New driving rules for 2019: Rear-facing child seats, 'Dutch reach,' left-lane pressure

Is your toddler enjoying the view from a new front-facing car seat? If he or she is under age 2, you'll need to break out a cookie and reset.

Changes to Illinois law effective Jan. 1 require that children under 2 be placed in rear-facing child seats unless they weigh 40 pounds or more or are 40 inches or taller.

The move is intended to save lives and prevent injuries, experts explain.

"The urge to jump to the next stage of seats too soon is something parents will face in various stages as their children grow," AAA's Beth Mosher said.

"The American Academy of Pediatrics, the U.S. Department of Transportation and AAA have made recommendations that children are safer rear-facing longer based on crash testing and science."

That means parents with toddlers under 2 who are in forward-looking seats will need to shift them to rear-facing seats to comply with the law, Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Ryan Cape said Friday. A first offense could cost $75.

If you're weak-kneed at the thought of breaking the news to your pint-size tyrant, just play it cool, pediatrician Benjamin Hoffman said.

The key is not to project your angst onto your kid, he advised. "Kids are incredibly adaptable. If parents are willing to follow through with it, it will work."

Illinois will be the 11th state to require rear-facing seats for children up to age 2. "It's not a frivolous law," said Hoffman, chairman of the Itasca-based AAP's Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention. "The leading cause of death for kids is car crashes," he said. "Injuries are significantly decreased with rear-facing seats, particularly with head, neck and spinal cord injuries."

For those who worry toddlers' legs will be cramped, young children's limbs "are incredibly flexible. They can sit in all sorts of ways that would make an adult really uncomfortable," Hoffman said.

Not to pile on parental guilt, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has concluded that nearly 60 percent of car seats are improperly installed.

Fortunately, many local, county and state agencies offer free advice from an officer certified in car seat installations, Cape said.

For information on seats and to find a nearby inspection station, go to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website at

<h3 class="leadin">What other new laws will affect drivers?

It sounds like a dance, but the "Dutch reach" is actually a simple technique that will prevent car door crashes with bikes.

  Here I am, Marni Pyke, reaching over with my right hand to open the driver's side as an example of the "Dutch reach." The technique makes drivers observe oncoming traffic like bikes as they reach for the door handle and will be included in the Illinois' Rules of the Road this year. Joe Lewnard/

Instead of opening the car door with your hand that's closest to the door, drivers and passengers should reach over with their farthest hand after parallel parking. That movement forces drivers to see the rearview mirror and observe oncoming traffic, particularly bikes.

The "Dutch reach" started in the Netherlands, where cycling predominates, and as of 2019 it's officially included in Illinois' Rules of the Road book and will be asked on driver's license exams.

It's estimated 300 dooring crashes injured cyclists in 2015, according to the Active Transportation Alliance. Getting doored is never too far from the mind of people riding bikes in the Chicago region. "This law is a good step toward reforming state policy to better reflect the needs and safety of all road users," Alliance spokesman Kyle Whitehead said.

Another change starts July 1, when police who pull drivers over for texting will issue a moving violation that goes on their records. Three moving violations in 12 months will trigger a license suspension. Previously, first-time texters caught by cops would be given a non-moving violation that didn't count on a driver's record.

"Originally, the feeling was that was too tough," Secretary of State spokesman Dave Druker said. But "people have seen that texting and driving is something constantly being done."

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  Don't hog the left lane on I-88 in Lisle or anywhere. Illinois mandates that drivers use the left lane on highways only for passing or to avoid traffic problems. Bev Horne/

One more thing

It's actually a 2017 law, but a crackdown by Illinois State Police troopers downstate on "left lane lollygaggers" has grabbed some attention lately on the news and in social media. If you didn't know, Illinois law requires people to use the left lane on highways and interstates only for passing or to avoid a traffic situation, not to hog it continuously.

<h3 class="leadin">Gridlock alert

Sorry, Addison. IDOT is building a beautiful new bridge at I-290 over Salt Creek, but that will mean some delays and traffic shifts through October with narrowed lanes and shoulders.

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Auto Show time

Vroom Vroom. Start your engines for the 2019 Chicago Auto Show. The hot rods will head into McCormick Place Feb. 9-18 with the First Look for Charity gala set for Feb. 8. To learn more, go to

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