Volvo hardly deserves all the credit for its admirable frosting on the safety cake. Thursday, August 13, 2009 marks the 50th anniversary of Volvo obtaining a patent, presumably in Sweden, for the three-point safety belt it pioneered.
But they’ve gone overboard in patting themselves on the back for the advance in safety engineering. Perhaps this is because they have a narrow European, even Scandinavian, viewpoint. In any event, Volvo’s lengthy European press release on their pioneering role in three-point belts almost completely ignores the American experience.
Furthermore, Volvo credits the three-point belt with “saving an estimated million lives worldwide.” That may or may not be true, and probably there is no way to prove it one way or the other, for the simple reason that few fatal accident investigators, usually state police, have the ability to decide whether a two-point belt would have been just as effective, especially in ejection-from-the-vehicle incidents. Moreover, with crashes in more modern cars, how could one distinguish between the safety contributions of the three-point belt versus that of an air bag?
If Volvo’s perhaps naïve ploy is successful, you’ll no doubt see lots of stories in the Mainstream Media touting Volvo safety, written or screened by equally naïve, under-informed journalists. So let me give you the American background.