From the Twitterverse, @busdriverlife has found this “auto strap for front-seat tots” which can also be used as a walking harness. But what is the history of car seats for kids in vehicles, and are they tied into safety improvements?
The first kids’ car seat appears to be produced by the Bunny Bear Company in 1933. Designed for the back seat it really functioned as a seat to prop the child higher up in the car so front seat parents could see them. In the 1940’s canvas booster seats on metal frames were available for the front seat, often with their own plastic steering wheel.
The concept of making child seats to enhance safety started in the late 1960’s but was not regulated until 1971 when the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration adopted standards for child seats. Surprisingly there was no requirement for crash tests, but the standard did require the use of the safety belt to append the seat to the vehicle, and a harness to restrain the child in the car.
Here’s a visual history of the development of kids’ car seats via YouTube.
Like many good things, this has a down side.
Car seats require bigger cars. This is why we have an SUV. We needed a vehicle that could fit four adults and a baby. In the cars we looked at, the width of the car seat made it impractical to seat old folks in the back, so we ended up with an SUV. Just a couple of inches made the difference.
When I was a kid, many cars seated six. Obviously it wasn’t so safe sitting in the middle of the front seat, but in a pinch it worked. After we made our choice, I looked around and realized that we were not alone. With car seats or booster seats it becomes impossible to fit three kids in a car. This creates demand for vehicles with three rows of seats (and I have serious doubts about the saftey of the rear-most row).
Car seats are important: but to me this is just one more example the consequences of building our cities and lives around cars. Addressing one problem creates cascading impacts elsewhere.