early versions of the modern ABS braking system were invented by Mercedes in 1978, the next big change in car safety came about with the creation of the driver’s airbag. Mercedes again pioneered it and saw a marked drop in driver deaths because of it.

1994 saw the next evolution of airbags, with the introduction of a side-impact system, where they inflated across windows and central dividers to prevent head impacts on the interior of the car. Volvo again pioneered this technology, introducing it in its 850 model. Kia would go on to advance on this in 1996, with the introduction of a knee airbag in some vehicles.

Another big one happened in 1995 however, with the creation of Electronic Stability Control. While it would take over a decade for it to become a common feature in modern cars, it’s been credited with preventing many cars from flipping and causing much worse injuries.

Since then, the biggest inventions have come in the form of automated systems. Throughout the ’00s we’ve seen the creation and further development of automated pedestrian detection, animal tracking, automated braking and blind spot detection systems. However, many of them are only coming into affordable family vehicles in the next few years.

It’s those sorts of technologies that will be keeping us safe in years to come, but without everything else, chances are a lot of us wouldn’t be alive to have gotten to this point.

Image source: Benjamin Goodger, ArtistMac

    Jon Martindale

    Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.

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