The Evolution of Car Seat Safety

The Evolution of Car Seat Safety

We know the car seats of today are held to a certain standard. They all have to pass the same standardized safety tests and while some seats offer more features than others to improve upon the baseline tests, the safest seat is one that is used properly. From the time car seats were first introduced to the seats we see on the market today, we’ve certainly come a long way. After speaking with Chicco USA’s Child Passenger Safety Expert, Julie Prom, we learned a great deal about the progress we’ve made over the years. 

When cars first were introduced, they were primarily used by the wealthy as a hobby. Very few families owned a car and as a result, automobile accidents didn’t occur too frequently. The need for safety belts didn’t become necessary till more families could afford cars, putting more drivers on the road. Even then, it wasn’t till much later that seat belts were used by the majority of drivers and passengers.

The first carseat.

The first car seats were established as a way to prevent kids from moving around the car. The manufacturers weren’t concerned with the safety of the child passengers, just about making it easier for the parents driving the car. The parents would put kids in a raised seat that hooked on to the back of the car’s seat, bringing the child up to their level.

In 1968, the first child restraint seats designed specifically for the safety of the child were sold. Ford released Tot-Guard and General Motors released Love Seat for Toddlers. Not long after, GM introduced the Infant Love Seat, the first rear-facing only restraints, and the Bobby Mac convertible car seat meant for both rear and forward facing use.

Tot Guard, the first seat meant for the child’s protection.

The first federal standards for car seats did not include dynamic crash testing, but did require the use of a safety belt to attach the seat to the vehicle, and a harness to hold the child to the seat. It wasn’t until 1981 that crash test dynamics for child safety restraints were established. In 1986, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) determined that correctly used child safety restraints are 71% effective in reducing fatalities and 67% effective at reducing serious injury. If the restraints were even partially misused, this reduced the effectiveness by as much as 44%. These numbers are the same today.

Of the children who were fatally injured in car accidents in the past year, 33% were unrestrained.

In 1993, passenger airbags began being installed in the majority of vehicles. The first death of a child as a result of being struck by an airbag while riding rear-facing in a car seat was recorded 2 years later, in 1995. Since the number of deaths due to airbag deployment increased, car manufacturers and car seat manufacturers began communicating about the improvements that could be made. Specifically, car seats were not to be used in the front seat of a vehicle if an airbag were activated.

A study performed in 2007 found that children 2 years old and younger were 75% less likely to be fatally or severely injured in an accident if they were rear-facing. Since then, the AAP has changed the recommendation for rear-facing age limit from 1 year old to at least 2 years of age, or until the child outgrows the height/weight limits of the seat.

The LATCH system was first introduced in the industry in 2001. By 2003, 100% of vehicles were required to have tether anchors installed.

Modern day’s convertible car seat.

There are constantly new safety features that car seats companies are rolling out. Side impact protection, temperature absorbing fabric, sturdy steel frames, LATCH. These are all amazing features that certainly help improve the safety of our children, but the best feature a seat can have is one that makes the installation process easy and effective. The safest seat is one that is installed properly. As always, it is of the utmost importance that prior to installing your child’s car seat, you carefully read the car seat manual as well as the vehicle manual.

Chicco NextFit has a fantastic LATCH system, the SuperCinch LATCH, making it extremely easy to get a secure installation every time.

If you have any questions about how to properly install your child’s carseat, please consider getting the help of a trained Child Passenger Safety Technician. Take a look at this complete list of what to expect from your CPS Technician.

Now that you know the strides that have been made over the decades, check out this post for some amazing car seats that top the safety charts. 

Resources: Julie Prom- Chicco USA’s Child Passenger Safety Expert
Photo credits: Vintage car seat by Ruth Rogers, Tot Guard seat by Science Museum of London, Chicco USA

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Corinne is a part time hairstylist and a full time wife and mom from Pennsylvania. When she’s not at work or chasing after her wild-child, she’s busy tackling her latest craft or sewing project. She loves inspiring people to tap into their right-brain creativity. You can check out her girls’ clothing at CeceLynn Design.

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