Seat belts are important because they reduce the chance of injury or death in an accident. Properly used, they reduce fatalities by 45 percent and serious injuries by 50 percent. They also prevent occupants from being thrown from the vehicle, an occurrence which is fatal in 77 percent of cases.
While modern American society is utterly dependent on the automobile, the large number of cars on the road and the number of distracted or impaired drivers add up to a dangerous situation. Motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of death for people under the age of 35. While there are a number of safety features in automobiles that make them safer, few can approach the effectiveness of properly used safety belts.
Auto safety belts were introduced in the 1950s, after a surge in the number of head injuries and fatal injuries caused by automobile accidents in the 1940s. Saab made the first cars that came standard with seat belts in 1958. The three-point belt was introduced in 1959, after a study showed that no drivers using three-point belts were killed in accidents at speeds under 60 mph. The first compulsory seat belt law was enacted in Victoria, Australia in 1970.