• Car Seat and Passenger Safety

  • SAFETY BELTS - Basics

    When is a Child Ready for an Adult Safety Belt?

    Safety belts are designed for adults – not small children.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ride in a belt positioning booster seat until the safety belt fits as it would an adult – which could be as long as 12 years old for some children.


    The lap portion of the safety belt must fit low and tight across the upper thighs. The shoulder portion of the safety belt should rest over the center of the shoulder and across the chest.

    To be able to fit in a safety belt, a child must pass this 5-step test:

    • Be tall enough to sit without slouching,

    • Keep his/her back against the vehicle seat back,

    • Keep his/her knees completely bent over the edge of the seat

    • Keep his/her feet flat on the floor, and 

    • Be able to stay comfortably seated this way for the entire trip.


    Lap-only safety belt

    This type of safety belt has two anchor points and should fit over the lap (thighs and hips).  The sole function of the lap-only safety belt is to hold the passenger in the vehicle.  It is the least desirable type of safety belt because it does not give any upper body protection and should not be used unless absolutely necessary.   A lap-only safety belt does work well to install some child safety seats.  Contact your vehicle manufacturer to find out if the lap-only safety belt can be retrofitted with a combination lap and shoulder safety belt. 

    Combination lap and shoulder safety belt

    This type of safety belt has three anchor points and should contact the body over one shoulder and fit over the lap (thighs and hips).  The shoulder part of the safety belt gives protection to the upper body, keeping the head, neck and spinal cord protected.  This type of safety belt is safer than a lap-only safety belt. 

    Never put the shoulder portion of the safety belt under the child's arm or behind the child's back. This can cause severe internal injuries in a crash. If the safety belt does not fit properly the child should use a belt-positioning booster seat.

    Always check safety belt fit on the child in every vehicle. A belt-positioning booster seat may be needed in some vehicles and not in others.

    NOTE: ALWAYS read and follow the child safety seat instructions and the vehicle owner's manual. Don't rush your child into a safety belt too soon! Make sure the safety belt fits properly before taking your child out of his booster seat. REMEMBER: The Back Seat is Best – up to age 13.

    What About Aftermarket Belt-Positioning Products?

    Devices advertised to improve safety belt fit for older children and adults are presently not covered by government safety standards. These products are not recommended. They may help to improve the comfort of the shoulder portion of the safety belt but at the same time they may cause the lap portion of the safety belt to be placed over the soft tissues of the body possibly resulting in serious injury. Belt-positioning booster seats are the best solution for children who are too small for the adult safety belt.

    Illinois Child Passenger Protection Act

    The Child Passenger Protection Act requires that all children under age 8 be properly secured in an appropriate child safety restraint system. This includes the use of booster seats, which must only be used with a lap/shoulder safety belt. If the back seat of the vehicle is not equipped with lap/shoulder type safety belts, a child weighing more than 40 pounds may be transported in the back seat without a booster seat, secured with a lap belt only.

    Child Safety Seat Guidelines

    Always read and follow the child safety seat and vehicle manufacturer’s instructions for installation and height/weight guidelines.

    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.

    Ages 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.

    Child Passenger Safety Tips

    • Keep children in rear-facing safety seats as long as possible.
    • Keep children in the back seat at least through age 12.
    • Never place a rear-facing safety seat in front of an active airbag.
    • A used safety seat may not be safe unless you know the history of the seat and all labels, parts and instructions are present.
    • Always register your safety seat with the manufacturer so you can be notified of recalls.
    • Do not use a safety seat that is more than six years old or past the expiration date stamped on the seat.
    • Non-regulated products such as toys attached to the safety seat, mirrors, window shades and belt tightening tools are not recommended unless the safety seat manufacturer allows their use.
    • All objects in the vehicle should be stowed in the trunk or tied down, as they can become projectiles if a crash or sudden stop occurs.

    Child Safety Seat Programs

    The Secretary of State’s office offers educational presentations in an effort to ensure the protection and safety of our children on Illinois roadways. This program can be tailored to your group size and time allotment and is subject to technician availability. The different types of safety seats, basic safety seat installation, crash dynamics, child passenger safety laws and the importance of proper seat belt use will be discussed. To schedule a Child Passenger Safety Presentation, please fill out the Traffic Safety Program Request form and select Child Passenger Safety Presentation or call 866-247-0213.

    Safety Seat Fitting Stations

    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. I encourage you to schedule a visit at one of these fitting stations to ensure that your child is in the appropriate child safety seat and that it is installed properly in your vehicle. To schedule a child safety seat inspection, please fill out the Request a Child Safety Seat Inspection form or call 866-247-0213.

    • Belleville Driver Services Facility — 400 W. Main, Belleville, IL 62220
    • Carbondale Driver Services Facility — 2516 W. Murphysboro Rd., Carbondale, IL 62901
    • Centralia Driver Services Facility — 418 S. Poplar, Centralia, IL 62801
    • Deerfield Driver Services Facility — Lake Cook Plaza, 405 Lake Cook Rd., A6-9, Deerfield, IL 60015
    • Des Plaines Driver Services Facility — 1468 Lee St., Des Plaines, IL 60018
    • Lombard Driver Services Facility — Eastgate Shopping Center,837 S. Westmore B27, Lombard, IL 60148
    • Marion Driver Services Facility — 1905 Rendleman St., Marion, IL 62959
    • Melrose Driver Services Facility — Melrose Crossing Shopping Center, 1903 N. Mannheim Rd., Melrose Park, IL 60160
    • Mt. Vernon Driver Services Facility — 320 E. Main St., Mt. Vernon, IL 62864
    • Nashville Driver Services Facility — 480 N. Kaskaskia St., Nashville, IL 62263
    • Salem Driver Services Facility — 1375 W. Whittaker, Salem, IL 62881
    • Springfield - Klein and Mason Driver Services Facility — 316 N. Klein, Springfield, IL 62702

    Endangering the Life or Health of a Child and Leaving a Child Unattended In a Car

    • It is unlawful for any person to willfully cause or permit the life or health of a child under the age of 18 to be endangered or to willfully cause or permit a child to be placed in circumstances that endanger the child's life or health, except that it is not unlawful for a person to relinquish a child in accordance with the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act.
    • A person who leaves a child 6 years of age or younger unattended in a motor vehicle for more than 10 minutes is in violation of the law.
    • Unattended means either: not accompanied by a person 14 years of age or older; or if accompanied by a person 14 years of age or older, out of sight of that person.
    • A violation of this Section is a Class A misdemeanor which means up to one year in jail and up to a $2,500 fine.
    • A second violation is a Class 3 felony meaning 2 to 5 years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine.
    • A violation that causes the death of the child is a Class 3 felony for which a person, if sentenced to prison, shall be sentenced to a term of two years and up to 10 years.


    Cyber Drive Illinois

    Buckle Up Illinois