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Best car safety inventions of the last 30 years

Jaguar XJ airbags

Published on by New Car Bundle

Once upon a time before cars were swarming every road in the country, the safety of these vehicles was not an issue. Cars were not likely to crash into one another because there simply weren’t as many around. However, if they did anyone inside would hardly have stood a chance.

As cars became increasingly accessible to everyone, so the safety of them became increasingly important. However, it has been the last 30 or so years where the safety has been really stepped up, with many inventions being tweaked and created in that time to where they are today.


January 31st, 2013 marked the 30th anniversary of the introduction of legislation which made it compulsory to wear seatbelts in the United Kingdom. Before 1983, most cars were built with seatbelts but it was not a legal requirement for them to be worn. Indeed, even at this point the law only applied to the front seats; passengers in the rear of the car did not have to wear them until 1987.

Nils Bohlin; inventor of Volvo 3-point safety belt
Nils Bohlin; inventor of Volvo 3-point safety belt

Over the years the seatbelt has helped to save thousands of lives. According to the AA it saved approximately 50,000 lives in the first 20 years alone. The most recent figures available from the IAM show that 96% of people in the front seats ensure that they wear a belt, while 89% of passengers in the rear are also aware of how important this is.


Developed initially in 1981 for the Mercedes-Benz S-class, the airbag is now a common feature on all cars and a key part of road safety in vehicles.

Originally airbags were designed to pop out purely in order to prevent steering wheel damage but the product has been developed for several other safety purposes over time to be included on the passenger seat and, in some cases, in the front seats for the benefit of passengers seated in the rear.

Figures are relatively vague in regards to what impact airbags have had in prevented injury and death, but safety tests suggest that a car is certainly safer with one than without.

Crash tests

In the early 1990s crash tests really started to develop into a serious part of car safety via various consumer organisations that would eventually lead to the formation of Euro NCAP.

Up until 1994, the ideas had been strongly resisted by car manufacturers.

However, in June the UK government first considered it, from which point car safety testing has subsequently evolved significantly. In 1996 the company was established and started its first tests.

Superminis were the first to be tested and the Rover 100 was given just one star out of five, a statistic that led to its withdrawal less than two years later. Nowadays, all vehicles go through this stringent testing.

Volvo C30 Electric Crash Test
Volvo C30 Electric Crash Test


During the 1970s, car insurance providers relied on knowledge of their local area and manually generated quotes and were unable to insure people outside their vicinity.

Computers changed this – quotes were created considerably faster and for less expense.

In the 1990s when the internet started becoming more widely used, the companies could offer cheaper car insurance quotes. In turn, this has led to increased competition and better tailoring of insurance options, which is vital for modern-day consumers when they decide on which insurer to side with.

Tags: Car Saftey Improvements, Car History

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