Car seat laws

What Are Illinois Car Seat Laws?

If you are a new resident of Illinois, knowing the local laws is a must. They avoid awkward conversations with local police and ensure your kids are safe. Below, we are going to start with the basics:

First, know that all children under the age of two need to be in a rear-facing car seat. Once they get older (or they weigh over 40 lbs), they will transition to a front-facing car seat. After this, children should follow the weight and height limits suggested by car seat manufacturers. 

Below, we will dig a bit further into transitionary ages from rear-facing, front-facing, and booster. We will also discuss seatbelt laws and various techniques that you can use to ensure your child stays safe. 

Phase One: Rear-Facing Car Seats

The first phase of an infant is the rear-facing face. We choose “rear-facing” car seats because of the tenderness of their little heads. If an accident does happen, they are most likely to jolt forward. If they jolt forward into a cushion, it provides them with the support they need.

The Child Passenger Protection Act of Illinois requires all children under the age of two to be in a rear-facing seat. The only exception is if your two-year-old weighs over 40 pounds or is over 40 inches tall, which is highly unlikely. So unless you have a big baby, stick to the two-year guidelines.

After they go beyond the two-year-limit, they can move onto the next phase: front-facing boosters.

Phase Two: Front-Facing Car Seats

Children between the ages of two and four are typically those who use front-facing car seats. At this stage, the manufacturer’s details will be incredibly important. Much like with rear-facing seats, it is your job to pay attention to the manufacturer’s limit. 

You will also be introduced to your first five-point harness, a specialized child restraint system that prevents them from getting into any awkward positions. They are secured at five different locations, ensuring that their body will not slip through a standard seat belt. 

While we mention “years” a lot in this section, I want to stress to you the importance of height and weight. In many cases, high-backed boosters can support children up to 65 pounds. That means you need to be paying more attention to height and weight instead of age. 

This brings us to our third phase: booster seats.

Phase Three: Booster Seats

At this point, you should be proud of your kids for coming this far. Hug them and start crying over memories of them being really little. Once you get to this point, they are mature enough to stop trying to squeeze out of their car seat and almost big enough for a standard seat belt. 

While we suggest looking at the manufacturer’s limit, the height limit is typically 4’9 inches. You should tell visually that they still need a booster seat, as the lap band and shoulder pad won’t look right on them. 

A booster ensures that the lap band is located across their waist and shoulder, just as it would appear on an adult body. Pay attention to the manufacturer’s limits when using a booster seat. They remain in the back seat at this point, as the airbags will explode in their face and cause a concussion. 

Once they exceed your booster’s height and weight limit, it is finally time to move onto the last phase.

Final Phase: Regular Seat Belt

At this point, they are larger than 4’9” and will fit in any standard shoulder belt and lap belt. That means you have finally done it, and you can safely transition them to adulthood. 

To be sure that your seatbelt is on there properly, you should compare it to how you see it on a standard adult. The shoulder belt should be located firmly on the shoulder. You should not see it rub against the neck at all. 

The lap band should be stretched across your child’s thighs. It should be as firm as your seatbelt and basically in the same position. If the seat belt without the booster seat does not look quite right, you may need to wait for another growth spurt. 

Many of these are based on the bare-minimum Illinois legal requirements. Below, we are going to dig into more of the legal aspects of transitioning between each seat. 

The Illinois Department Of Transportation Legal Requirements For Children In Car Seats

Illinois requires all children below the age of eight to be in some child restraint system. The system needs to be age-appropriate, such as children under two remaining in rear-facing seats. 

Many of your issues can be resolved for visual observation, but the IDOT (Illinois Department Of Transportation) and federal regulations are the same. This means you should follow the following bare-minimum rules:

  • Children two and younger need to be in rear-facing seats
  • Children between two and four need to be in front-facing seats 
  • Children aged five and up can be considered for belt-assisted boosters and backless boosters
  • Children age eight and up should be in a booster in most cases but can be in a standard belt. 

Illinois follows suit when it comes to these requirements. Car seat manufacturers also must follow those same requirements, so by following the instructions included with your booster, you can ensure your child’s safety. 

To make this less complicated, you should consider purchasing a convertible car seat. A three-in-one car send tends to include the most important stages in your child’s development: rear-facing, front-facing, and booster. Check the advertisements for car seats to ensure that you only have to make one purchase.

What Are The Punishments For Not Following Car Seat Laws For Illinois?

If you do not follow the minimum car seat requirements in Illinois, you can run into some major potential punishments. Below are a few examples:

  • Fines leading up to $2500 for the first offense of child endangerment
  • Fines up to $25,000 for a second offense
  • Having a class A misdemeanor on your record
  • Rescinding of your driver’s license 
  • The need to prove you have purchased an appropriate child restraint system in court 
  • In extreme cases, you can lose your children 

It isn’t prudent to forget to put on your own seatbelt. However, it is much more understandable to forget yourself over forgetting about your child. 

However, child endangerment is considered to be an extreme form of child neglect. So if you don’t properly secure your child in the car seat, the state can step in. 

Tips And Tricks To Ensure You Go Above And Beyond Illinois Child Car Seat Laws

Check out these quick tips that you can use to ensure your child is secure in your car seat.

Make Sure The Car Seat Does Not Move

The “quarter-inch” rule of car seats dictates that you should not be able to move your car seat if it is secured properly easily. If you can move your car seat more than a ½ inch, you need to secure it, so it is not as easily moved. Ensure everything connecting the seat to the car is secure before moving on.

Ensure That You Do Not Have A Twisted Harness

If your harness is twisted around your child’s shoulders, it is not properly secured. Take your child out of the car seat and find out where the harness may have started twisting. Feel your hands along with it until you find the culprit, untwisting it before placing your child back in the seat.

Check Your Car Seat’s Expiration Date

Believe it or not, car seats do expire. Check the tags underneath to see if it has gone beyond the allowable expiration date. An expired car seat is more liable to break if an accident occurs, putting your kid in an unsafe situation.

Check The Manufacturer’s Weight Limit

Your manufacturer will have a clear weight limit signaling when moving your child to the next transition. This is especially important for infants, as their weight limits can sometimes be incredibly low. Don’t be afraid to be picky when it comes to your child’s safety. 

Know-How To Install Your Child’s Car Seat

The first step in ensuring your child’s safety is to make sure you install their car seat properly. Check out the video below to learn how:


Illinois car seat laws are about on par when it comes to federal specifics. Thankfully, most car seat manufacturers are already aware of these requirements, so they can make it easy on us. 

Always stay up to date with the latest legal changes in the world. There is no telling when Illinois will change the game on us. 

The best advice I can give you is always to overestimate your safety needs. Experts suggest keeping children in rear-facing car seats as long as possible. Also, paying more attention to the weight and height limits is a huge safety difference-maker.  

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