Nils Bohlin – developer of the three-point safety belt (1959)Early traffic safety development was focusing on protecting those involved in a collision. The focus now and in the future will be on preventing accidents from happening.

Volvo Trucks has long been the industry leader in the field of passive safety. For example in 1959, Volvo introduced the three-point safety belt – Volvo’s gift to the world. Today it’s a standard throughout the automotive industry and has made the world a better place by saving more lives in traffic than any other technical feature.

“The injury-reducing effect of the seatbelt is hard to beat when compared to other safety devices, but work still remains to be done: to get all truck drivers to use it,” says Lennart Svenson, former Head of Volvo Truck Accident Research Team at Volvo Truck Corporation.

Another good example of passive safety is a cab structure that gives enough survival space after an accident. Volvo Truck Corporation introduced pendulum-tested cabs in the 1960s and the crash-tested Volvo cab introduced a new level of safety to trucks, together with good ergonomics for its time.

Early traffic-­safety development had a focus on passive safety, reducing injuries. For heavy-duty vehicles, the “golden age” of passive safety was from the 1970s to the 1990s.

Other milestones that stand out in the development of passive safety systems are the energy-absorbing steering wheel and under-run protections, which prevent the passenger car to end up under the truck in a frontal collision.

Truck safety was intensified in 1969 when Volvo started an accident research team manned by Kjell Högström and Lennart Svensson. During the 1970s Volvo Truck Corporation released the first external reports based on accident investigation and, as a result of this research, reinforcements in the doors and energy absorbing instrument panel were added.

Active safety, preventing accidents, was for many years synonymous with braking efficiency. Focus on steering and behaviours on the road were added. At the end of the 1990s, a system with the aim to assist the driver was introduced. Lately there has been more focus on detecting and acting on hazards that the driver might miss. The interface between man and machine becomes more and more important.

“It is a waste constructing a technically perfect vehicle if it is not adapted to humans and the traffic environment,” concludes Lennart Svenson.