Kids in Cars – A History

Helmeted driver

Perhaps the next round of car safety guidelines will include a helmet clause...

My generation of mothers has access to more information about keeping kids safe than any of our maternal predecessors. This blessing not only keeps more of our children alive and

healthy; it also demands that we keep ourselves enlightened with the latest expert opinions available.

Never mind keeping straight what you can and can’t eat or do while pregnant; we’ll save that for another post. Let’s take a look at how we’ve transported our precious bundles around the earth after the in utero phase.

Early 1900s – First Automobile manufactured.

1930s – First child car seat designed, but not manufactured commercially yet. Most American children continue to ride in the beds of pickup trucks and wagons (no seatbelts required).

1940s – Most farm kids learn to drive by age 12.

1960s – First rear-facing child car seat designed, but only the most ultra safety conscience parents buy them. They are spendy and not required by law.

1970s – Children ride out long trips stretched out in the rear window of the family roadster. Younger siblings enjoy the spacious floor area in the back seat. Babies sit on mommy’s lap in the front passenger seat. (I occasionally got to ‘drive’ in dad’s lap.)

1978 – First law (Tennessee) governing the use of child safety seats. By 1985, all states passed similar laws. Rumble seats in the back of many station wagons start emptying.

2011 – National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says:

Age 0-3 should be in a rear-facing seat. Rule of thumb is as long as possible until the child outgrows stated height and weight limits on the seat.

*Newborns are only allowed to leave the hospital once hospital personnel have verified the child is traveling in a properly fitting, correctly installed child safety seat. Many experts say 97 percent of child safety seats are incorrectly installed.

Age 4-7 should be in front facing car seat until child outgrows stated height and weight limits on the seat.

Age 8-12 (who’ve outgrown front-facing car seats) should ride in booster seats until the lap-shoulder belt fits them. Children usually can graduate from a booster seat when their height reaches 4 feet 9 inches (1.44 meters). All children younger than 13 should ride in the back seat.

Parents all over the country question how they’ll survive another full year of their rear-facing, frustrated toddler and convince their tweens to plant it in a booster seat. It’s a tough job, and we’ll do it – no question.

All you need to know about your state’s child safety seat laws at


About Yo Adrienne Olson

Yo Adrienne Olson is a Fargo girl, a blessed mom, a lucky wife, an innovative communications professional and a closet entrepreneur.
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