Leigh Horan

The Evolution Of Car Safety

About Leigh Horan

Leigh Horan

Leigh is a writer, a frequent occupier of the passenger seat on voyages through the Welsh hills and an ogler of cars that are far too big - and far too expensive - for her.

More posts by Leigh Horan

You’ve probably heard the line ‘They don’t make them like they used to’ in relation to the cars of today, and perhaps there’s a case for this viewpoint. However, as far as safety is concerned, that the cars of today differ greatly is only a good thing. Cars have come on in leaps and bounds since the first tyres rolled onto our roads. So with this in mind, we’re taking a look at the evolution of car safety and why it matters.

Early evolution of car safety

1959: The first three point seat belt is introduced by Volvo. This remains one of the most effective safety devices of all time in vehicle history.

1960: Padded dashboards are also created by Volvo, as an attempt to reduce face and chest injuries in crashes. 

1965: New seat belt legislation means all new cars now sold must have seat belt anchorage points for the front outer seats.

1966: ABS is first produced in the Jensen FF, with the system based on aircraft technology. 

1967: Seat belt law means all cars sold in Britain must have front seat belts.

Image of seat belt car safety icon

1968: Head restraints are introduced by Volvo, to protect the head and neck for passengers and driver at the front of the vehicle.

1978: Electronic ABS displayed by Mercedes in their S-Class model. 

1981: Driver’s airbag is also displayed by Mercedes, a modern reincarnation after US makers sold them in the seventies. 

1983: Using front seat belts is made compulsory in the UK.

1987:  All cars sold in the UK must come with rear seatbelts.

Car safety at the turn of the millenium

1991: Volvo is at the forefront of safety technology again, introducing side-impact protection. In the same year, it becomes a legal requirement for rear seated passengers to wear seat belts at all times in the UK.

1994: Another development by Volvo, the side-impact airbag is implemented in their 850 model.

1995: Electronic stability control is installed by Mercedes in their S-Class with the help of Bosch.

1996: Kia adds the knee airbag to the Sportage SUV and Euro NCAP is established. This organisation focuses on producing safer cars, especially through the use of crash test dummies.

1997: First Euro NCAP results put the Volvo S40 top of the charts, with a four-star score for Adult Occupant Protection.

1998: Active head restraints appear in Saab models.

2001: The Renault Laguna becomes the first car to achieve five-star status from the Euro NCAP.

 Image of children in car

2003: The child protection rating is introduced, making the safety rating test even tougher.

2005: Lane departure notification system appears, warning drivers when they’ve begun to move out of their lane.

2005: Pop-up bonnet is made available on the Jaguar XK and Citroen C6, hoping to lower the risk of injuries to pedestrians when hit by a car.

2007: Blind spot monitoring offers Volvo S80 saloon drivers a visual alert when vehicles are in their blind spots. 

2008: New autonomous braking senses stationary traffic, warns drivers of danger and primes brakes to bring the car to a stop.

2009: New Euro NCAP rating is much stricter than ever before. Cars without stability control will be unable to achieve a safety score of anything higher than four stars.

2015: Pedestrian detection in darkness, barrier detection and active cruise without steering technology is, once again, developed by Volvo. 

Why car safety matters

These developments over the years have helped to develop the levels of safety we experience today. After this law passed there was a 25 percent reduction in driver fatalities and a 29 percent reduction in fatal injuries among front seat drivers. In the past, crashes at 40mph often killed people, whereas now you could feasibly walk away unscathed from such incidents as a result of the increase in vehicle safety measures. This technology has come so far that safety itself became a major selling point in the 1980’s as a result, a factor that is still just as important today.

What do you think of the development of car safety over the years? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.