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Volvo Celebrates 60 Years of Three-Point Seat Belts by Sharing More Safety Features

In 1959, Volvo decided to do something with its invention that would make most CEOs blanche. It freely gave away one of its innovations: the three point seatbelt. 

The premise of the decision is that the three-point seatbelt could save lives, so why keep it from anybody? Since then, according to the company, the invention has saves more than a million lives.

And that’s not just smoke, Volvo’s been keeping track. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the three-point belt’s invention, Volvo is giving accident data it has collected over the years away to anyone who wants it with the E.V.A. Initiative.

The project is the result of 40 years of safety research that has taken data from 40,000 cars involved in real world accidents to learn everything it could from the accidents.

What Volvo has learned from the accidents is that most cars don’t protect everyone equally. Despite the fact that women were involved in just as many accidents as men, crash test dummies are based on men.

That, says Volvo, doesn’t take into account the anatomical differences between the average man and the average woman. Height, neck strength, and torso all vary between men and women and the narrow focus of crash testing has led to higher rates of whiplash, head, and chest injuries in women, according to Volvo’s research.

In response to this, Volvo’s cars have specially designed headrests, bigger side curtain airbags, and a specially designed crash structure that reduces side impact. 

Since installing its new headrests, Volvo has seen whiplash incidents even out between men and women, its full window curtain airbags reduce the risk of head injuries by 75%, and its stronger crash structure have reduced severe chest injuries by 50% in all occupants.

In an effort to make all cars equally safe for men and women (and children for that matter), Volvo is making more than 100 research papers available for download through its website. These include papers like “Evaluation of thoracic injury criteria for THUMS finite element human body model using real-world accident data”; “Seat testing to investigate the female neck injury risk – preliminary results using a new female dummy prototype”; and Seat belt pre-pretensioner effect on child sized dummies during run-off road events.”

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