Are you Breaking the Law? Child Seat Safety Guidelines

Toddler boy next to infant baby girl in Graco Snugride 35 car seat

Strapping your child in a car seat or buckling their seat belt seems like an easy task however can be challenging. Who else has used this excuse..we are just going a couple blocks? Many parents have admitted that at some point they have let their child ride in a vehicle improperly restrained. If caught, the fine for failing to properly restrain a child is $75 for the first offense and $200 for second offense.

The Child Passenger Protection Act requires that all children under age 8 to be properly secured in an appropriate child safety restraint system. In 2014, an estimated 252 lives were saved by the use of child restraints. When properly used, child safety seats reduce the risk of death by 71% for infants and by 54% for toddlers (1-4 years old).

Here are the Child Safety Seat Guidelines according to Cyber Drive of Illinois:

Newborn - 12 months

Children under age 1 and weighing less than 20 pounds should always ride in a rear-facing infant seat or a convertible seat used rear-facing.

  • Never install a rear-facing safety seat in front of an active airbag.

  • Rear-facing safety seats should recline 30-45 degrees.

  • The child’s head must be at least 1 inch below the top of the safety seat when rear-facing.

  • Use the harness straps/slots at or below shoulder level when rear-facing.

  • Harness straps must be snug on the child; the harness clip should be at armpit level.

Age 1-4

Children should remain in a rear-facing safety seat until age 2, or until they are at the upper height or weight limit of the seat. When a child out- grows a rear-facing safety seat, he or she may transition to a forward-facing seat with a harness system.

  • Use the internal harness system until the upper height or weight limit is reached.

  • Use harness straps/slots at or above shoulder level when forward-facing.

  • Harness straps must be snug on the child; the harness clip should be at armpit level.

  • The top of the child’s ears should not be above the top of the car seat when forward-facing.

Ages 4-8


Children should be secured in a forward-facing safety seat with an internal harness system until they reach the upper height or weight limit allowed by the car seat manufacturer. When a child outgrows the forward-facing seat, he or she may transition to a belt-positioning booster seat.

  • Booster seats must be used with the vehicle’s lap and shoulder belt, never just a lap belt.

  • The lap belt should lie low across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should rest snugly across the shoulder and chest, not across the neck or face.

  • The top of the child’s ears should not be above the top of the back of a booster seat with a back.

  • If using a backless booster seat, the vehicle’s head restraint must be positioned properly.

  • Secure the booster seat with the vehicle’s seat belt when not in use.

Ages 8-12


Children should stay in a belt-positioning booster seat until they are tall enough to properly fit in an adult lap/shoulder belt.

  • The vehicle lap belt must lie low across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should rest snugly across the shoulder and chest, not across the neck or face.

  • The child’s back and hips should be against the back of the vehicle seat, without slouching.

  • Knees should bend easily over the front edge of the vehicle seat with the feet flat on the floor.

In the event of a car crash having your child properly restrained in their seat could save their life. The Secretary of State’s office provides child safety seat inspections by certified child safety seat technicians at many Driver Services facilities throughout the state through its Keep Me In a Safe Seat Program. Here are the facilities in Southern Illinois:

  • Carbondale Driver Services Facility
  • Centralia Driver Services Facility
  • Marion Driver Services Facility
  • Mt. Vernon Driver Services Facility
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