Evolution of Car Seats in the US: A Quick History

Evolution of Car Seats in the US: A Quick History

Evolution of Car Seats in the US: A Quick History

Car seats have become essential gear for young tykes all over the globe. More than a necessary travelling companion for children and parents alike, the car seat has played a vital role in keeping young ones safe wherever they go. These seats are so ubiquitous that nowadays it’s almost impossible to imagine a time in our history when they weren’t always so necessary. In this article, we’ll take you through events throughout the decades that brought about the invention of car seats

The Early History of Car Seats

Did you know, the first ever child seat in the history of car seats wasn’t anything more than a burlap sack with a drawstring? This hung over the headrest on the passenger’s seat of old cars.

It wasn’t till the 1930s when the earliest formal type of car seat came in the form of mini car chairs meant to be hooked into a vehicle as a booster seat. With no previous model to refer to and improve from, this early version manufactured by The Bunny Bear Company came with many safety flaws — most notably failing to serve as a restraining device for children. Instead, the sole purpose of this car seat was to make it easier for parents to see their children as they drove.

When Were Car Seats Considered Safety Devices?

A decade later, during the 1940s, car seat manufacturers continued to offer chairs that focused less on safety, designed mainly to boost a child’s sitting height. They were made as such so the child could look out the window, or the child’s parents could see them in the rearview mirror, but not much else. These seats were still fairly primitive, made with canvas over a metal frame, and utilizing the same over-the-seat metal hooks as the chair from the 1930s.

However, during the ‘60s, car seats saw a significant change in car safety. This was a milestone decade in the history of car seats, as it was only in 1962 that two manufacturers, American Leonard Rivkin and Briton Jean Ames, took great steps in ensuring a child’s security while in transit. This decade also marked the introduction of several safety-leaning car seats from prominent automobile brands such as Ford Motor Company and General Motors.

The Road to the Modern Car Seat

The 1970s was another milestone year in the history of car seats, as it saw the invention of rear-facing and forward-facing car seats from automobile brand, GM. GM came out with “Love Seats,” the first car seat in the history of car seats to come in multiple sizes. There was a size for infants that faced towards the rear, and a size for older children that faced towards the front of the car. 

By the 1980s, children’s car seats were no longer a handy accessory, but a requirement. At least in the US, federal laws mandated children under a certain age be strapped to a car seat while riding in a vehicle.

However, it wasn’t until the 1990s when Child Passenger Safety experts invented ISOfix anchors, today known as the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system. While this system ensured increased safety and stability for children in car seats, it wasn’t until 2003 when LATCH became the standardized system used in seats. 

Today, every car seat on the market utilizes the LATCH system, and pre-2003 vehicles can be retrofitted to accept the LATCH system compliant child safety seats.

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The Creation and Implementation of Regulations for Car Seats in the U.S.

It was only in the 1970s when safety really began to really be a priority. In the history of car seats, this is the decade when people realized that child passenger safety needed to be taken much, much more seriously. With the influx of different car seat iterations during the ‘60s, and as a response to growing concerns over children’s safety, the first-ever standard was finally set and established in 1971 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the US. The NHTSA started issuing child safety seat standards and regulations, requiring all seats to be anchored by the car’s seat belt system, and for the seat itself to have a harness for the child. 

The following decade, the first child passenger safety laws were passed, signalling a complete shift towards safety-focused efforts and considerations in the history of car seats. Under these laws in 1985, parents were required to have their children under a certain age in car seats when riding in a vehicle.

Today’s Car Seat

Today, children’s car seats have never been safer. The five-point harness system snugly restrains the child, and paired with the LATCH system, parents can rest easy knowing that their children are safe while traveling. Not to mention the slew of requirements and regulations that car seats must go through! Different countries have different regulations for the age, weight, and height of each car seat. Car seats also need to pass impact crash testing before being distributed out into the market, and even then, they’re marked with an expiration date to ensure that a child will always be in a seat with updated safety systems. Amazingly, despite all the rules and requirements for car seats today, there’s so many types of car seats to choose from that some parents find it more complicated than buying an actual car!

And the journey isn’t over yet. Car seat experts, lawmakers, and manufacturers still continue to make improvements to ensure total child safety and protection. Different states in the U.S. have and continue to routinely increase several requirements related to car seats. 

Increasing Car Seat Usage

In the history of car seats, there’s been an overwhelming improvement in child passenger safety. However, it still isn’t 100% fool-proof. There are still parents who are uninformed, car seats that aren’t properly attached to the vehicle, or children who aren’t securely strapped into a correctly-installed car seat. In fact, despite laws that require children to use car seats, child safety seat usage isn’t yet at 100%. 

If you’re a parent, know that it is essential to have your child in a children’s car seat, as this ensures your little one’s safety during travel. Study the manual to ensure your understanding of how the seat works, and always remember to have the seat correctly installed. 

Having a headache with all the car seat jargons? We've compiled a comprehensive car seat guide.

If you need help with anything seat-related—from shopping for a seat to assistance with seat installation—come by Taxi Baby Co.! Our professionals can recommend the best seats for you and your child, and help you install the seat correctly once you’ve chosen. Here at Taxi Baby Co., we want to make sure child safety is easy, breezy, and hassle-free for any family.

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