120 Years of Car Safety Evolution

May 29, 2014


Road Safety


Richard Greenwood

Many people should be aware of the fact that driving carries with it inherent risk that we simply ignore at best or are completely unaware of at worst. Innovation in design and technology means that with every passing decade car safety has become more superior to the time period before it. Due to this progression car manufacturers have adhered to increasing pressure from not just the Government bodies but by road watchdogs and consumers alike. 

Over the last 120 years car manufacturing and design has undergone a monumental shift not to mention the improvements in car safety. Smith’s Lawyers has taken the time to reflect on the most influential changes in both design and safety measures in our automobiles. Our research has solidified the fact that drivers today should be thankful that their current vehicles eclipse the safety standards of even just 30 years ago.

We have come a long way and it is people such as the RTA, RACQ and NRMA which lobby to continually improve our road statistics. 

Check out the winding road of car safety below

Car safety evolution

We've come a long way

The progression of car safety changes has seen the most rudimentary introductions, which we would currently take for granted, such as headlamps and windscreen wipers introduced in 1898 and 1926. Safety glass was introduced in the 30s so that in the event of a crash glass would simply shatter rather than breaking into large, extremely dangerous shards.

Crash Test dummies were not put to good use until the 40s which meant that scientists then had some context with which to suggest improvements in safety to car manufacturers. 

From the fifties onwards there was much more momentum in car safety upgrades with the introduction and implementation of our strongest car safety measure to date: the seatbelt. Despite enforceable laws for seatbelts being absent for another 15+ years the design was heralded as a much needed injection of safety to a technology that threatened lives.

In the same time period ABS, crumple zone design and airbags were also featured in mostly high-end or European model cars. 

It was the 80s which forecasted a more wide-spread approach to car safety as lower-end or cheaper models of cars began to incorporate elements such as airbags, ABS and traction control. Australian car brands such as Holden and Ford were strict to adhere to national and international standards of safety to put their cars amongst the safest in the world.

Currently we can see a number of electronically derived or smart technology car safety initiatives. Such safety measures are becoming more main-stream with all car models touting their inclusions in marketing and promotional materials. Electronic warnings such as lane departure, blind spot and pedestrian proximity have increased not just driver safety but passenger and other road user safety too.

The future looks promising for car safety improvements with initiatives such as Google’s self-drive car as well as vehicle-vehicle communication. At the end of the day car manufacturers have a responsibility to sell us safe vehicles, but drivers must also take on the responsibility for car safety themselves.

Richard Greenwood

Marketing Manager at Smith's Lawyers. Advocate for road safety and fan of technology that makes the roads or workplaces safer.