Illinois has what is known as the Child Passenger Protection Act (CPPA) which states that kids below age 8 must be properly secured in a safety restraint system that is appropriate for them – based on their age and their weight. The first question or dilemma asked most often by parents is whether my baby should be facing forward or backwards in their car seat and this is generally followed up by (i) when can I turn the car seat to face forward and then (ii) at what stage can I transfer my child from a car seat to a booster seat.
For newborns and children under age 1 that weigh less than 20 lbs – they need to be placed in a “rear-facing” infant car seat. Hence, your child should be facing the rear of the vehicle. There are a few additional rules to adhere to when installing the infant car seat and one tip that is critical. As a general rule you want to keep your infant in the rear-facing position for as long as possible. This is often difficult for the parent because it’s difficult to see your baby’s face when you’re driving alone in the car with the baby and he or she is facing away from you. A quick Google search will show you a number of inexpensive items you can purchase that are easy to install and will allow you to visualize the baby in the rear-facing position. Next, both the Illinois Secretary of State’s office and your local fire department will inspect your infant car seat installation to ensure that it is safely and properly installed. To schedule your inspection call your closest fire department or the Secretary of State at 866-247-0213.
Once your child eclipses the weight limit for rear-facing you may switch the infant seat to forward facing but please again consult the Illinois Secretary of State or your local fire department to ensure that it is safe to face the seat forward based on age and weight. Below age 2 the seat should be rear-facing.
The CPPA states that at ages 2-4 the child may be placed in a forward-facing seat with harness system. A good tip is to continue to use the same seat for the child that was rear-facing but just turn the seat around. Like the thought process with rear facing, you want to keep your child in the infant car seat for as long as possible before transferring them into the booster chair with lap and shoulder belt. Don’t be in a hurry when considering your child’s safety. Inconvenience is less important than safety!
Make sure to consult the manufacturer of the infant car seat and the booster seat to make sure that your child is in the right seat and to know at what age/weight you should transition the child. An additional person that is good to consult with on these issues is your pediatrician.
Lastly, we understand that parents spend so much time driving their kids from place to place that we sometimes feel more like a taxi service than a parent. Increased time in the car means a greater chance for fender benders and serious accidents. Given your child’s limited ability to articulate how they are feeling following an accident, do not delay in bringing your child to the emergency room to be checked out and then also make a follow up appointment with your pediatrician.
If you were involved in an auto accident, follow these steps to protect your rights and call the experienced Chicago accident attorneys at Stein & Shulman, LLC who have successfully represented those injured in car accidents and who can advise you on your rights and responsibilities. Call us today for your free evaluation at (312) 422-0500.