Seat belts have been around in some form or another since the mid-nineteenth century, but the three-point system that we all recognize from cars today wasn’t introduced until the 1950s. Dr. C. Hunter Sheldon performed the autopsies of several car wreck victims and found that the lack of restraint systems or basic lap belts in contemporary vehicles were often to blame for the cadavers on his table. Dr. Sheldon published his findings in 1955, and by 1959, the US Congress passed legislation requiring automakers to adhere to specific safety standards.
The first adaptors of these new safety features were Nash, who offered optional seat belts as early as 1949, and Ford, who offered them in 1955. The Swedish Saab was the first to make seat belts a standard feature in their vehicles in 1958. Our current three-point system was patented in 1955 and adapted by and made the standard by Volvo in 1959. According to the CDC, seat belts reduce the risk of death to front seat passengers in an accident by 45% and halve the risk of serious injury. As seat belt technology increases with better testing, materials and vehicle standards, we can expect those numbers to increase.