Illinois Car Seat Laws
Children must be safely secured inside of a moving vehicle. Parents and guardians must ensure that their children are properly secured with a seat belt or booster seat. Failing to do this could result in a traffic violation and fines. Additionally, failure to properly secure a child could result in significant injuries in a car accident.
Why Car Seats Matter
According to information available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we can see that approximately 600 children aged 12 and younger lost their lives in motor vehicle accidents across the US during the latest reporting year. Additionally, more than 63,000 children in that age range sustained injuries. Of the children who lost their lives in an accident that year, the CDC says that 38% were not restrained. Car seat usage does save lives, which is why laws have been passed in every state regarding these safety devices. Which ultimately led to a change in how seat belts are used since the 1990s.
What Illinois Says About Car Seat Safety
The Illinois Child Passenger Protection Act says that any child under the age of eight should be properly secured in a child safety restraint system. This can include traditional car seats as well as booster seats. In the event the back of a vehicle does not have a lap/shoulder type of safety belt, children weighing more than 40 pounds can be transported in the back seat with no booster seat and secured only with the lap belt.
Newborn to 2 years old
Illinois law requires every child under the age of two to be secured in a rear-facing child restraint system unless they weigh more than 40 pounds or are at least 40 inches tall. Children should remain in a rear-facing child seat until they reach two years of age.
Children ages 2 to 4 years old
Children ages 2 to 4 should remain in the rear-facing child seat as long as possible, or at least until they reach 40 pounds or at least 40 inches in height. When the child outgrows their rear-facing child safety seat, they can transition to forward-facing car seats that have a harness system.
Children ages 4 to 8 years old
Children ages 4 to 8 must be secured in a forward-facing safety seat until they reach the upper weight and height limits allowed by the car seat manufacturer. When the child outgrows the forward-facing car seat, they can transition to a booster seat that uses the lap/shoulder belt.
Children ages 8 to 12 years old
Children should remain in their booster seats until they are tall enough to fit properly in the adult lap/shoulder belt system.
Common Injuries After a Crash Without a Car Seat
When a child is not placed into a proper car seat that is required by law, serious injuries could occur if an accident happens. Some of the most common child injuries associated with vehicle accidents without a car seat include:
- A more severe spinal cord injury
- Traumatic brain injury
- Skull fractures
- Facial injuries
- Fractured or dislocated bones
- Internal bleeding or organ damage
- Major lacerations or puncture wounds
A car seat will not prevent all injuries that could occur as a result of a vehicle accident. However, information available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that car seats reduce the risk of injury to children in a car crash by 71% to 82% when compared to seat belt use alone. Additionally, booster seats reduce the risk of serious injury in children aged 4 through 8 by 45%.
Who Can Help You With a Car Seat in Illinois?
National Child Passenger Safety Week was in September, and during that month, the Illinois Department of Transportation issued a press release encouraging parents and guardians to have their child’s car safety seats checked to ensure they meet current safety standards. These checks can also help ensure that the car seat is installed properly, and certified car seat checkers can help parents learn more about the requirements for children of different ages and sizes.
The IDOT Director of Highways Project Implementation, Steve Travia, says, “We know parents and caregivers prioritize their children’s safety, so we are sponsoring car seat checks with certified child passenger safety technicians who can help them ensure their child is as safe as possible in their booster or car seat.”
The DOT even hosted A statewide event called “Seat Check Saturday,” where they set up 92 car seat checks throughout the state. During these checks, technicians provided information to parents about how to properly install their car seats. They also stressed the importance of registering the car seats with the manufacturers so parents can receive notifications in the event there is a safety recall for the seat.
Even outside of that week, parents and guardians can schedule a child safety seat inspection by filling out the Request a Child Safety Seat Inspection form or calling 866-247-0213. There are various safety seat inspection centers throughout the state, and setting up a free inspection can help improve safety for your child and decrease the risk of them sustaining a severe injury in the event an accident occurs.
Penalties for Failing to Use a Proper Safety Seat
Under the Illinois Child Passenger Protection Act, any adult who fails to properly restrain a child in an appropriate safety seat could face a $75 fine for a first offense. Offenders will be eligible for court supervision if they provide documented proof from a child safety seat technician that the seat has subsequently been properly installed. Individuals will have to take an instructional course on the installation of the safety seat. Any subsequent violations of this law will result in a petty offense that comes with a $200 fine with no eligibility for court supervision.
Child Seat Safety Tips for Parents
The state of Illinois provides this wonderful guideline that can help provide a reminder for parents about the type of seat their child should be in when they are in the vehicle. Illinois does provide a Keep Me In a Safe Seat Program where parents can go to facilities throughout the state for inspections by certified car safety seat technicians. To schedule a safety seat inspection, you can fill out a Request a Child Safety Seat Inspection form.