Children used to have to ride in a car seat until they were 8 years old by law in Illinois. However, as of January 1, 2019, the Illinois legislature changed car seat laws to make sure all children are safe when riding in a car up until the age of 12.
It’s important for parents to understand the laws so they don’t accidentally violate them. We’ll discuss requirements for car seats for different stages of a child’s life, and answer a few commonly asked questions about booster seats and rear-facing seats.
What changes did the Illinois government make to the laws?
At the beginning of 2019, legislators added an amendment to the Child Passenger Protection Act that requires children under the age of 2 to ride in a rear-facing car seat. The law considers the fact that children grow at different rates, so it does have exceptions for if the child is less than two years old and already meets the upper weight limit for the rear-facing car seat. If they’re more than two years old and haven’t reached the upper weight limit, they should stay in the rear-facing car seat until they’re too heavy for it.
Watch a video below about the important changes of 2019 Illinois Car Seat Laws.
Birth to age 2
From birth until the age of 2, they need to ride in a child restraint system that’s rear-facing unless they reach more than 40 pounds before they turn two. This helps protect the child’s fragile head, neck, and spine. The seat can be a rear-facing seat or a convertible car seat that’s in the rear-facing position.
Important points to remember about rear-facing car seats:
- Don’t install a rear-facing car seat in front of an airbag.
- Watch the recline indicator when installing the rear-facing car seat so you can be sure you have it in the correct position.
- The child’s head might need at least one inch of clearance beneath the top of the safety seat when it’s in the rear-facing position.
- Use the harness straps or slots at or below the shoulder level when the seat is in rear-facing mode.
- Harness straps must fit comfortably, and the harness clip should be at the level of the child’s armpit.
- If your baby is in an infant-only seat, keep an eye on them.
- If a baby in an infant car seat grows too tall or too heavy for it and they’re not one year old yet, buy a convertible car seat with a higher weight limit for the rear-facing position.
- Keep the harness straps fastened tightly even when it isn’t in use.
- A convertible car seat with a five-point harness is best for newborns. Seats that have padded overhead shields don’t fit small babies properly; the shield comes up too high and may make it difficult to adjust the harness.
Ages 2 to 4
Children should ride in a rear-facing seat as long as possible, or until they’re too tall or heavy for the seat. When they’re too big for the rear-facing seat, they’re ready for a forward facing seat that has a harness system.
Important points to remember about forward-facing seats with harness systems:
- Use the internal harness system until the child reaches the upper height or weight limit for the seat.
- Use the harness straps and slots at or above your child’s shoulders.
- Harness straps or slots should be used at or above shoulder level when in the forward facing mode.
- Harness straps must fit comfortably on the child, and the harness clip should be at the same level as the child’s armpit.
- The top of the child’s ears shouldn’t be above the top of it when it’s forward-facing. If the harness is even a little loose, the child can be thrown from the car; make sure it is snug.
- The plastic harness clip on a toddler seat should be even with the child’s armpit to hold the harness strap on the shoulders. Do not use a toddler seat that doesn’t have a harness retainer clip unless the manufacturer says it’s ok to do so.
- Don’t place padding or noodles behind the safety seat.
- Make sure the safety belt or LATCH straps follow the right path. You can usually find the forward-facing path near the back of the seat.
Ages 4 to 8
Children should ride in a forward-facing safety seat that has an internal harness system until they’re too tall or too heavy for it. Once they’ve outgrown the safety seat, they’re ready for the booster seat.
Important points to remember about booster seats:
- It must be used with the belt that secures the lap and shoulders, not just a lap belt.
- The lap belt should lay low across the child’s upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder harness should fit comfortably across the child’s shoulder and chest, not their neck and face.
- If it has a back, the top of the child’s ears shouldn’t be above the back.
- If you’re using a backless booster seat, make sure the vehicle’s head restraint is in the correct position.
- Keep it in place with the vehicle’s seat belt when it’s not being used.
Ages 8 to 12
As children get older, they’ll eventually outgrow the belt-positioning booster seat and be able to fit properly in an adult belt.
Important points to remember about children in this age range:
- The vehicle lap belt still needs to lay low across the top part of the thighs instead of the stomach. The shoulder belt should fit across the shoulders and chest, not the neck or face.
- Their back and hips should be against the back of the vehicle seat, but the child shouldn’t be hunched over.
- Their knees should bend over the front edge of the seat comfortably, and the feet should rest on the floor.
What to consider while buying car seats at the different stages of a child’s life in Illinois?
- Be aware of the laws and monitor your child’s weight so you’ll know when it’s time for a new car seat.
- Register the car seat right away so you can receive information about recall notices.
- Make sure you use the car seat correctly so your child will be safe in it.
Important Info to remember about Illinois car seat laws
- It’s against the law for anyone to willfully cause or allow any child under the age of 18 to be endangered or be placed in a situation that endangers their health or life. The only exception is that it’s not against the law for a person to give up a child, according to the Abandoned Newborn Protection Act.
- Anyone who leaves a child six years old or younger unattended in a motor vehicle for more than 10 minutes is violating the law. This means the child is either not with someone 14 years of age or older, or they’re out of sight of that person. If either of those two situations is true, the adult has committed a Class A misdemeanor. They could spend up to one year in jail and pay a $2,500 fine. If they violate the law a second time, they’ve committed a class 3 felony; they face 2-5 years in prison and may have to pay as much as $25,000.
- If a child dies because the adult endangered their life, they’ve committed a class 3 felony; they may spend from 2 to 10 years in prison.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is the age and weight for booster seats in Illinois?
Children who are 8 to 12 years old and weigh less than 80 pounds.
What are the height and weight requirements for booster seats in Illinois?
Children who weigh less than 80 pounds and are less than 4’9″ tall should use a booster seat. Once they reach these height and weight requirements they’ll be able to ride in an adult seat.
When can a child use a backless booster seat?
Backless booster seats can be used at the same age regular booster seats can. They should only be used if the child is riding in a vehicle that has head restraints that are tall enough to protect the child’s head and neck. Remember to always use a lap belt and shoulder harness with backless booster seats, not just a shoulder harness by itself.
What should I use if my vehicle doesn’t have head restraints or if they aren’t tall enough to fit my child’s head and neck?
Use a high-back belt-positioning booster seat instead. Make sure you use it with the vehicle’s combination belt.
What if my vehicle only has lap belts?
In this case, it would be better to use the lap-only safety belt with no booster seat; just make sure it’s low and snug on the thighs.
When can I put my child in a front-facing seat?
Children can go in a front-facing seat when they weigh at least 40 pounds.
At what age can a child sit in the front seat in Illinois?
Children can sit in the front seat when they’re 13 years old. Remember that both belts need to fit the child correctly in order for them to sit in the front seat.
What about when my child rides on a bus or train in the State of Illinois?
According to buckleupillinos.org, vehicles weighing more than 9000 pounds are exempt from child passenger safety requirements.
How can I find out if my child’s safety seat has been recalled?
Contact the seat manufacturer or visit the website for information. The contact information can be found on one of the labels on the safety seat. You can also call 888-DASH-2-DOT, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s auto safety hotline, or visit the NHTSA website. If your car seat is more than 10 years old, the NHTSA website may not have information on recalls for it.
What should I do if my child’s car seat is recalled?
The problem might be small, but if it’s major, get it fixed right away. If you that’s your only safety seat, keep using it if you can. It’s almost always safer to use a recalled car seat than it is to allow a child to ride in a car using a safety belt. Have it fixed as soon as possible, buy another safety seat, and/or follow the manufacturer’s instructions to keep using the safety seat. You could also ask a friend or family member if they have a seat you can borrow while you’re getting your car seat fixed.
How do I get more information about future recall notices?
Register your child’s safety seat with the manufacturer. If your child’s safety seat is older, give their hotline a call at 888-DASH-2-DOT (888-327-4236) or call the company that made it to find out how to register it. When you register it, the company will be able to send you notices about recalls. If you move, let the manufacturer know.
Where can I find more information on Illinois car seat laws?
Here are a few more resources you can check out:
- Drivinglaws.org has a summary of Illinois child restraint laws, the penalties, types of restraints, how to register your seat or recall notices, and when a child seat needs to be replaced.
- The Illinois State Police website as a summary of the Child Passenger protection act and answers some frequently asked questions about it.
Why is Essential to Be Aware of The Laws of Illinois?
The state of Illinois constantly updates its car seat laws to make sure children are safe, so it’s important to stay current. Being aware of the different laws in Illinois will help you keep children safe as they get older. Make sure to frequently check the State of Illinois website and make sure you take all the necessary steps if your child’s safety seat is recalled.