Modern automobiles have a long history of crash testing behind them, which is why driving is safer than it once was. Occupants can walk away from high speed collisions on the freeway, or avoid them altogether thanks to anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control. Before modern safety features such as these, as well as crumple zones, seat belts, and airbags, existed, even minor, low speed collisions could end in serious fatality or trauma.
First Death May Have Lead to the First Thoughts on Car Safety
According to Crashtest.org, car safety most likely began right after the first recorded car fatality in 1869 when a woman in Ireland was killed. However, it was not until many years later in 1922 that the first true piece of car safety technology came about: hydraulic brakes. Hydraulic brakes made coming to a stop much quicker and easier, which is the first and foremost way to avoid injuries, since a collision obviously cannot occur if all parties are not moving. After hydraulic brakes were introduced, car safety technology began to grow more abstract.
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The 1930s Were an Era of Booming Car Use, as Well as Safety Advancements
Motor vehicle use began picking up in the 1920s and 1930s, which lead to more fatalities. By 1930, all Ford automobiles were outfitted with safety glass. However, the technology had been invented three decades prior by French chemist Edouard Benedictus in 1903. The use of laminated glass in windshields greatly reduced facial lacerations and decapitations that occurred in collisions (seat belts were not yet in use). This early version of safety glass was weak compared to today’s windshields and offered very little resistance to stones and other debris. However, during the 1930s automakers began using tempered glass, treated with a process of cooling and heating, to increase its strength.
C.J. Strickland and Claire L. Straight Advocate Seat Belt Use
In the 1930s, physician C.J. Strickland and plastic surgeon Claire L. Straight advocated the use of seat belts and padded dashboards. Strickland went on to found the Automobile Safety League of America. In 2012, seat belts saved 12,174 lives, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. From there, car safety took off, with new innovations and standards being set every few years:
- General Motors was the first to perform a barrier crash test back in 1934;
- Hudson Terraplane invented a back-up brake in 1936;
- The first padded dashboard was used by American Tucker in 1947 – there was also a middle headlight on the front of the car that turned with the steering wheel;
- The Chrysler Crown Imperial was the first automobile to come with standard disc brakes in 1949;
- In 1958, the United Nations formed the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations with the goal of creating international standards for automobile safety;
- Volvo invented the three point lap and shoulder seat belt in 1958, which came standard on all of their cars in 1959;
- The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was established in 1966; and
- New York became the first state to lawfully enforce seat belt use in 1984.
New safety innovations are coming out every year in the auto industry, despite fatality numbers mostly remaining stagnant, or even rising last year in 2015. If you or a loved on have been injured in a car collision, contact an experienced car accident attorney today at the Law Offices of Roger Ghai, P.C.