Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Illinois Child Seat Laws

What are the laws for child seats in Illinois?

JD just turned 8 last month so I wondered, does he still need to be in a booster?

The answer is not cut-and-dry. It's a matter of size and fit.

Here's the verbage from Illinois's website:

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 JD's case, the belt does lay properly across his lap and chest. What I don't understand is the last line:
Knees should bend easily over the front edge of the vehicle seat with the feet flat on the floor.

I understand the first half: the kid shouldn't have to slouch to bend his knees nor should his legs be extended forward. JD's legs are long enough to get the 90 degree bend but his feet don't touch the floor in my Honda Pilot but they do in Wife's coupe.

The second half of that statement made me curious. Why would his feet have to be flat on the floor? His feet certainly wouldn't be flat on the floor with a booster. Why this requirement? 

In writing this, my logic led me to think that, if the thighs are long enough to have a 90 degree bend, then the shins should be proportionately long to extend down to the floor. That train of thought is purely speculation, though.

So I actually did some actual journalism. After calling a couple of numbers, I got the number to Kathleen Widmer who works for the Cook County division of the Illinois Secretary of State (312) 814-2905. She said, "the feet touching the ground is ideal. In some trucks and SUVs, that isn't possible. Just make sure that the lap belt goes over the thighs and the shoulder belt is over the chest, not the face or neck. The problem is when a child has to slouch to fit in the seat, that can cause the seat belt not to fit properly."

So, in the end, the correct answer is to check to see that the child fits properly in the seat and seat belt. While your 8-year-old may be begging to get out of his booster seat, this may be a time to say no to avoid strangulation or decapitation in the event of a collision.

If you have questions, first visit the Illinois Secretary of State website. If that doesn't provide all of the answers, call Kathleen.