In the United States, children are needlessly injured or killed in car accidents due to not being properly restrained while riding in a motor vehicle.
To prevent these tragedies, states have implemented specific laws regarding how and when children need to be restrained using car seats, booster seats, and standard safety belts. For example, in Illinois, car seat laws are included in the Illinois Child Passenger Protection Act.
Illinois car seat laws require that all children under age 8 be properly secured according to their height and weight. Children under age two must be secured in an approved rear-facing car seat; unless they are over 40 pounds or 40 inches tall, they must sit in a car seat or booster.
- Illinois Car Seat Laws
- Rear-Facing Infant Car Seat Law for Newborns to Age Two
- Illinois Car Seat Height and Weight Requirements
- Illinois Car Seat Laws for Children Ages Two to Four
- Illinois Car Seat Law for Children Ages Four to Eight
- When Can a Child Sit Without a Booster Seat in Illinois?
- What are the Car Seat Laws for Pickup Trucks in Illinois?
- Illinois Car Seat Laws for Uber or Taxi Rides
- Illinois Leaving a Child Unattended Law
- Useful Resources
- Safety Seat Fitting Assistance and Inspections
- Free Car Seat Programs in Illinois
- Other Information Resources
Illinois Car Seat Laws
Like most other states, Illinois has a very specific set of guidelines defining how to properly restrain children while they ride in passenger vehicles. The Illinois Child Passenger Protection Act is the primary legislation that mandates the various car seat laws within the state.
The law states that all children under the age of eight must be properly secured in an appropriate and federally-approved child safety restraint system. The type of restraint system depends on the child’s age, height, and weight.
Restraint systems may include rear-facing car seats, front-facing car seats, booster seats used with a lap and shoulder safety belt, or the vehicle’s safety belt system. Approved child restraint systems are defined by the standards of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
In January 2009, the law was amended to include an additional requirement for small children under the age of two. Children that are under two must be properly secured in a rear-facing car seat unless they’re 40” tall or taller or if they weigh 40 or more pounds.
Rear-Facing Infant Car Seat Law for Newborns to Age Two
On January 1, 2019, Illinois updated the Child Passenger Protection Act to include a requirement for newborns, infants, and small children up to the age of two.
Not every state includes a requirement for car seats to be rear-facing, but Illinois law now stipulates that children under the age of two be properly secured in a rear-facing child restraint system.
The only exceptions to this rule are if the child weighs 40 pounds or more or if they are 40 inches tall (or taller). Children must remain in a rear-facing car seat until they reach age two or until they reach the 40-pound or 40-inch threshold.
Illinois Car Seat Height and Weight Requirements
|Age||Birth to Age 2|
|Weight||Less than 40 pounds|
|Height||Less than 40 inches|
|Car Seat Type||Infant Seat, Convertible Seat, or All-in-One|
|Car Seat Direction||Rear-facing only|
Typically, rear-facing car seats are marketed as “infant car seats,” but they may also be convertible car seats. In any case, you must have a seat that is designed for rear-facing installation, not a standard front-facing car seat that’s improperly installed to face toward the back.
Keep these other safety guidelines in mind when dealing with a rear-facing car seat for an infant or small child:
- Never place your rear-facing child seat in a seat equipped with an airbag.
- Ensure that the rear-facing seat is installed at the appropriate recline angle.
- You may need to leave at least one-inch or more below the top of the safety seat for your child’s head when it’s placed in the rear-facing position.
- Harness straps should be at or below the child’s shoulders when the seat is in the rear-facing position.
- Ensure harness straps fit snugly on the child with the harness clip at the child’s armpit level.
Even though Illinois law lays out specific guidelines for when a child must be secured in a rear-facing child safety seat, keep in mind that a rear-facing seat placed in the vehicle’s back seat is typically the safest place for your child to ride.
Keep your children in rear-facing safety seats as long as possible, until they reach the seat’s upper weight and/or height limits as stated by the manufacturer. Only once the child outgrows the rear-facing seat should they switch to a forward-facing safety seat.
Illinois Car Seat Laws for Children Ages Two to Four
Once an infant or small child has outgrown their rear-facing child safety seat, it’s time to transition to a front-facing car seat. Children over the age of two must still be secured in an approved car seat, and they should continue to ride in a rear-facing seat for as long as possible.
Illinois Car Seat Height and Weight Requirements
|Car Seat Type||Infant Seat, Convertible Seat, or All-in-One|
|Car Seat Direction||Rear or front-facing, follow manufacturer’s height/weight limits|
Follow your car seat manufacturer’s guidelines for seat positioning based on your child’s height and weight.
Once they reach the upper limit for a rear-facing seat, you can reposition the seat to face forward (if it is a convertible or all-in-one seat). If the car seat is an infant-only seat and not a convertible, you will need to purchase a forward-facing seat for your growing child.
A forward-facing car seat is equipped with a harness and tether system that will help to limit a child’s movement during a car accident which will help reduce the risk of head, neck, or spinal injury.
Forward-facing safety seats should be equipped with a harness restraint system. You should continue to use the seat’s harness system until your child reaches the upper height or weight limits.
In your forward-facing car safety seat, the harness straps should be at or above the child’s shoulders, with the straps fitted snugly on the child. Ensure that the harness clips are at the child’s armpit level.
When seated in a forward-facing car safety seat, the top of your child’s ears should not be higher than the top of the car seat.
Illinois Car Seat Law for Children Ages Four to Eight
Once a child reaches age four, they may be able to sit in a booster seat rather than in a car seat.
However, when you make this transition depends on the child’s height and weight more so than their age. You should continue to follow the seat manufacturer’s upper height and weight limits to guide your decision-making for this change.
Children should continue to sit in a forward-facing car seat for as long as possible. Only once they truly outgrow their car seat should they switch to a booster seat. The booster seat should be a belt-positioning booster that uses the vehicle’s lap and shoulder belts, not just the lap belt alone.
Ensure that the lap belt is positioned across the child’s thighs rather than across the stomach. The shoulder belt should be positioned across the child’s shoulder and chest, not across their neck or face.
If the safety belt is not in the correct position with the booster seat’s positioning design, then the child should not be secured in a booster seat. They should continue to sit in a car seat until they are big enough to wear the seat belt properly with the assistance of a booster.
When Can a Child Sit Without a Booster Seat in Illinois?
Children should continue to use a booster seat for several more years once they outgrow their car seats. Typically, children aged 8 to 12 should still be seated using a booster seat until they’re tall enough to properly fit into a standard lap and shoulder belt restraint system.
When seated in a vehicle, the lap belt should fit low across the child’s upper thighs. If the belt is across the child’s stomach, then they are not seated properly.
The shoulder belt should fit snugly across the child’s chest and shoulder, not across the side of their neck and face. If the seat belt doesn’t fit properly, the child needs to stay in their belt-positioning booster seat a little longer.
The child should also be able to sit back with their back and hips against the vehicle’s seat back without slouching, and their knees bent over the front edge of the vehicle’s seat. If they’re unable to sit properly with the seat belt positioned correctly, they are not big enough to sit without a booster seat.
As a general rule, children should continue to sit in the back seat until they’re at least 13 years old, as the back seat is the safest place for a child to sit. check our more detailed post
What are the Car Seat Laws for Pickup Trucks in Illinois?
It can be confusing to understand the rules related to car seats in pickup trucks, especially if the truck does not have a back seat. However, the laws surrounding car seats and securing children riding in vehicles are the same whether you’re driving a car, truck, or passenger van.
Children should never ride in the bed of a truck. The law prohibits this in all fifty states, including Illinois. All children under the age of eight must be secured in a child safety restraint system.
This could be a car seat, booster seat, or the vehicle’s safety belt, depending on the child’s age, height, and weight.
Infants must be placed in a rear-facing infant or convertible car seat, ideally in the backseat of the vehicle if the truck is an extended cab. If it’s not an extended cab, the seat can go in the rear-facing position in the truck’s front seat.
Once the child has reached the maximum height and weight limits for the rear-facing car seat, then they must sit in a forward-facing car seat that’s secured to the truck’s seat using a LATCH tethering system or the vehicle’s seat belts.
If the child is over 40 pounds, they may be secured using a lap belt only (instead of a booster seat) if the truck seat is not equipped with a lap and shoulder safety belt system. However, if the child weighs less than 40 pounds or is less than 40 inches tall, they must be secured in a rear-facing car seat.
Illinois Car Seat Laws for Uber or Taxi Rides
In some states, car seat laws may not apply to vehicles like taxis or rideshare vehicles such as Uber or Lyft. However, Illinois law does not have those sorts of exceptions. The same laws that apply to any other passenger vehicle apply to children riding in taxis or Uber vehicles.
Parents who bring their small children in a taxi or Uber vehicle in Illinois must ensure that the child is properly secured in a safety restraint system, whether it be a car seat, booster seat, or seat belt, depending on the child’s age and size.
In some areas, Uber offers a car seat option when booking a vehicle. Though there may not always be a car seat vehicle available in your area, it is a feature that Uber offers for a $10 surcharge.
However, you should keep in mind that these vehicles are equipped with one car seat per vehicle, so if you’re traveling with more than one small child, you’ll still be short on car seats.
The alternative is to bring along a travel car seat or a travel booster seat if you’re planning to be on the go with smaller children that will need to be safely restrained in a taxi or rideshare vehicle.
Illinois Leaving a Child Unattended Law
In Illinois, it’s against the law to leave a child aged six or younger unattended in a motor vehicle for more than 10 minutes.
Under the law, “unattended” is defined as a child that’s not accompanied by a person that’s at least 14 years old or if they’re out of sight of a person that’s at least 14 years old.
Violating this law is a Class A misdemeanor, which can be punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. If someone violates the law a second time, it becomes a Class 3 felony, which could be punishable by 2-5 years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine.
There’s nothing more important than keeping your child safe while traveling in a motor vehicle.
The easiest way to do that is to ensure that they’re properly secured in an approved safety restraint system, whether it’s a front-facing car seat, rear-facing car seat, booster seat, or by using the vehicle’s safety belt system when your child is old enough.
Keeping children properly restrained while riding in a car is so important that the state of Illinois provides several free resources. Let’s take a look at some of the helpful resources that are available to you.
Safety Seat Fitting Assistance and Inspections
As part of the “Keep Me In a Safe Seat” program, the Illinois Secretary of State’s office provides free inspections by certified child safety seat technicians all throughout the state.
You can take advantage of these free inspections by visiting one of the state’s fitting stations or filling out the online form to request a seat inspection.
Inspections are available at the following locations:
- Carbondale Driver Services Facility – Carbondale, IL
- Centralia Driver Services Facility – Centralia, IL
- Chicago North Facility – Chicago, IL
- Deerfield Driver Services Facility – Deerfield, IL
- Des Plaines Driver Services Facility – Des Plaines, IL
- Marion Driver Services Facility – Marion, IL
- Mt. Vernon Driver Services Facility – Mt. Vernon, IL
- Nashville Driver Services Facility – Nashville, IL
- Pinckneyville Driver Services Facility – Pinckneyville, IL
- Salem Driver Services Facility – Salem, IL
- Springfield – Dirksen Parkway Driver Services Facility – Springfield, IL
Free Car Seat Programs in Illinois
The Buckle Up Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Program is a Chicago-based program that provides workshops and car seat inspections, installation assistance, and free or reduced-cost car seats to families in need.
To register for workshops or inquire about reduced-cost or no-cost car seats, contact them at email@example.com.
Another option is Grant-A-Wish, Inc., which is another Chicago-based program that works to get necessities (such as car seats) into the hands of families in need. For information about their programs, you can contact them directly.
Stroger Hospital also has a free or low-cost car seat program for families in need. While the car seat program is currently suspended, you should check back often for information about when they might reinstate those services.
Other resources may include your local Salvation Army, local fire stations or police stations, local hospitals, or other local nonprofit organizations.
Remember, you should never use a secondhand car seat unless it’s been thoroughly inspected for safety, you know the seat’s history, and all the labels, parts, and the instruction manual are all still included.
It’s important to know the date that the seat was manufactured, as they do have expiration dates. Car seats that are more than six years old shouldn’t be used without clearance from the manufacturer.
It’s also advisable to register your car seat so that you can be notified of any important safety information or recalls that you need to know about.
Other Information Resources
Here are some other helpful links and resources that you can check out for more information about child safety seats: