Борис Бурда
Author: Boris Burda
Journalist, writer, bard. Winner of the «Diamond Owl» intellectual game «What? Where? When?»
Liberal Arts
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NON-RIVIAL SOLUTION: How does aviation make motorism safe?

NON-RIVIAL SOLUTION: How does aviation make motorism safe?
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Source: inopoisk.com


Road accidents, especially in developed countries, are quite a prominent cause of death in statistics, a source of constant anxiety.

How did the specialist who planned the bombing of Japan during World War II manage to reduce it by borrowing the idea from aviation practice?

The answer is a little later.




We know from “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” that there is an Italian proverb, “Maggiore fretta, minore atto”, which means “the quieter the ride, the farther away you will be”. I suspect that similar proverbs exist in other languages as well, for there is common sense in this unhappy wisdom.

All human endeavors to move with greater speed have always carried with them additional danger. Do you think that few Scythians parted with their lives by mastering a new mode of transportation for mankind – horseback riding – more than two thousand years ago? Hardly.

The saddle did not help to keep on the horse, but in India in the II century AD a very useful invention for safe riding was made – stirrups. At that time they put the big toes into them – people rode barefoot. Later stirrups were also made for toe shoes, and the cavalry began to beat the infantry.

Nevertheless, even with stirrups, riding was dangerous. William the Conqueror, two French kings in a row, Louis IV and Louis V, and many other crowned heads, not to mention ordinary people, even the hero of Juno and Avos, Rezanov, died from a fall from a horse.

NON-RIVIAL SOLUTION: How does aviation make motorism safe?
Monument to William the Conqueror. Source: wikipedia.org




The iron horse slowly began to replace the horse – did it promise to be safer? It seems that not right away. A steam-powered car built in 1769 by the French military engineer Cunho crashed into a wall during tests. True, the driver survived…

NON-RIVIAL SOLUTION: How does aviation make motorism safe?
Cunhaud’s steam engine. Source: en.ppt-online.org


Not everyone considers steam cars to be the first examples of automobiles, the beginning of automobile history, and for good reason – there were quite a few of them, the first one was built as a toy for the Chinese emperor by the Jesuit Verbst, who wrote about it back in 1687. Back in 1900, half of the cars in the U.S. were steam-powered.

A steam car boiler explosion resulting in fatalities was recorded as early as 1834. And in 1869, British scientist Mary Ward became the first person to die under the wheels of a car – she fell out of it on a curve, fell under the wheel and died almost instantly.

After that it was decided that a man with a red flag should walk in front of each steam stagecoach, at a distance of 55 meters. When he encountered carriages or riders, he should warn wayfarers that a steamer was following him – let him escape who he could!

NON-RIVIAL SOLUTION: How does aviation make motorism safe?
Mary Ward. Source: wikipedia.org


The drivers were strictly forbidden to frighten the horses with whistles. It was allowed to let the steam out of the cars only if there were no horses on the road. The speed should not exceed six kilometers per hour in the countryside and three kilometers per hour in the city. Well, how much use is such a car?




Internal combustion engines allowed German inventors Daimler and Benz to propose a more advanced design – a car with a gasoline engine – as early as 1885. Very soon it proved its advantages and squeezed its competitors out of the market.

But it was not, of course, safe for others. On August 17, 1896, the world’s first accident victim already with a gasoline car, 44-year-old mother of two children Bridgette Driscoll, was killed under the wheels of a car driven by a professional driver.

Arthur Edsell’s driving experience was exactly three weeks old and he was driving at twice the recommended speed – as much as 13 kilometers per hour, what a nightmare! Miss Driscoll, ignoring the guardrails and signs, stepped out onto the road and tried to defend herself with an umbrella. In vain!

The court ruled that Mrs. Driscoll was killed through her own fault, and no case was even filed against the driver. But people continued to die, and not only pedestrians – drivers and passengers of colliding cars also died, and with the increase in traffic their number was growing.

NON-RIVIAL SOLUTION: How does aviation make motorism safe?
Bridgette Driscoll (circled) in a family photo. Source: wikipedia.org




Meanwhile, an interesting idea came from one of the first glider builders, George Caley. He suggested that gliders use safety harnesses so that they would not fall to the ground right in flight. But his glider did not take off, and his invention had no effect.

Motorists, too, came up with this. In 1903, Louis Renault invented the five-point seat belt. And in 1909, they invented a spiral spring with straps put on the chauffeur – to keep him in the seat. But no one believes that a bad thing would happen to him – that’s how it was done.

But the famous French aviator Adolphe Pegue was interested in the idea. A pilot in motion shakes a lot more than a chauffeur. And Pegu had his own plans, which included, in particular, flying upside down in a dead loop. Where would one go with such plans without a belt?

On September 21, 1913 Pegu did indeed perform a dead loop on the Blériot XI – 12 days later than Peter Nesterov, but also with courage, art and piloting skills. To fly a plane upside down, something has to keep the pilot in his seat…




Nevertheless, seat belts only began to be widely used in aviation in the 1930s. Passengers also needed them – they have no experience and on takeoff, let alone landing, they can be jolted, and the military – the speeds there are so high that without seat belts it can happen…

Though the number of people who died in car accidents was growing in proportion to the traffic. Look at old chronicles and movies about those times – the flow of cars flooded the streets of big cities. Sometimes with bloody splatter.

The usual in such cases, somewhat paradoxical situation was created. Those drivers who were not involved in accidents could not understand why they needed seat belts – they were alive and well as it were. And those who were in an accident were not always able to drive or even walk on the ground. Who needs belts?

Since the 1920s, car racers started to use belts – it would be more dangerous for them to ride. But they were uncomfortable. It wasn’t until 1959 that Nils Bolin, a safety engineer at the Swedish Volvo Motor Company, invented the belt that we are used to.




Now let’s talk about another man, a graduate of Berkeley, an Irishman from Massachusetts, who also received a master’s degree from Harvard Business School, both of which are not available to everyone. His name was Robert Strange McNamara – yes, Secretary of Defense under Kennedy…

NON-RIVIAL SOLUTION: How does aviation make motorism safe?
Robert McNamara. Source: motor.ru


During the war he was involved in aviation, and quite effectively. It was the organizational measures he proposed that doubled the effectiveness of the B-29 Superfortress strategic bombers – understandably not easy!

In 1946 he was discharged and a young Henry Ford II invited him to join the Whiz Kids, a group that was to re-energize Ford Corporation, which had lost much of its earlier position in the car market.

His career at the Ford concern was almost unprecedented, to the point where he was appointed president of the Ford Motor Company in 1961. For the first time in history, this position in the concern was held by someone who was not a member of the family of the corporation’s founder, Henry Ford!




The corporation had many successes during McNamara’s tenure. But I want to tell you about one. It appeared in 1960 and was launched without much pretension – not very fashionable, quite inexpensive. But its success exceeded expectations. It was called the Ford Falcon.

Whether the car was a success or not – sales figures speak best of all. In the first year, the Ford Falcon has sold 435,676 units, and in the second year the number of sold cars of this brand has increased to 489,323. And this in the country, where the choice of car brand is almost unlimited!

NON-RIVIAL SOLUTION: How does aviation make motorism safe?
Ford Falcon. Source : motor.ru


It is clearly not just a matter of fashion – a low-quality car will not be produced for a long time. And the Ford Falcon was produced in Argentina until 1990, and in far from poor Australia – from 1960, as in the USA, until 2016! Fifty-six years in a row they would not make a worthless car.

McNamara was looking for attractive selling points for this new product – and he found them in his military field, aviation. The number of U.S. accident victims has long surpassed the number killed in all the wars the U.S. has fought. What can be done to improve safety?




McNamara transferred the aviation experience to this car by suggesting to equip it with seat belts, still unaccustomed in transport, but already quite ingrained in airplanes!

It turned out that they really helped – the number of deaths in accidents of those cars equipped with belts was clearly less!




McNamara’s initiative was not immediately approved. Even McNamara’s superiors called seat belts “inconvenient, expensive, and completely pointless”. Henry Ford II complained, “McNamara is selling safety while Chevrolet is selling cars”. 

As a result, belts were only offered as an option. But what could one do about what the inexorable statistics soon showed? It turned out that in an accident, the probability of being saved from death or serious injury increased for the front seats by 50%, and for the rear seats by 25%!

The risk of death with use of the belt is 2.3 times less in frontal collision, 1.8 times less in side collision and 5 times less in rollover! A belted driver won’t break his chest against the steering wheel, won’t fly through the windshield, won’t be crushed against the roof – doesn’t anybody need it?

NON-RIVIAL SOLUTION: How does aviation make motorism safe?
Survivors, thanks to a seat belt. Source: oppb.com.ua


The state noticed this quickly and began to encourage the installation of seat belts and the wearing of seat belts – as they know how to do, with substantial fines. After driving with my brother on the roads of California, I now buckle up automatically – I will be reminded immediately, because it’s a waste of money!




Here are the main arguments of those who do not wear seat belts:

1. The belt could injure me in an accident.

2. If the car catches fire, I won’t be able to get out of it.

3. Let me be thrown out of the car better, I won’t get hurt inside the car.

4. I have an airbag, why else would I need a seat belt?

5. I’m driving slowly.

6. It’s not as dangerous in the back seat.

7. I’m not going far.

8. I am uncomfortable with the belt.




1. A properly fastened seat belt never hurts.

2. cars in an accident rarely catch fire – body deformation can prevent you from getting out, and a fire is in a Hollywood movie.

3. A car that flies out of a car is likely to crash.

4. You need both a cushion and a belt, without a belt a cushion can kill.

5. And the other person involved in the collision could also be going fast or, more dangerously, at an angle.

6. The unbelted fly out the back seat into one of the windows, injuring the others.

7. Statistics say that most accidents happen just outside the house.

8. A Neanderthal in sneakers would be uncomfortable, too…

So decide for yourself whether to take the advice of a man who was U.S. Secretary of Defense for seven tough years, from the Caribbean crisis to the Vietnam War. If you make the right decision, your chances of not getting hurt will be greater.




Almost nothing is free. More speed means more risk. It’s up to you to decide what you need and what’s most important.

There are a lot of ideas to improve travel safety at different times and for different vehicles, but the general idea is the same – hang on tight! It’s not just about travel…

What came in handy in one place can also be very useful in another. The first idea for a seatbelt came from a glider pilot, then it was used for cars, then it went back to planes and from there it finally conquered road transport.

There’s always a lot of pointless explanations as to why you won’t do what you’re supposed to do. And if it turns out they’re not quite right, can you learn a lesson from it? You’d better think about it.

Buckle up yourself, remind your loved ones, and be sure to use the child’s equivalent of a seatbelt – a child’s car seat. There are even seat belts for animals, too. No one needs an extra chance to stay alive or not get maimed.

NON-RIVIAL SOLUTION: How does aviation make motorism safe?
Seat belt on a child. Source: anunfinishedlifethemovie.com
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