In many areas of Illinois and throughout the country, child car safety seats are being installed incorrectly, which causes unnecessary deaths every year. Like many other states, the state of Illinois has made some changes in their policies regarding Illinois car seat laws to make kids even safer. This includes the recommendation of keeping babies in a rear-facing position until the age of two, which is longer than it was in the past. In January of 2019, these and other laws went into effect.
The state also has inspection stations that have experts who will inspect your car seat for free and make sure it meets minimum safety standards.
Laws for Rear-Facing Car Seats
Although it is not required, it is highly recommended that you keep infants in a rear-facing car seat until the age of two. If you have an infant-only car seat, it must be facing the rear of your vehicle, and you can determine how long to use it by following the recommendations set forth by the manufacturer. Most of these car seats are made for babies from 5 lbs. to 30 or 40 lbs., and they should be used as a car seat only and nothing else.
For rear-facing car seats, the baby’s head should be at least one inch below the very top portion of the seat, and the harness clip should always be at armpit level and securely fastened. Babies should remain in this type of car seat until at least one year of age or at the time that is recommended by the manufacturer. Every car seat is made differently, and it is important to pay attention to what the manufacturer recommends for every one of them.
Convertible car seats are also able to face the rear of your vehicle, and they are made to face the front as well, which is why many people choose this type of car seat instead of one that is made only for infants.
Laws for Front-Facing Car Seats
When the child has reached the upper weight and height limits for a rear-facing car seat, he or she can then be placed in a front-facing car seat instead. Most often, children can stay in this type of car seat until they reach approximately 40 lbs., at which time they are likely ready for a booster seat of some type.
Once the child is ready for a front-facing car seat, certain rules apply. These include:
- Make sure the harness is snug and lays on the child’s shoulders, never the arms, because it can throw a baby out of the car seat during a crash if this happens
- Make sure the harness straps fit at or above the child’s shoulders using the reinforced slots; if you aren’t sure which slots are reinforced, simply use the very top slots
- Make sure the harness clips are placed even with the child’s armpits
- Make sure the car seat sits upright at all times and never tilts
In addition, nothing should ever be placed underneath or behind the car seat, including padding or noodles. Also make sure the baby’s head fits one inch or more below the very top portion of the car seat; otherwise, he or she may be ready for another type of car seat or a booster seat.
Laws for Booster Seats
Until your child is 4’9” and weighs roughly 40 lbs., a booster seat is best. Most kids use a booster seat until the age of eight, although some of them remain in these car seats until they are 12 years old. As long as the seatbelt fits properly over the booster seat, the child can be accommodated by it.
There are two main types of booster seats: backless and high-back. The backless booster seat is made to be used with a lap and shoulder seatbelt. If the head restraints in your car are high enough to protect the child’s head and neck, and as long as the seatbelt isn’t a lap belt only, these backless seats will work just fine. Make sure the head restraint is at least as tall as the top part of the child’s ears.
High-back booster seats sit up high and do a great job of protecting the child’s head and neck area. Like the backless booster seat, it should never be used with a lap-only belt, but with a lap and shoulder belt instead. These seats are perfect for cars that do not have any type of head restraint. Another rule to follow: if your child’s ears reach above the seat in your vehicle, you need a booster seat with a high back so that the neck is well-protected.
Once your child has outgrown a front-facing car seat, it is likely time for a booster seat. However, if the booster seat doesn’t seem to secure the child the way it should, it may be best to go back to the front-facing car seat for a bit longer.
Height and Weight Requirements
Illinois car seat laws have no hard-and-fast height and weight requirements, but instead, they recommend that parents follow the recommendations made by the manufacturer of the car seat. They also recommend rear-facing car seats until age two and front-facing car seats until the child is at least 4’9” and weighs a minimum of 40 lbs.
Laws for Seat Belts
Seatbelts are made for adults, so if you’re wondering if your child is ready for standard seatbelts, keep in mind that he or she must:
- Be able to sit without slouching, which requires him or her to be a certain height
- Be able to sit with the knees comfortably bent over the seat
- Be able to keep his or her back against the back of the seat
- Be able to keep both feet on the floor
- Be able to remain in this position for the entire length of the trip
If your child doesn’t fit one of these requirements, he or she is likely not ready to be in a standard seatbelt just yet, so continuing to use your booster seat is recommended. Again, following the directions listed by the car seat’s manufacturer will help guide you when it comes to recommended heights and weights for each seat.