Times are changing when it comes to children and car safety. This Q&A gives parents and caregivers answers to important safety questions about keeping kids safe in the car, car seat laws and recommendations, and car seat installation guidance.
What is the current car seat law in Illinois for infants and toddlers?
Children under age 2 must be properly secured in a rear-facing child restraint system, unless the child weighs 40 or more pounds or are 40 or more inches tall. This is according to the Illinois Child Passenger Protection Act, effective January 1, 2019. This can be found on the webpage Child Passenger Safety Requirements: Driver Services.
For newborns and infants, car safety most likely will look like an infant car seat. Rear-facing infant car seats are typically used for babies who weigh up to 22 to 35 lbs and are up to 26 to 35 inches tall. They usually come with a base that can be left in the car and the seat clicks in and out of the base.
For older infants and young toddlers, car safety most likely will be a convertible car seat in the rear-facing position or all-in-one seats in the rear facing position, based on the child’s height and weight. Convertible car seats have a higher limit in rear-facing weight, up to 40-50 lbs which makes them ideal for growing infants or taller infants. All-in-one seats also have higher limits in rear facing weight, up to 40-50 lbs. Both convertible and all-in-one seats can be transitioned to forward facing after age two.
More information about car seat selection can be found on Car Seats: Information for Families.
What is the current car seat law in Illinois for children?
The Illinois Child Passenger Protection Act, effective January 1, 2019, requires that all children under age 8 be properly secured in an appropriate child safety restraint system. This can be found on the webpage Child Passenger Safety Requirements: Driver Services. This includes the use of booster seats for children ages 2-7, which must only be used with a lap/shoulder safety belt. This means that older toddlers, preschoolers, and early elementary-school aged children must use a booster seat or car seat in the car, based on their height and weight.
What are the current car seat recommendations in Illinois for preschoolers and elementary-age children?
The Illinois Child Passenger Protection Act, effective January 1, 2019, requires that all children under age 8 be properly secured in an appropriate child safety restraint system. This can be found on the webpage Child Passenger Safety Requirements: Driver Services. So children ages 2-7 must continue to use car seats or booster seats. However, the type of seat a child needs depends on the child’s age, height, weight, and developmental needs.
For children ages 2-4, it is recommended to keep them in a rear-facing car seat until they are at the upper height or weight limit of the seat. At that time, the child can transition to a forward-facing seat with a harness system.
For children ages 4-7, it is recommended to keep them in a forward-facing car seat that uses a harness system until they are at the upper height or weight limit of the seat. At that time, the child can transition the to a belt-positioning booster seat. Children should stay in a belt positioning booster until they are tall enough to properly fit in an adult lap/shoulder belt. According to HealthyChildren.org’s article Car Seats: Information for Families, most children will not fit in a seat belt alone until 10 to 12 years of age.
More information about car seat and booster seat selection can be found on Car Seats: Information for Families.
How can I make sure my car seat is installed correctly?
First, check that your child is in the appropriate child safety seat by reviewing the age, height, and weight requirements of the seat. Then, carefully follow the directions provided with your car seat when installing the seat. Lastly, go check that it is installed properly in your vehicle by visiting a certified child safety seat technician. You can find a technician at safety seat fitting stations throughout the state of Illinois. This is a free service. Find a technician on the page Child Passenger Safety Requirements: Driver Services [scroll down to the “Safety Seat Fitting Stations” heading, where you will find a list of locations].
How long is too long to leave a child alone in the car?
Never leave a child unattended in a car. This is very dangerous. Cars can heat up quickly. According to HealthyChildren.org’s article Prevent Child Deaths in Hot Cars, heat stroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle related deaths in children. Heat stroke happens when the body is not able to cool itself down.
Make a habit of always checking the back seat to be sure that all children are out of the car before walking away. Putting your purse or bag in the back seat can be one way to remind yourself to look before you lock. Keep car keys away from young children and teach them that inside the car is not a play area. The U.S. Department of Transportation gives parents more tips in Prevent Hot Car Deaths: Check the Back Seat.
- Resource List: Car Safety: In and Out of the Car