The History of Car Seats (1933-2024)

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Written by: Fatima O. Millers, CPST

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The history of car seats is really interesting. Car seats went from just simple child holders to sophisticated safety car seats. This big change took almost 30 years.

Let’s go explore the fascinating car seat journey, one year at a time, and look at the important moments that have made car seats what they are today.

The History of Car Seats (1933-2024)

1933: The First Booster Seat by Bunny Bear Company

In 1933, the idea of lifting children up so they could see out of car windows better led to the creation of what we can consider the first kind of booster seat by the Bunny Bear Company. 

Baby Car Seat in the 30s_ By RichardBH

These seats not only allowed parents to see their children in the back more easily but also helped to keep the children from moving around the vehicle.

This was the first step in realizing that kids needed their own special seats in cars, starting the development of car seats.

1940s: Canvas Seats on Metal Frames

In the 1940s, companies started making seats from canvas and metal that could be attached to the front seat of a car. 

Baby car seat in the 40s

Even these seats weren’t made to keep kids safe. Instead, they were made to make the ride more fun for kids, even including toy steering wheels for them to play with. 

1959: The Introduction of the 3-point Seat Belt

The year 1959 was a turning point in car occupant safety with the introduction of the 3-point seat belt. 

Even though this was a big improvement for everyone’s safety, car seats specifically designed to protect children took a little longer to catch up.

1962: Safety-Designed Car Seats Emerge

It wasn’t until 1962 that two inventors introduced the concept of car seats designed with safety as the primary concern

Jean Helen Ames, a British mother, and journalist, proposed rear-facing seats equipped with a Y-belt, while Leonard Rivkin, inspired by a personal incident, designed a booster seat with a five-point harness system. 

This year marked a pivotal shift in the development of car seats, from convenience accessories to safety devices.

1964: The First Rear-Facing Car Seat

Bertil Aldman, a Swedish professor, introduced the first rear-facing car seat in 1964, inspired by the astronaut seating in the Gemini space capsule. 

Aldman recognized the importance of rear-facing car seats, and his innovation greatly advanced the safety of child car seats.

1968: Auto Manufacturers Join the Movement

By 1968, major auto manufacturers like Ford and General Motors began producing car seats designed for crash protection.

baby car seat in 1974
Safety car seat in 1974

They began to include features aimed at keeping kids safe during accidents, such as stronger materials and designs that better absorbed the force of a crash.

1971: Federal Standards Adopted

1971 was a major regulatory milestone. The adoption of the first federal standards for car seats by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), known as FMVSS213.

child car seat in between the 70s and 80s
Safety car seat in the 70s

These standards focused on how the car seat was secured to the vehicle and the child to the seat, laying the groundwork for the safe design and use of car seats across the United States.

1979: The First State Car Seat Law

Tennessee made history in 1979 by becoming the first state to enact a car seat law, mandating the use of car seats for young children.

This legislative move was a significant step towards nationwide compliance, although it would take several years to achieve higher usage rates.

By 1985, all states had followed Tennessee’s lead, highlighting the growing consensus on the importance of car seats for child safety.

2003: Introduction of the LATCH System

The LATCH system we know now was introduced in 2003. This system made it much simpler to securely attach car seats, ensuring they’re installed the right way and stay more firmly in place. 

FAQs

Car seats first appeared in the early 1930s, primarily as devices to lift children for a better view out of the car windows, rather than for safety purposes.

The invention of child safety seats, as focused on protection rather than convenience, can be attributed to several innovators rather than a single inventor. 

  1. Jean Ames, a British journalist and mother suggested the idea of rear-facing car seats with a Y-belt in 1962. 
  2. Leonard Rivkin, an American inventor designed a booster seat with a five-point harness system around the same time.
  3. Swedish professor Bertil Aldman is credited with creating the first rear-facing child safety seat in 1964, inspired by astronaut seating.

Please note: The content provided on Car Seat Parent, including all materials and information, is not intended to serve as medical or health advice. Always consult with ahealthcare professional regarding your specific circumstances, especially when it concerns the safety and well-being of your child in relation to car seat use.

About Fatima O. Millers, CPST

Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Fatima delivers insightful car seat reviews and recommendations. Combining her CPST expertise with an engineering background, her advice is both safe and practical.