2023 Author: Eric Donovan | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-11-27 05:39
The seat belt is half a century old. The number one lifesaver in the car has probably saved more than a million lives in 50 years.
By Heiko Haupt
Everyone knows him - but hardly anyone really knows a lot about him: The seat belt is one of the things that are taken for granted in a car and hardly given any thought. In fact, there is a lot to be said about the harness. On the one hand, there is the fact that this safety device is currently celebrating a milestone birthday: 50 years ago, three-point belts were first fitted as standard in a vehicle. In addition, there is the fact that safety experts give the belt the highest priority even in the age of airbags and assistance systems. And the technical development of belt systems also continues.
Lifesaver number one
In 1959, according to Volvo Deutschland, the history of the three-point seat belt began in Cologne with standard use. The successes that the retaining strap has achieved since then are more than remarkable: The Swedish car manufacturer assumes that more than a million human lives have been saved by such restraint systems in the past five decades. Before that, an accident often meant that the occupants were thrown through the windshield.
Such successes are by no means a thing of the past. "According to the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) in Brussels, an estimated 6000 accidental deaths are prevented annually in Europe by the belt," says Welf Stankowitz, technology expert of the German Road Safety Council (DVR) in Bonn. Conversely, the number of fatalities in accidents with passengers not wearing seat belts is extremely high. Because the large number of airbags in modern cars is no substitute for seatbelts - the protective airbags can only develop their optimal effect if the passenger is held in place as precisely as possible by the seatbelt. Stankowitz therefore draws a clear conclusion: "The seat belt is and will remain the number one lifesaver in the car."
«Shower head of a shower»
A sophisticated construction is hidden behind the belt. It starts with the fact that what drivers perceive as a seat belt is only one component. This “belt strap” is more than just a piece of textile. "The belt straps used in Germany are mostly made of polyester - this material has a longer service life than the nylon that is often used in the USA, for example," says Michael Maruhn from the belt system supplier Schroth in Arnsberg.
At the beginning of the webbing there is the mechanical production of a polyester fiber, which in turn is made from around 100 extremely thin plastic threads - the filaments. According to Ulrich Stahl from the Stahl belt weaving mill in Herbrechtingen (Baden-Württemberg), the principle has to be imagined “like the shower head of a shower”.
35,000 tons of webbing per year
For an average belt strap, 280 such polyester fibers are then woven together - this creates the wide middle section of the belt. There are also the edges, which must be shaped so that they do not cut into the body. "Another 28 threads are used for this," says Stahl.
Since every car is fitted with belts today, this adds up to a considerable amount: "With around 47 million cars in Germany with five belts each around 2.3 meters long, that equates to around 35,000 tons of belt", explains Michael Maruhn from Schroth. If cars end up being scrapped after an average of twelve years, this also means, among other things, that 3000 tons of webbing waste have to be disposed of every year.
Further development in secret
When it comes to the further development of the belt system, many advances take place in secret. "Nothing stays as it is - not even the belt," sums up Birgit Degler from the supplier Autoliv in Dachau. There has already been a lot of new here in the past: According to Welf Stankowitz, this includes the belt force limiter, which is intended to prevent excessive stress on the human body. Another further development is the belt tensioner, which ensures that the belt does not dangle loosely in the event of an emergency.
The latest development is a kind of thinking belt - according to Birgit Degler, the principle is called the reversible pre-tensioning function. When braking, for example, the system recognizes that there is an impending danger and tightens the belt as a precaution. When everything is over, the restraint system is loosened again so that it can be used again at the next dangerous moment. (dpa)
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