There are thousands of unique accessories in the fashion world, from purses to jewelry to hats to belts; the list goes on and on. Over the past few decades, fashion has started to become more economically friendly, with old products and materials being remade into something totally different. One unusual item being used for fashion is typically found in your car: seat belts! The secure straps were initially developed to save lives in automobile accidents, but today are being used for much more.
Nils Bohlin, a Swedish engineer, invented the modern-day seat belt in 1959. Previously, there were only two-point seat belts, and the only people who used them were race car drivers. Bohlin was hired by Volvo to be the company’s first chief safety engineer. After Bohlin’s revolutionary invention, Volvo made the new seat belts available to other manufacturers to help increase safety in the industry. By 1968, all American vehicles were required to have the modern day seat belts. Volvo estimates that over one million lives have been saved by the seat belt from the time of its invention to the time of Bohlin’s death in September 2002. In just the United States alone, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that seat belts save over 11,000 lives in car crashes per year.
At some point, however, seat belts evolved from only being safety devices to protect people in the event of a car accident. Today, seat belts are used as fashion accessories, an economically friendly way to change up an outfit. HARVEYS, a California-based company, makes handbags and lifestyle goods out of old car seat belts. It all started when Dana Harvey was restoring a classic car and used the leftover seat belts to make a bag for his wife, Melanie. Today, HARVEYS makes numerous purses, bags, and backpacks in endless colors and designs, using seat belts in a fun and creative way. The company’s products even extend to dog leashes, passport holders, and lawn chairs! In a statement HARVEYS said, employees “get to experience the full life cycle of a product, and that has a big effect on how (they) design...it inspires you to make quality stuff that can last a lifetime.” The repurposing of seat belts doesn’t sound very far off from the original goals of creating a safer seat belt.
Another business, Buckle-Down, turns seat belts into belts and buckles that hold up pants. Custom designs allow customers to choose what they want their belt to look like, and they offer everything from Disney cartoons to sports teams to car company logos. Buckle-Down also partners with retailers such as Hot Topic, Bed Bath and Beyond, and the Disney theme parks to bring recycled seat belt belts to more people.
There is always the possibility that someone will fall in love with a seat belt fashion accessory, and as a result, use their seat belt more or help spread awareness to others about the importance of strapping in while riding in a motor vehicle. In fact, whether they are connected or not, along with the popularity of up-cycled seat belt products, seat belt usage in the US has increased steadily from 70.7% in 2000 to 90.1% in 2016. Still, there are many more lives that could be saved in a motor vehicle accident through the use of a seat belt. 48% of people killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2015 were not wearing seat belts, which is alarming considering that this safety product is not a new development. During an automobile crash, buckling up helps keep passengers safe and secure inside their vehicles. The Michigan Law Firm, PC blog has previously discussed the NHTSA's safety tips on how to wear a seat belt properly, so as to help prevent an injury or fatality in the event of a car crash.
Nils Bohlin likely never imagined his first seat belt becoming more than a safety precaution after its development. Smooth and sleek, seat belts offer a trendy and unique look to fashionistas looking to update their outfits. Seat belt products also help the environment by reusing old belts to make something brand new. While seat belts are continuing to be transformed today, it is important to remember to “Click It or Ticket” when riding in a motor vehicle, as your life may depend on it.
Seat belt fashion accessories are available on the market, bringing a more attractive side to safety. However, in line with their original purpose, seat belts are an important safety measure that save lives during a motor vehicle crash. Anyone riding in a car or driving a vehicle should always wear their seat belts, because no one looks good flattened on the side of the road. If you or someone you know has been involved in a car collision, contact The Michigan Law Firm, PC at 844.4MI.FIRM for a free legal consultation.