Testing driver's airbag with crash test dummy

A brief history of car safety

by Spreet Aulakh 8th May 2018

Since the first modern automobile was built in 1886, improving the safety of motorists has remained a top priority. Car safety has undergone some significant developments over the years and the recent rise in technological advancements in passenger cars means they are now safer than ever. The Society of Motor Manufactures and Traders (SMMT) predicts that by 2030 such safety features could prevent up to 25,000 serious accidents in the UK.

To see just how far we’ve come, we’ve highlighted the key milestones in car safety spanning from the 1800’s to the present day.

  • 1845 - The first pneumatic air-filled tyre was invented by RW Thompson. These replaced solid rubber tyres.
  • 1895 - Pneumatic tyres were first used on automobiles by Andre and Edouard Michelin.
  • 1907 - Herbert Frood invented the first asbestos brake pads for brake discs.
  • 1918 - The hydraulic four-wheel brake system was developed by Malcom Loughead.
  • 1931 - All news cars had to have safety glass replacing plate glass.
  • 1951 - The concept of airbags was introduced by Walter Linderer.
  • 1959 - The modern 3-point seatbelt was first introduced by Volvo, a design created by Swizz engineer Nils Bohlin.
  • 1959 - The crumple zone was first installed in the Mercedes-Benz 220 model.
  • 1960 - The MOT test was introduced in Britain.
  • 1965 - Indicators must be fitted into all newly manufactured UK cars.
  • 1967 - All new cars manufactured in the UK were required to have front fitted seatbelts.
  • Early 1970s - Anti-lock braking system (ABS) were fitted into luxury cars by Ford & General Motors.
  • 1983 - It became a legal requirement for all front passengers to wear a seatbelt.
  • 1987 - Rear passenger seatbelts were fitted into all UK cars.
  • 1990 - Airbags became a standard feature in all Ford vehicles.
  • 1991 - It became compulsory for ALL passengers to wear a seatbelt in the UK.
  • 2003 - The Toyota Prius was the first car to feature parking sensors.
  • 2004 - The anti-lock braking system was a compulsory requirement for all cars sold in the EU.
  • 2008 - Lane Departure Warning (LDW) systems were first implemented by General Motors and BMW.
  • 2009 - Rear seat and side airbag started making an appearance in cars.
  • 2018 - E-call technology to be mandatory on all new EU cars.
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