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1980–1990: «Long road to seat belt law» – compulsory seat belt usage provides safety

According to the bfu – Swiss Council for Accident Prevention, the seat belt is still the most important road safety measure for vehicle occupants today – despite all technical progress – and it also doubles their chances of surviving a traffic accident. Today, compulsory seat belt usage is a matter of course, but there were lengthy discussions and arguments up to its legal introduction in 1981.

The importance of the seat belt was not realized from the very outset – its history is correspondingly dating back to the 1980s. It took more than 20 years from the time it was first invented until it was finally introduced in Switzerland. The safety belt went into series production in a Volvo model as early as 1959. In 1976, the Federal Council in Switzerland adopted an ordinance requiring the use of seat belts, but the Swiss Federal Supreme Court revoked the obligation following a legal dispute.

It took another five years until, after the revision of the Road Traffic Act and a federal popular vote, the law was narrowly adopted by the people and introduced in July 1981.

Today, wearing seat belts is a matter of course for the majority of people in Switzerland. Safety belts play an invaluable role in our everyday safety and have been widely recognized since their legal introduction in the 1980s. In order to ensure that safety belts meet the complex safety requirements, they have also been reviewed and standardized in international standardization work. The 1980s not only heightened road safety with the compulsory use of seat belts, they also marked the time when the airbag system, also an invention of the 1950s, made its first important breakthrough into automotive engineering (ISO 12097 ).

Sources: Wikipedia, www.bfu.ch, ISO, DKE German Commission for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies, www.unsplash.com, Standards Norway (images)

Image description: International standards regulate the elongation of the strap material at a tensile force of 11 kN and the breaking strength of the strap (ECE-R 16).

The 1980s ushered in the information age
The beginning of the information age dates back to the early 1980s. Computer technology was making great strides, IBM launched the first personal computer and people were rushing to acquire new inventions, such as answering machines, microwave ovens and compact disc (CD ) players. By the end of the decade, the new CD replaced vinyl records and emerged as a new technology (SN EN 60908 ). The Internet protocol TCP/IP also spread around the globe and became the standard for networking (SN EN 62457 ).

Invisible helpers ensure safety and smooth interaction in everyday life
Just as we now rely on the safety of vehicle seat belts when we fasten them in cars, we use countless objects every day which, thanks to standardized regulations, procedures and processes, ultimately ensure safety and user-friendliness without being noticed.

Standards are part of our daily lives


The CD replaced vinyl records by the end of the 1980s (SN EN 60908).


TCP/IP became the standard for network protocols (SN EN 62457) in the 1980s.


The internationally standardized Relative Dentin Abrasion (RDA) value ensures that toothpaste cleans our teeth without damaging them. A value between 30 and 70 (SN EN ISO 11609) is recommended.


It is safe to use toothbrushes, because they do not contain any toxic substances and the bristles do not fall out even with a strong tensile force of 15 N (SN EN ISO 20126).


Bite-resistant, non-toxic and breathable: the pacifier for infants and young children complies with safety requirements and test methods (SN EN 1400).

Rescue signs

Rescue signs are also internationally harmonized, e.g. for emergency exits, escape routes and defibrillators (ISO 3864).

Bicycle helmets

Bicycle helmets protect the head in the event of an impact at 19.5 km/h (SN EN 1078).


Sunglasses comply with basic safety requirements if they are produced in accordance with European standards (SN EN ISO 12312-1).

Passenger lifts

Whether it concerns minimum dimensions, installation regulations or operating elements – standards regulate various details in passenger lifts.


The DIN EN ISO 34101-1 standard guarantees that cocoa beans used for chocolate can be traced.

Imagine a world without standards


Difficult walking on a non-standardized staircase due to different step sizes (source: Standards Norway).

Credit card

Credit card and card reader are not compatible (source: Standards Norway).

Parking space

Non-standardized parking space with parking spaces of different sizes and shapes (source: Standards Norway).

Traffic light

Hazard due to a non-standardized traffic light on a pedestrian crossing (source: Standards Norway).


The time is difficult to read due to the non-standardized display of the digits (source: Standards Norway).

Passenger lifts

Non-standardized passenger lifts with door that is too narrow (source: Standards Norway).

Numeric keypad

Non-standardized numeric keypad on smartphone makes it difficult to enter numbers (source: Standards Norway).

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