National Seat Belt Day is observed annually on November 14. More than 46,000 people are killed in car accidents in the U.S. every year, and an estimated 4.4 million people sustain injuries that require medical attention. Direct medical costs add up to more than $300 million. Using safety belts helps save lives and minimize the risk of serious injuries. It’s a simple act we can all practice, whether you’re a passenger or the driver. National Seat Belt Day was created to raise awareness and encourage people to wear seat belts.
History of National Seat Belt Day
Seat belts have been around since the 19th century. Edward J. Claghorn received the first U.S. patent for safety belts but his design was not intended for cars. In the 1930s, physicians recommended lap belts in their vehicles and suggested manufacturers do the same in their models. Lap belts were used in public transport like streetcars, preventing passengers from flying out of their seats during accidents.
The first vehicle in the U.S. to offer seat belts as a safety option was the Nash Rambler, back in 1950 when seat belts were still a novelty. Despite growing evidence that they helped save lives and reduce injuries, critics still resisted their use, claiming they were ineffective and may trap passengers if their cars were on fire or submerged in water. In 1958, Saab became the first vehicle manufacturer to fit seat belts as standard features. One year later, Nils Bohlin — Volvo’s first chief safety engineer — patented the three-point seat belt. It improved the rudimentary two-point seat belt, which sometimes did more harm than good in accidents.
After making the three-point seat belt standard in Sweden, Volvo opened up the patent so other car manufacturers could adopt this essential safety feature in their models. By 1968, seat belts were a standard requirement in all U.S.-manufactured vehicles. Today, seat belts are a valued safety mechanism in cars, helping to save thousands of lives and several hundred million dollars in medical costs.
National Seat Belt Day timeline
Edward J. Claghorn creates the first seat belt.
The Sports Car Club of America imposes a rule where drivers must wear seat belts during competitions.
Nils Bohlin invents the three-point seat belt and donates the patent to all car manufacturers to use.
The world's first seat belt law is introduced in Victoria, Australia.
National Seat Belt Day FAQs
When did seat belts become mandatory in the U.S.?
Seat belts became compulsory in all new U.S. vehicles in 1968.
What was the purpose of the three-point seat belt?
The three-point seat belt disperses the energy of the moving body to the chest, pelvis, and shoulders, reducing whiplash and abdominal injuries.
Why does New Hampshire not have a seat belt law?
New Hampshire is a Libertarian state, and residents believe it is not the government’s place to make them wear seat belts.
How to Observe National Seat Belt Day
Put on your seat belt. It takes a second but can save you thousands of dollars in hospital bills. More importantly, it can also save your life.
Encourage others to wear seat belts
Enforce a strict seat belt-wearing policy at all times in your car. If you're carpooling, insist on everyone buckling up. Be an example to others.
Make a poster
Visual teaching always works best. Make a poster about seat belts. You can detail their history, from obscure inventions to standard safety features, or write statistics about how they help save lives and prevent injuries.
5 Fast Facts About Seat Belts Everyone Should Know
Seat belts save lives
Seat belts reduce fatalities by 45% among front-seat passengers and drivers.
Preventing serious injuries
Seat belts cut the risk of severe injuries by 50%.
More people are using seat belts
Seat belt use increased from 11% to 85% over the past 30 years.
Air bags aren't enough
The force of an airbag can seriously hurt or even kill passengers who aren't wearing seat belts, and airbags don't prevent passengers or drivers from being ejected during accidents.
You have an influence
Research shows that children whose parents wear seat belts are more likely to buckle up.
Why National Seat Belt Day is Important
Prevention is better than cure
Avoiding injury is far better than lying in the hospital for weeks or months recuperating. It's easier on your wallet too.
Setting an example
Humans follow by example, even when it comes to things we all know we should do. The cautious person who always buckles up inspires others to do the same. It's the concept of monkey see monkey do, among teens and young adults who take cues from their elders.
It's so easy anyone can do it
All you have to do now is buckle up. It's a simple gesture that we can all do.
National Seat Belt Day dates