Road Trip Down Memory Lane: Automotive Safety

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None of us get into our vehicles expecting to be in an accident. We have our destination in sight, hop in our car and begin our journey. Then it happens. It may not be your fault, but an accident occurs. In a perfect world, following the rules of the road should mean that you are not at risk for a collision, but this is a risk that we all face every time we get in a car and hit the road.  Luckily for us, automotive safety has taken tremendous strides since the very first automobile hit the streets over 130 years ago.

Karl Benz’s Gasoline Powered Automobile

There are road transportation inventions that predate the 1856 design by German inventor Karl Benz, but when most people think about the first invention that started the path to the vehicles we have today, this invention is where they begin. Benz’s “vehicle powered by a gas engine” looked similar to a tricycle and topped out at a speed of 16 MPH. This may seem like a very slow trip, but it was considerably faster than the average speed of 4 MPH achieved by a horse-drawn carriage. While Benz’s first automobile came without seatbelts, a windshield or any other safety features, the risk for injury did not present itself until 1891.

First Automobile Patent Benz | MyAirbags
1856 Automobile Patent

First Automobile Accident

Obviously, Benz’s invention was a starting point for the automotive industry, but it would be years before automobiles became commonplace. With very few vehicles on the road, the world managed to go 35 years from the first automobile invention to the first automobile accident. Inventors all over the world were focusing their skills and creativity towards building a better car, along with James William Lambert, an automotive inventor in Ohio. In 1891, Lambert would make history by being involved in the World’s first car accident. There were no safety features in place to protect Lambert and his passenger, but luckily they both walked away from their collision with a hitching post with only very minor injuries.

Baby Steps towards a Safer Driving Experience

It is tough to imagine getting behind the wheel of a car that doesn’t have headlights, or a windshield, much less seat belts, but this was the reality for the world’s first drivers. The first safety feature integrated into vehicles was electric headlights in 1889, 33 years after the invention of the first gas-powered car. Edward J. Claghorn obtained the first safety feature patent for his invention of seat belts in 1885; unfortunately, this safety feature was not offered in American made cars until 1950 and did not become a legal requirement until 1984.

First Seat Belt Patent | MyAirbags
1885 Seat Belt Patent

20th Century Safety Boom

As automobiles became more commonplace, with an American dream of “a car in every driveway and a chicken in every pot,” the risks of climbing into a car started to increase drastically each year. According to historical data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 1899 there were 26 motor vehicle deaths in America. This number is meager compared to the 37,461 reported motor vehicle casualties in 2016 but is a drastic increase from the original car wreck that occurred just eight years earlier.  Around the 1950’s safety experts, automotive manufacturers, and even college students began to look at automotive safety as something that needed to be addressed with the design of the vehicle, and not something that could just be ignored as driver error. This era brought on many new safety features that would eventually become standard, and a time where safety features became the focus of many automotive advertising themes.

VW First 3-Point Safety Belt Patent | MyAirbags
Nils Bohlin of VW; Inventor of 3-Point Seat Belt

Innovations of Yesterday; Standard Today

Most of us can’t picture sliding into a car that doesn’t have seatbelts, but there are other safety features today that we never see and hardly ever think about. In 1953 a patent for “safety cushion assembly for automotive vehicles” was issued. It would be nearly 20 years before this patent became a reality for American drivers when Ford & General Motors began to sell airbag-equipped vehicles. Early airbag systems had many issues, some that caused more harm than good, but after ironing out some kinks, a law was passed in 1998 requiring airbags to be in all cars and trucks sold in the United States. A year later lawmakers kicked up this requirement to have all new vehicles include Dual Airbags, to protect both the driver and passenger.

Vintage Ford Airbag Ad | MyAirbags
Vintage Ford Airbag Ad

Futuristic Safety Features

The automotive industry has evolved over the past 130 years, and we have reached incredible technological strides that could have only been imagined in Science Fiction 20 years ago. While no one has invented a coveted DeLorean that can dominate time by reaching 88 MPH, automakers have brought a wide array of futuristic features to cars that you can find at your local car dealership. From Backup Camera’s and Lane-Departure warnings to Collision Prevention Automatic braking and Adaptive headlights, we have made remarkable strides towards ultimate roadway safety. Many companies are even in a race to build the perfect self-driving car, another feature that can be pulled from science fiction movies such as Minority Report and I, Robot.

Ensuring Your Safety Features Stay Safe

With more and more electronic vehicle components, you may find yourself wondering how to ensure that the safety features in your vehicle will continue to keep you safe. The services at UpFix offer allow you to have these systems repaired in 24-hours and sent back to you for reinstallation. Whether you have been in an accident or you have a warning light alerting you to a problem, UpFix can help you get back on the road with services covering Airbag Modules, Seat Belts, ABS Modules and more. Contact UpFix today.