Car seats won’t prevent accidents, but they can prevent serious accident injuries when used correctly. A car seat could even save your child’s life in a catastrophic crash. Accordingly, it is important to understand what seat your children should be in according to their age, size, and requirements of Illinois law.
Illinois Car Seat Laws
Each state has its own car seat laws. Illinois law changed in 2019 to reflect the American Academy of Pediatrics guidance that children should remain in rear-facing car seats for as long as possible.
As of January 2019, the Illinois Child Passenger Protection Act requires parents and drivers to make sure that children:
- Under the age of two are in rear-facing car seats. From birth until age two, children should ride in rear-facing car seats. However, exceptions may be made to this rule if the child weighs more than 40 pounds or is more than 40 inches tall. Rear-facing car seats help protect a baby’s head, neck, and spine in a crash.
- Under the age of eight are secured in appropriate child restraint systems. Depending on the child’s age and size, this may include a rear-facing car seat, a forward-facing car seat, or a booster seat. At all times, the child restraint system must fit the child, fit the vehicle, and be used according to the car seat manufacturer’s guidelines.
All car seats should be anchored in the back seat of the vehicle, and it is recommended that all children aged 12 and under ride in the back seat even when they outgrow the need for a booster seat. Remember, if your child is smaller than average or has special needs, then there may be additional ways to keep your child safe in the car.
How to Install a Car Seat Safely
After you purchase the right car seat for your child’s age and size, you need to install it correctly so that it provides the expected protection. Installation may be complicated, and many car seats are installed incorrectly. You can prevent this unnecessary risk to your child by:
- Reading the instructions carefully. Each manufacturer has different instructions for car seat installation.
- Scheduling an inspection through the Illinois Keep Me in a Safe Seat Program. You can schedule your child safety seat inspection by completing this form.
Additionally, the harness may need to be adjusted to properly fit the child each time the child gets in the car. The harness clip should be about even with the child’s underarms, and the harness straps should be at the correct shoulder level for the car seat. Similarly, children in a booster seat should have the lap part of the seat belt across their thighs and the shoulder part of the seat belt across the shoulder and chest.
Additional Tips for Child Safety
Choosing the right car seat and making sure that it is installed properly can help protect your child, but there is more that you can do. You may also:
- Make sure the car seat is not more than six years old or past the expiration date found on the bottom of the seat
- Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible, in a forward-facing seat with a harness as long as possible, and then a booster seat as long as possible
- Register the car seat with the car seat manufacturer so that you are automatically notified of any recalls.
- Be careful about having toys, mirrors, or unsecured cargo in the vehicle because it could become a projectile and harm your child if you stop suddenly or you are involved in a crash
- Replace your child’s car seat after a moderate or severe accident
Illinois Law Places the Responsibility on the Driver and Parents
Whether you are the child’s parent or you are the one transporting the child, you have a responsibility to make sure that the child is in a proper car seat or seat belt according to Illinois law. The Illinois Child Passenger Protection Act requires that every driver:
- Transporting a child under the age of eight ensures that the child is in an appropriate child restraint system. For older children, this may include a booster seat.
- Transporting a child between the ages of eight and sixteen makes sure that the child is wearing a seat belt at all times when the vehicle is moving.
According to the law, however, it is the parent who is responsible for providing the right type of car seat, and it is the driver who is responsible for making sure that the child is correctly secured in the vehicle.
Drivers who violate the Child Passenger Protection Act may face financial penalties for violating the law. According to current law:
- A first offense may result in a ticket of $75 and court supervision if the driver presents to the court evidence from a child safety seat technician that the driver has a properly installed child restraint system and has completed an instructional course on how to install the system.
- A second offense is a petty offense with a potential fine of $200. Court supervision is not an option after a second offense.
However, the penalties may be far steeper and extend far beyond financial penalties if a child is hurt or dies because of an accident in your vehicle. If this happens to a child in your car, then you may bear the emotional trauma of the child’s death, and you could face a personal injury or wrongful death case. You, or your insurance company, may be responsible for paying financial damages for the child’s injuries or death. These damages may include but are not limited to past and future medical costs, out-of-pocket expenses, physical pain, emotional suffering, and other damages that occurred because of the accident.
To learn more about keeping your child safe in the right car seat, please talk to your pediatrician or local police department. Additionally, we encourage you to contact our Illinois car accident lawyers for a free consultation if someone else’s negligence caused your child’s car accident injury or death.