Automobiles are practically a necessity in American life. Road trips with friends and family are one of our favorite American pastimes. And with all of the running around we do, safety is always a primary concern – most notably the safety of our children.

Every year, nearly four million bundles of joy are delivered in the U.S. and many states require that these children use some kind of car seat when traveling in a motor vehicle until they can transition into standard seat belts. Whether taking a newborn baby to their doctors’ appointments or running errands with your toddler, a car seat is required. Some children will need three different seats before the age of eight.

Most manufacturers recommend that car seats over six-years-old be disposed of because of the degradation in the strength of the plastics over time. If a car seat does happen to go through a wreck it is not recommended to re-use this seat. This leaves American’s buying around 12 million car seats a year. With car seats costing consumers anywhere from $50- $400 each, this is a multi-billion dollar industry.

Car seats designed for children have been around since the 1930s, but these original seats were not the safety devices that we have become familiar with in modern times. It wasn’t until 1962 that something resembling the modern child safety seat – with the three-point, Y-shaped strap that goes over both the child’s shoulders, and buckles between the legs – was produced. Technology and materials have come a long way since then, and the production of modern car seats depends heavily on the use of plastics and other synthetic materials derived from petroleum.

Car seats today have come a long way, in large part to the use of plastics and synthetic fabrics. Polypropylene, the most common material used in the production of car seats makes up the hard shell due to the myriad of useful properties such as the materials light weight, strength, flexibility, heat resistance, recyclability, and more. Polypropylene is a polymer of propene, which is made from gas oil, naphtha, ethane, and propane. This plastic is common in applications where strength and flexibility are needed such as protection during a car crash.

Synthetic fibers, which were created to improve upon natural and animal based fibers, are often used as padding or decoration that car seats have. Materials such as polyester also possess properties such as water resistance and durability that help keep the padding looking new even after a few years of use.

As a child grows they need different seats to meet state requirements for height and weight. Depending on your child’s size, a booster seat can take the place of their infant or rear facing seat to provide a “boost” and harness the child in correctly over their upper body. And before you know it they will be off to prom.

While we realize that we can’t keep our children in their car seats forever, we can be happy that oil derived materials play many roles to keep them safe until they are tall enough to be restrained by a proper seat belt.

Another modern example of how oil and gas plays a role in our daily lives and brings safety to life’s precious cargo.