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[Deathwatch] Nils Bohlin, Inventor, 82


Inventor of three-point seat belt dies 
Thu Sep 26,11:46 AM ET
By KARL RITTER, Associated Press Writer 

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Nils Bohlin, who invented the three-point seat
belt, a standard safety device in most cars that is credited with
saving up to a million lives worldwide, has died. He was 82. 

Bohlin died Saturday in Ramfall, Sweden, after suffering a heart
attack, his wife Maj-Britt said. 

His lap and shoulder belt was first introduced by car maker Volvo in
1959 and is now required by law in many countries. 

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ( news - web
sites) estimates three-point seat belts reduce the risk of deaths in
car crashes by at least 45 percent. 

Born on July 17, 1920 in the central Swedish city of Haernosand, Bohlin
developed ejection seats for Swedish aircraft maker Saab before joining
Volvo as a safety engineer in 1958. 

Safety belts at the time used a single strap with a buckle over the
stomach, a design which risked injury to body organs in high-speed

Bohlin sought to find a simple, comfortable alternative that would
protect both the upper and lower body. His three-point solution allowed
occupants to buckle up with one hand, using one strap across the chest
and another across the lap and the buckle placed next to the hip. 

"In a way, my design works as much because the belt is comfortable for
the user as it does because it is safer," Bohlin said earlier this
year, after learning he had been inducted into the National Inventors
Hall of Fame in the United States. 

"The pilots I worked with in the aerospace industry were willing to put
on almost anything to keep them safe in case of a crash, but regular
people in cars don't want to be uncomfortable even for a minute," he

Bohlin was supposed to have been honored by the National Inventors Hall
of Fame at a ceremony in Akron, Ohio, on the day of his death. His two
stepsons attended the ceremony in his place, organization spokeswoman
Rini Paiva said. 

"His seat belt is everywhere. It's become a standard," she said.
"Everyone has a story about how the seat belt saved the life of someone
they know." 

A Volvo research team recently found Bohlin's invention had saved about
1 million lives. 

Bohlin received numerous awards and was elected to the International
Safety and Health Hall of Fame and the Automotive Hall of Fame, both
based in the United States. In 1995, he received a medal from the Royal
Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences. 

He retired in 1985 and lived for the last 10 years with his wife in
Ramfall, 200 kilometers (125 miles) southwest of the Swedish capital,

In addition to his wife and two stepsons, Bohlin is survived by three
children and 11 grandchildren. 

A funeral will be held Oct. 1 at Torpa church in Ramfall.