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Kevin O'Flaherty

An early 2000s study found that over one half of Illinois car seat users had been using car incorrectly. To combat this issue, the Child Passenger Protection Act was passed to protect the health and safety of children through the proper use of approved child restraint systems. In this article, we discuss the various stages of the graduated child safety restraint system including:

  • Car Seat Requirements by Age
  • Car Seat Violations and Fines
  • Illinois Car Safety Tips
  • Assistance with Car Seats in Illinois  

The Illinois Child Passenger Protection Act lays out child safety guidelines for children in vehicles, and the penalties for violation of those guidelines. Anyone transporting children in a qualifying non-commercial vehicle in the State of Illinois is subject to these laws.

Requirements by Age

According to section 4 of the Child Passenger Protection Act, “child restraint system” means “any device which meets the standards of the United States Department of Transportation designed to restrain, seat or position children, which also includes a booster seat.” An example of a typical progression of restraint system to maximize safety and compliance with the statute would be:

  1. Rear-facing child restraint system (until outgrown)  
  1. Forward-facing safety seat with internal harness system (until outgrown)
  1. Booster seat (until child meets height and weight requirements to safely use seatbelts)
  1. Seatbelts  

Under the statute, “an appropriate child restraint system” will depend on the child’s age, height, and weight. While it is necessary to keep children under the age of 2 in a rear facing seat, depending on the child’s age, height, and weight, there may be more than one restraint system that is appropriate for the child. Keep in mind that much of what follows is recommendation to maximize safety, some of which may be beyond what is necessary to comply with the statute.  

0-2 years of age:

As of January 1st, 2019, The Child Passenger Protection Act has been amended to require that children under the age of 2 (unless they are 40 pounds or 40 inches tall) must be secured in a rear-facing child restraint system.  

2-8 years of age:

Any child under the age of 8 should be properly secured in “an appropriate child restraint system.”  

The Illinois Department of transportation recommends that children be kept in the rear facing seat as long as possible without the child exceeding the height or weight limit of the seat. A rear-facing safety seat should never be installed in front of an active airbag.

After the child has outgrown the rear-facing child restraint system (ages 2-4), they should be transitioned to a forward-facing safety seat with an internal harness system until the child reaches the upper height or weight limit for it.  

8-12 years of age:

After the child has outgrown the forward-facing safety seat (ages 4-8), a booster seat should be used to position the car’s seat belts on a child until the child is tall and heavy enough to safely use the vehicles lap/shoulder seat belt (ages 8-12). Children ages 12 and under should ride in the back seat of vehicles.  

12 years of age and up:

Once the child can safely use the vehicles lap/shoulder seat belt (ages 12-16), you should still make sure the child is secure, with a property adjusted and fastened seat safety belt.  

The Chicago Police Department recommends the following test to determine if it is appropriate for you child to use the vehicles seatbelt without a restraint system or booster seat.  

Safety Belt Fit Test

  1. Have your child sit all the way back on the vehicle’s seat, and ask yourself the following question – “Do his or her knees bend at the front edge of the seat?” If they bend naturally, go to #2. If they do not, return your child to the booster seat.
  1. Buckle the lap and shoulder belt. Be sure the lap belt lies on the upper legs or hips. If it does, go to #3. If it lies on the stomach, return your child to the booster seat.
  1. Make sure the shoulder belt rests on the shoulder or collarbone. If it does, go to #4. If it is on the face or neck, return your child to the booster seat. NOTE : Never put the shoulder belt under the child’s arm or behind the child’s back.
  1. Check whether your child maintains the correct seating position for as long as you are in the car. If your child slouches or shifts positions so the safety belt touches the face, neck or stomach, return your child to the booster seat.

Car Seat Violations and Fines

First Violation:

  • The first violation of the Child Passenger Protection Act is a Petty Offense punishable by a fine of $75.
  • A person charged with a violation of this act will not be convicted if the person produces evidence of possession of an approved child restraint system and proof of completion of an instruction course on the installation of child restraint system by a certified instructor.  

Second/Subsequent Violations:

  • A second or subsequent violation of this act is a Petty Offense punishable by a fine of $200.

While the fines for violating this statute are not particularly intimidating, endangering the health safety of a child, or a violation of this statute that causes the injury or death of the child could result in far more serious consequences including criminal charges which could result in incarceration.  

If you have been charged under this statute or for another traffic violation, having an attorney to represent you can help you to get the most favorable outcome possible.  

Assistance with Car Seats in Illinois

The Illinois Secretary of State’s office does offer educational programs to assist with car seat setup. During this time, they will review basic installation, crash dynamics and child seat safety laws, etc. The Secretary of State��s office also offers car seat inspections by certified technicians at several locations around the state.  


Leaving a Child Unattended

It is illegal to leave a child in the car for more than 10 minutes unless they are being supervised by someone else of at least age fourteen (14). The first violation of this statute is a Class A misdemeanor. The second violation is a Class 3 felony. It is also illegal to smoke with a child in the car.  

Illinois takes child safety very seriously. Bottom line: Children under the age of twelve (12) should remain in the back seat of all vehicles and children under the age of eighteen (18) need to use a safety restraint at all times. For further information regarding these or any other traffic law matters you have, call our office at (630) 324-6666, or schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys today. You can also fill out our confidential contact form and we will get back to you shortly.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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