Child Safety Seat Information
The move from having car seats in the front passenger seat to having them in the back seat, facing backwards, may make it easier for a busy, distracted parent to leave an infant in the car. Each year, between 30 and 50 infants die of heat illness and hypothermia in the United States after being left in a car.
Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat because it’s safer there.
There are many car seat choices on the market. Use the information below to help you choose the type of car seat that best meets your child’s needs or print out NHTSA’s car seat recommendations for children (PDF, 370 KB).
Since the first car was manufactured and put on the market in the early 1900s, many modifications and adjustments have been implemented to protect those that drive and ride in motorized vehicles. Most restraints were put into place to protect adults without regard for young children. Though child seats were beginning to be manufactured in the early 1930s, their purpose was not the safety of children. The purpose was to act as booster seats to bring the child to a height easier for the driving parent to see them. It was not until 1962 that two designs with the purpose of protecting a child were developed independently. British inventor Jean Ames created a rear-facing child seat with a Y-shaped strap similar to today's models. American Leonard Rivkin, of Denver Colorado, designed a forward-facing seat with a metal frame to protect the child. It is noted that seat belts for adults were not standard equipment in automobiles until the 1960s.
All child restraints have an expiration date. Seats can expire 6 years from the date of manufacture, although this can vary by manufacturer. Expiration dates are highly debated, with proponents and manufacturers claiming that older car seats can degrade over time to be less effective and that changing laws and regulations necessitate an expiration date. Opponents argue that it is simply for their legal protection and to sell more car seats, and point out that manufacturers have noted that the plastics in most car seats long outlast the expiration date. As ageing is due to temperature swings and UV-light, a seat ages faster in a car than in a cool, dark cellar.
For a child restraint to be sold or used within any of the 56 UNECE member states it must be approved by the standards of UNECE Regulation 44/04, Directive 77/541/EEC or any other subsequent adaptation thereto. In order to be granted ECE R44 approval the child restraint must comply with several design, construction and production conformity standards. If approval is granted the seat can display an orange label with the unique approval license number, the type of approval, the mass group approved for and the details of the manufacturer.