Rear-facing restraint now required for Illinois infants

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A change in Illinois law means kids under age two must now ride in rear-facing car seats. House Bill 4377 was signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner this month after unanimous approval from the House and Senate. Children taller than 40 inches or who weigh more than 40 pounds are exempt.

The previous law required motorists to provide an “approved” safety seat for children under age eight. But the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends rear-facing restraints. Dr. Edward Pont with the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics said the change will lead to fewer injuries.

“We know from years of experience and several studies that the rear-facing position really is the safest for children under the age of two,” he said. “Research shows rear-facing restraints are especially effective in the event of a front end collision.”

“If the child is facing the rear, then the car seat can do its job,” Pont said. “It can absorb the energy of the impact and diffuse it over the entire body.”

Pont said older children’s skeletons are developed enough to absorb more impact, but he tells parents to use their discretion on when to switch.

“There’s no age that you have to switch to facing front and I always tell them if a 2-year-old is comfortable facing the rear, go right ahead and leave them facing the rear,” he said.

As for those who break the law, initial wording of the bill called for a $75 fine for first-time offenders. In the final version, that was changed to leave penalties up to the discretion of authorities. Pont said the intent of the change is more to educate those driving with children in the car rather than to punish violators financially.

“We never intended this effort to be punitive,” he said. “We always intended this effort to be educational. We want parents to know that the rear-facing position is safest for children under two.”