Fighting your squirmy kid into a car seat can be one of the banes of parenting. But unlike some of your toddler’s other tantrums (wearing pajama tops to preschool, for instance), this one has dire implications. Your child will survive a fashion faux pas. Not so with an improperly secured car seat. Yet car seats are something of a modern phenomenon. “A lot of people in the past had this fatalistic idea about car travel,” says Stephanie Tombrello, the executive director of SafetyBeltSafe USA. “Some people would die, some people would get hurt, they thought it was just chance.” In fact, the earliest car seat models weren’t even made to prevent injuries. In the 1930s and 1940s, the Bunny Bear Company produced booster seats so that children could look out the car window. Through the early 1960s one could buy devices like “The Tiny World Sit-N-Stand Carseat,” which allowed kids to stand up and stretch their legs mid-voyage. Other car seats consisted of plastic seats, with hooks to loosely anchor them, and some featured a steering wheel a kid could spin just like a driving parent. Suffice to say none of these car seats were safe — nor were they created with safety in mind. It wasn’t un...