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Milestones in Automotive Safety

Copyright AA1Car

Great strides have been made by all major automakers to improve vehicle safety, particularly in the last 30 years. What follows are some of the highlights and major innovations.


1899

First recorded traffic fatality. H.H. Bliss is hit and killed by a horseless carriage in New York City.

1901

Oldsmobiles are the first to feature speedometers.

1914

First stop sign to control traffic is installed in Detroit.

1919

First three color stop light is installed in Detroit.

1924

First car with safety glass windows as standard equipment is offered by Cadillac.

1925

Delco-Remy produces the first electric windshield wiper so that wiper speed could be maintained regardless of engine speed.

1939

The industry's first electric turn signals developed by GM�s guide lamp division (introduced on the market by Buick).

1940

Buick is first to offer front/rear directional signaling with self-canceling switch.

1950

Chrysler introduces four-wheel disc brakes.

Nash-Kelvinator introduces the Rambler, the first car to offer seat belts.

1951

Mercedes-Benz patents "crumple zone" concept to protect vehicle occupants.

1953

Minnesota passes first law requiring brake fluid to meet minimum SAE performance standards.

1954

Safety padding on dash board offered by several vehicle manufacturers.

1955

Over 1,000,000 traffic-related deaths have occurred since invention of the automobile.

Safety door latches to help prevent doors from being forced open in collisions are made standard equipment on nearly all cars.

Michican is first state to require a course in driver education before issuing a drivers license to persons under 18 years of age.

1956

First year that General Motors, Ford & Chrysler offer seat belts as optional safety equipment.

Ford introduces recessed hub steering wheel.

1959

Volvo first manufacturer to include front seat lap-shoulder belts as standard equipment.

1962

Cadillac and American Motors are first to offer the dual master cylinder as standard equipment. It provides braking on at least two wheels should a malfunction occur to one part of the brake system.

New York first state to enact law requiring front seat belts in cars (to be effective 1965 model year).

1964

The four major U.S. auto manufacturers install two front-seat lap belts as standard equipment.

1966

The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act authorized the federal government to set vehicle safety standards and provide for a national highway safety program. The first of many Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) become effective in 1967.

Volvo offers childproof rear door locks, rear window defroster, roll-over bar in roof.

Ralph Nader publishes "Unsafe At Any Speed" . Book criticizes vehicle manufacturers for not showing greater responsibility towards safety. Starts consumer safety movement.

1967

Volvo offers three-point seat belts in rear outboard seats.

Energy-absorbing steering column introduced by General Motors.

1968

Volvo vehicles equipped with head restraints.

Federal law requires front seat belts for all passenger cars.

Federal law also establishes various crashworthiness standards to protect vehicle occupants.

1969

Head restraints required in U.S.

1971

Chrysler introduces a brake-slip control system, (an early version of antilock brakes).

1972

Federal law requires front bumpers meet 5 mph crash standard (later reduced to 2.5 mph in 1982).

1973

Side impact standards required for all new cars.

Federal law requires three-point lap-shoulder belts with inertia reels.

1974

General Motors produces the first airbags.

Federal law requires all vehicles to have seat belt interlock system that prevents engine from starting unless driver and passengers are buckled up (later repealed by Congress in response to public outcry over "inconvenience").

1978

Tennessee is the first jurisdiction in the world to pass a child passenger safety law.

1981

Seat belt pre-tensioners introduced on some cars to automatically tighten belts prior to accident.

1984

First U.S. seat belt use law is enacted in New York.

1985

Antilock brakes standard on S-Class Mercedes models and offered standard or optional on about 30 domestic and foreign car models during the 1987 model year.

Every state has passed legislation requiring the use of child safety seats.

High mounted center stop light required for all passenger cars.

Mercedes-Benz installs airags on U.S. models.

Ford and Lincoln offer optional air bags.

1986

GM is the first domestic manufacturer to announce that rear seat lap/shoulder safety belts will begin replacing lap safety belts as standard equipment, with the phase-in to take place over the following three years.

1989

Chrysler becomes first American automaker to offer airbags as standard equipment.

1990

Passive restraints required for all new cars. Vehicle manufacturers meet standard by either offering driver side air bag or automatic seat-lap belts.

First head-on collision occurs between two airbag-equipped cars (Chrysler LeBarons) in Culpepper, VA. Both drivers walked away.

1991

Volvo introduces side impact protection system.

All Cadillacs come standard with anti-lock brakes, making Cadillac the largest automaker to do so. GM offered anti-lock brakes and traction control on more models than any other manufacturer in the world.

1992

Chrysler offers integrated child safety seats in its minivan line.

1994

Volvo introduces side impact protection airbag.

1995

Although available and mandated for years in Canada and Scandinavia, daytime running lights start to be offered on some new vehicles in the U.S.

All states but one have mandatory seat belt use laws.

Breed Technology introduces first aftermarket airbag that can be installed on 1987-1994 vehicles that were not factory-equipped with an airbag. Air bag is for drivers side only.

1998

Dual airbags are standard equipment for all passenger cars.

Side curtain air bags introduced on some cars to protect occupants against head injuries in side collisions.

GM installs less aggressive "next generation" air bags on Pontiac cars and GMC pickups and SUVs. Bags deploy with less force to protect children and small adults.

BMW introduces new inflatable tubular "Head Protection System" to protect occupants in side collisions.

1999

Side airbags offered by Audi, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Hyundai, Jaguar, Mazda, Mercedes, Nissan, Porsche, Saab, Volvo and Volkswagen some or all of their 2000 models.

2000

SmartBelt ™ systems seatbelt that think like airbags, are introduced by The BFGoodrich Company.

Night Vision offered as an option on some Cadillac cars. Uses infrared video camera to display a ghostly image of objects in the road ahead.

2008

Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) are required on all new cars and light trucks

2009

Volvo offers CitySafe automatic braking system that automatically applies the brakes to prevent an accident if the driver fails to react (but only at speeds below 18 mph).

2010

Pedestrian detection system offered as an option. Uses optical recognition software and video camera to warn driver of pedestrians in road ahead. If driver fails to react, automatically applies brakes.





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