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Gary Ledoux

gary ledouxGary Ledoux is a freelance writer with 48 years in the automotive industry. 

 

He can be reached at mayorclum@yahoo.com

 
Thursday, 07 March 2019 18:07

In Reverse: Vehicle Safety Equipment Through the Years

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Coincidentally, this was the same year that Ford tried selling safety as a vehicle feature. An optional safety package came with seat belts, padded dash and padded sun visors, among other items. (Seat belts would not be federally mandated until 1964.) Fewer than 2,000 of Ford’s safety packages were sold.

 

Since 1956, the federal government has mandated much of the safety technology used in cars today. Left up to their own devices, would carmakers have advanced automotive safety on their own? Consider the following:

 

On Feb. 10, 1885, way before the automobile was even thought about, the first U.S. patent for a seat belt was issued to Edward J. Claghorn of New York. In the patent, it was described as "designed to be applied to the person and provided with hooks and other attachments for securing the person to a fixed object."

 

They would not be required for use in automobiles for another 80 years!

 

But seat-belted carriage passengers aside, the earliest “horseless carriage” drivers changed a car’s direction of travel with a tiller, not unlike steering a small boat. It was clumsy and not very practical. So in 1900, the steering wheel was invented, introduced in the Packard.

 

Early cars could only be driven safely during the day because they had no headlights! So, the first automotive headlamps were introduced for use on the 1898 Columbia Electric Car from the Electric Vehicle Company of Hartford, CT. But the new electric lamps were not very popular---the rather fragile filaments didn’t last long bouncing over the rough, early roads, and it was difficult for the car to produce enough current to even power the lamp.

 

Thus, in 1904, a more durable and practical headlamp was introduced---powered by acetylene. (That doesn’t sound very safe?) Vehicle lighting with headlamps, tail lamps, and side lamps, as we know it today, was not used until 1908 and then powered by an 8-volt battery. Side marker lamps would have to wait until 1968. Center-mounted, high brake lamps would have to wait until 1986.


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