Putting on your seatbelt when you get in a car has almost become second nature to us. But do you know how they work to keep you safe during an accident?

How Car Seat Belts came to be

The first seatbelt appeared in the mid-19th century, but it was used in a glider to keep the pilot in place, not in a car, and the seat belt was fixed with little room for adjustment. The concept of seatbelts was further enhanced by a medical practitioner, who after treating many patients involved in accidents, developed the idea of a retractable seat belt which made it safer for those involved.

Cars were first offered with seat belts in the mid-20th century, with various car manufacturers listing seat belts as an optional accessory, but it still wasn’t popular with customers, since it wasn’t compulsory to wear one when driving.

Compulsory seat belt installation in cars and mandatory government laws to wear a seat belt only came around in the late-20th century. And seat belts back then were only 2-point seat belts, which only went across your lap, only keeping your bottom half strapped in the seat.

You might know Volvo as the car manufacturer who developed the 3-point seat belt, which is the norm today that goes across your torso and your lap. There are also seat belts with more points, but those are mainly used in more extreme applications such as racing seats.

How They Work

For common modern seat belts, the belt itself is made out of webbed fabric, then there is a retractor box that houses a spool and spring, which is in charge of releasing and locking the belt.

The retractor consists of a spool and spring, which lets the belt unspool easily, and the spring to re-spool the belt, which adjusts to your body. There is then a lever which extends out using centrifugal force when the belt is tugged on, which latches on to the tooth on the spool to prevent it from unspooling further, thus keeping you in place during accidents or sudden braking.

Malaysian Laws on Seat Belts

Beginning 1st of January 2009, all Malaysian cars have to be equipped with rear seat belts, and all car occupants must wear their seatbelt, or they can be fined up to RM 2,000 or jailed for a maximum of 1-year.

Seat belts have been proven numerous times as being able to reduce fatalities and injuries in car accidents, and together with airbags have saved countless lives. So put on your seat belt when you’re in a car, as you’ll never know when it will come in need.