St. Louis, Missouri (PRWEB) September 21, 2012
St. Louis car accident attorney Christopher Dysart of The Dysart Law Firm, P.C. (http://www.dysart-law.com) wants to remind drivers of the contributions made to car crash safety during the month of September. On September 21, 2002, Nils Bohlin, inventor of the three-point seatbelt, died at age 82. On September 9, 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act into law. On September 1, 1998, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 went into effect. The law required that all cars and light trucks sold in the United States have air bags on both sides of the front seat.
Bohlin, the inventor of the three-point seat belt, spent most of the 1950s developing ejection seats for Saab airplanes, and in 1958, he became the Volvo Car Corporation's first safety engineer. At Volvo, he designed the first three-point safety belt--a seatbelt with one strap that crossed diagonally across the user's chest and another that secured his or her hips.
At the time that Bohlin introduced his three-point belt, not many non–racecar-drivers used seatbelts at all. (In fact, they were optional equipment in most cars: buyers had to pay extra if they wanted them.) The belts that were in use consisted of a single lap belt with a buckle that fastened over the stomach. In high-speed crashes, they would keep a person in his or her seat, but the abdominal pressure they caused could result in serious internal injuries. Bohlin's belt, by contrast, was much safer; it was just as easy to fasten; and it protected both the upper and lower body.
On September 9, 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act into law. Immediately afterward, he signed the Highway Safety Act. The two bills made the federal government responsible for setting and enforcing safety standards for cars and roads. Unsafe highways, Johnson argued, were a menace to public health: "In this century," Johnson said before he signed the bills, "more than 1,500,000 of our fellow citizens have died on our streets and highways; nearly three times as many Americans as we have lost in all our wars." It was a genuine crisis, and one that the automakers had proven themselves unwilling or unable to resolve. "Safety is no luxury item," the President declared, "no optional extra; it must be a normal cost of doing business."
NTMVSA resulted in safer, more crash resistant cars: it required seat belts for every passenger, impact-absorbing steering wheels, rupture-resistant fuel tanks, door latches that stayed latched in crashes, side-view mirrors, shatter-resistant windshields and windshield defrosters, lights on the sides of cars as well as the front and back, and "the padding and softening of interior surfaces and protrusions." (For its part, the Highway Safety Act required that road builders install guardrails, better streetlights, and stronger barriers between opposing lanes of traffic.)
On September 1, 1998, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 went into effect. The law required that all cars and light trucks sold in the United States have air bags on both sides of the front seat.
Inspired by the inflatable protective covers on Navy torpedoes, an industrial engineering technician from Pennsylvania named John Hetrick patented a design for a "safety cushion assembly for automotive vehicles" in 1953. The next year, Hetrick sent sketches of his device to Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler, but the automakers never responded. Inflatable-safety-cushion technology languished until 1965, when Ralph Nader's book "Unsafe at Any Speed" speculated that seat belts and air bags together could prevent thousands of deaths in car accidents.
In 1966, when Congress passed the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Act, they required automakers to install seat belts, but not air bags, in every car they built. Unfortunately, the law did not require people to use their seat belts, and only about 25 percent did. Air bags seemed like the perfect solution to this problem: They could protect drivers and passengers in car crashes whether they chose to buckle up or not.
While Ford and GM began to install air bags in some vehicles during the 1970s, some experts began to wonder if they caused more problems than they solved. When air bags inflated, they could hit people of smaller stature--and children in particular--so hard that they could be seriously hurt or even killed. A 1973 study suggested that three-point (lap and shoulder) seat belts were more effective and less risky than air bags anyway. But as air-bag technology improved, automakers began to install them in more and more vehicles, and by the time the 1991 law was passed, they were a fairly common feature in many cars. Still, the law gave carmakers time to overhaul their factories if necessary: It did not require passenger cars to have air bags until after September 1, 1997. (Truck manufacturers got an extra year to comply with the law).
Researchers estimate that air bags reduce the risk of dying in a head-on car accident by 30 percent, and they agree that the bags have saved more than 10,000 lives since the late 1980s. (Many of those people were not wearing seat belts, which experts believe have saved more than 211,000 lives since1975.) Today, they are standard equipment in almost 100 million cars and trucks.
About The Dysart Law Firm, P.C.
The Dysart Law Firm, P.C. is a St. Louis based car accident law firm that serves clients throughout the States of Missouri and Illinois, including the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, Columbia, St. Charles, O’Fallen, Springfield, Jefferson City, Cape Girardeau, Alton, Granite City, Edwardsville, Wood River, Roxana, Belleville, East St. Louis, Collinsville, Rockford, Naperville, Peoria, Elgin, Champaign, Carbondale and Mount Vernon. . The firm’s practice includes car accidents, truck accidents, pedestrian accidents, auto manufacturing defects and wrongful death.
Mr. Dysart is a former federal prosecutor and has been nationally recognized as a personal injury lawyer obtaining numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements.
The Dysart Law Firm, P.C. is located at 100 Chesterfield Business Parkway, Second Floor, St. Louis, Missouri 63005 (toll free number 888-586-7041). The firm’s website may be seen at http://www.dysart-law.com, and Mr. Dysart may be contacted via e-mail at cdysart(at)dysart-law(dot)com.