Hi, I’m Patrick McNaughton – inventor, patent holder, and president of McNaughton Incorporated in Minneapolis. My inventions are like my children and I love each one. But I must admit … there is one very close to my heart that I love above the others. It’s Seat Belt Buckle Guard.
Ideas for inventions sometimes swoop into my mind like eagles, but other times, they take form after a mishap or misadventure.
I’m the survivor of my own car safety incident. As a curious five year old, I felt it was a great idea to play with the latch on the seat belt. I remember wondering at what point it would actually become unbuckled as I slowly played with the release mechanism.
Once I easily released my seat belt, my curiosity was quickly diverted to the same question about the mechanical release point of the back seat car door. Leaning on the door with my ear to the glass so my ear could hear the mechanism, I easily opened that, too. Fortunately, the car was just starting to accelerate from a stop when I tumbled out of the car and onto the pavement. Although I ended up with only few minor flesh wounds and a scolding from my mother, the incident left a scar that was burned into my memory forever.
As a young man, I would think back to that day, remembering the dangerous situation I put myself in. That memory haunted me. I couldn’t shake it. I literally took my life into my own little hands when I opened my seat belt! I didn’t know that car accidents were the number one killer of children. I was just bored little boy, looking for a distraction.
When I was in my mid 20's I came up with an idea that seemed to be the solution to a problem parents deal with every day while in the car with their younger children. It was a way that would have prevented me and the other "little Houdinis" from unbuckling their own seat belt and taking their lives into their own hands. After a number of design iterations I had a device that was safe and easy to use. I applied for and was granted a patent in 1994.
By this time I was out of college, my sister and I were partners in a design and manufacturing company that we started together. We were already manufacturing and selling other products, it was natural that this new patented idea, Buckle Guard would be our own. It was our privilege and our responsibility to bring it to market and to the back seat of cars all over the world.
The product was simple, easy to use and understand. It was a molded plastic box-shaped device that would split in halves along a hinge when opened. What kept it closed was a push and turn FDA child safety cap, just like the ones that had been used for decades to keep children out of potentially toxic and position medications. When the device was put onto a seat belt buckle, the release was out of site and inaccessible thus unappealing to children to play with. A parent or guardian could easily perform the two motor skills “push & turn” of the child safety cap to access the seat belt's release button.
Buckle Guard was a hit! We were receiving letter from parents thanking us for solving the seat belt issues they were having on a daily basis. Parents and facilities who worked with children and adults with special needs and development disorders had a new tool to keep the individual and driver safe while commuting. Even school districts and bus companies were putting them into their transportation safety programs.
Today, there are three different Buckle Guards. The Original Buckle Guard for cars, buses, transport vans, and emergency stretchers, the Buckle Guard Pro for late model cars, vans, and SUVs, and the Buckle Guard “S” for special commercial transport vehicles. The fourth generation Buckle Guard – for 5 point harness child car seats – will be available summer of 2017.
Today, I am the father of sixteen year old twins. They have learned and developed great seat belt habits while riding in the car. When they were younger the release button was out of site, hidden by Buckle Guard, and they were never tempted to play with the release button. Now they are seat belt advocates, old enough to understand how the use of seat belts saves lives. And (gulp) they are old enough to drive their own cars!
Copyright @ 2017 McNaughton Inc.
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