By Kim Stich
For the past several years I have been passionately involved with child passenger safety. My name is Norraine Wingfield, and I work at the Kansas Traffic Safety Resource Office. For those of you who are history buffs and work in traffic safety, please enjoy this brief look into the past.
Imagine for a second what a severe injury from a car crash would do for your child. Damage to the brain could lead to many problems, such as memory impairment, educational or I.Q. dysfunction, or even the loss of the ability to read and write.
It’s a horrific thought.
It was this thinking, however, that brought about the single greatest development in child safety in the last century. The child safety seat was developed over 50 years ago as a means to combat the staggering damage children can receive in the event of a car crash.
The first instance of a child restraint in a vehicle was in 1898. This early device was little more than a bag with a drawstring that could attach to the car seat.
It wasn’t until the 1930s car designers came up with a working model of a child car seat. These child seats from the ‘30s did exactly what their predecessors did--they kept a child sitting in the back of the car. During this time, safety belts were becoming commonplace in vehicles, as were other safety devices meant to stem the tide of traffic fatalities.
Unfortunately, it would be another 30 years before anything serious would be done about it.
Peace, love, and car seats took place in the 1960s when Swedish auto designers finally began to seriously address the problem of child safety in cars. They developed the first rear-facing child safety seat designed to prevent an infant from being injured in an auto accident.
It took several years and extensive testing, but in the end they had developed what is probably the most important safety feature to ever be added to a vehicle.
When safety seats hit the market in the mid-1960s, they bombed. The only people who bought them were a minority of only the most safety-conscious parents. The problem was people just didn’t know enough about them, and it seemed like a useless expense.
This forced safety seat manufacturers to take a different route. In this case, education would be the off-ramp of success.
In the 1970s, members of the medical community, consumer groups, safety seat manufacturers, and insurance companies among others got together and showed the general public safety seats for children were a necessary device for keeping their children alive in the case of a collision.
They also managed to convince various levels of governments, and some states started passing laws requiring the use of safety seats for young children. Tennessee was the first state to do so, and between 1978 and 1985 every single state was to follow suit.
Seat designers are using space-age polymers and designs to make child safety seats safer than ever before. It looks as though child safety seats are strapping in...;and they’re ready for a long ride.
(Bill Schnarr, HistoryOf.net, 9-10-2008)