There was a time early in my life when I was never belted.
Life was free, I was able to jump like an acrobat from front to back seat, and even spent time napping in the rear window above the back seat.
The beginning of the end of my freedom came on this day, July 10, 1962, when Nils Bohlin, a Swedish engineer working for Volvo received a patent from the US Patent Office for the first three point seat belt.
Here is how Bohlin described his invention:
In the patent, Bohlin explained his invention: “The object… 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 favorable 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 rigid requirements.”
Until that time there were either no seat belts in the cars we owned, or the two point ones which saved your ass but made you into a vegetable when your chest was either crushed by the ram-rod steel steering wheel or smashed against the metal dashboard or you did the flying header through the front windshield.
I admit I didn’t like seat belts at first, and for the first few years of my driving career I didn’t wear them. I justified it by repeating horror stories of people trapped in cars due to their seat belts after a crash and burning to a crisp.
There was no one instance that convinced me that I loved being belted. As I got older and a few more brain cells activated I began to slap the belts across my chest. The one time I was probably saved from flying out of my car was when a flat-bed truck hitched my car on I-57 on its left side. I was in the truck’s blind spot. I felt the car engage with the truck and start to be dragged along. They don’t teach these scenarios in Driver’s Education, so I did the only thing I could think to do: slam on the brakes. So did the truck. My car fishtailed and ended up sideways in front of the oncoming truck in the truck’s lane. I still shiver when I see “MACK” on the front of a truck. So I lived. The car whipped into the far left lane of traffic away from the truck in the middle and I skidded to stop with my car door on the driver’s side wide open on the shoulder.
There was another time when the brakes went out in a car I was a passenger in and careened down a hill towards Lake Superior, but one story about being belted is enough.