The History of Child Safety Seats

child safety seats

In the days of combustion engines and the Model T, people had not yet started thinking about road safety for kids.

In fact, the first car seat arrived approximately 20 years after the Model T. Back then, its goal was not to increase safety—it was to keep youngsters from moving around in the car.

To understand the changes that child safety seats have gone through since those early days, it helps to review the history of child safety seats.

1930s: Car seats were nothing more than a mere burlap sack with leg holes that hung behind a seat so the child would remain in one place.

1940s: This is the decade when kids were moved from the burlap sack to the booster seat. This elevated seat was used so parents could keep backseat riders in their field of vision. There was also a front-seat model with no additional safety features.

1950s: Although more people began driving, safety standards for kids in cars make virtually no headway.

1960s: As car safety became more of a concern, people began to rethink car seats. In 1959, the three-point seat belt was developed for adults. Meanwhile, Briton Jean Ames and Len Rivkin designed more functional car seats for children in 1962. Ames designed a rear-facing seat with a Y-strap while Rivkin designed a seat of metal framing into which a child was buckled. Later in the decade, vehicle manufacturers like Ford and GM got in on the action.

1970s: By 1971, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration required all car seats to have safety belts and a harness to hold a child into a seat. Tennessee passed the first child-restraint law by the end of the decade. Still, crash testing was off in the distant future.

1980s: Things were looking up for child safety with the first federal car seat crash test standard in 1981. Child-restraint use laws began popping up in all 50 states while activist groups began promoting research and education around the proper instillation of car seats.

1990s: LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) seats became the norm, making car seats more stable.

2000s: Washington state passed the first booster seat laws for children over 40 pounds.  Didn’t all other states eventually pass the same laws?

2010s: According to SafeKids.org, 73 percent of car seats still are not used or installed correctly. However, certified child passenger safety technicians are now able to help install a car seat properly or even double-check your work.

Learn how these advances in child safety seats helps save lives in the next post.

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