History of Child Car Safety Seats

Child safety seats position children properly in a car.
Child safety seats position children properly in a car. (Image: child in the car image by Natalia Pavlova from Fotolia.com)

Child car safety seats provide children with a safely customized seat in their parent's vehicle. For infants, manufacturers currently produce rear-facing car seats, which take into account their weak necks. Children over 1 year have front-facing seats, and kids over 40 pounds are expected to ride in a booster seat that sets the regular seat belt to the correct height.


With the invention of the car, also came the invention of child car safety seats. In 1898, the first model came out. Unlike the seats of today, this model was designed only to keep the child in the seat and prevent him from falling out of the car. The design was simply a piece of fabric with a drawstring around one end. In order to use it, the child was placed inside the fabric and tied to the seat.


In 1933, the Bunny Bear Company created a slightly more secure car seat for the new Fords that were gaining popularity. The purpose of this seat was to raise the children to a level that they could more easily be seen by adults from the front seat and to prevent them from falling out of the seat completely.


In 1962, the first rear-facing child car safety seat was invented by a British man named Jean Ames. This seat not only secured children into their own harnessed chair, but also used a new physics-based concept known as "ride down." Ride down dictates that it is safer for a passenger to decelerate in the same direction as the vehicle, rather than the opposite. Another vast improvement of this model was its harness, which featured a Y-shape group of straps that went over both shoulders and fasted between the child's legs.


Initially the child car seat seemed like a failed product, as very few families utilized it, considering it an unnecessary expense. In 1966 the manufacturers convinced the American Department of Transportation to enact safety regulations requiring the use of the safety seat in all vehicles. By 1984, roughly half of the American population under the age of 4 rode in a child car safety seat, and all states had a law requiring use of the safety seat for children.


Since its invention, the child car safety seat has saved the lives of countless children. In fact, in 1997, six of every 10 children killed in a crash died because they were not harnessed into a safety seat. Modern seats use polypropylene plastic, which is tougher than regular plastic and will not crack under pressure but rather flex and slightly give way. Modern straps and seat covers are flame resistant, and the belts must meet the strength levels of adult seat belts.

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