Using the right car seat, installed properly, will save your child’s life. And it’s your responsibility to make sure children younger than 16 are properly and safely secured during every car trip.
Parents often misunderstand the difference between Colorado car seat guidelines and actual enforceable laws. It’s important to know both. All child passenger safety violations are enforced with the minimum fine of $82.00. Parents and caregivers are responsible for properly restraining a child and will be ticketed if they fail to do so.
There are no standard size requirements for car seat fit. Even if your child looks big enough to move to the next size seat, be sure to follow all manufacturer recommendations on the car seat label. Car seats, booster seats and seat belts are developed to protect children based on their sizes, not their ages.
It’s important not to purchase “off the shelf” solutions to keep babies’ heads from moving in the car seat. Most of these are not approved by safety institutions and are not flame retardant. It’s better to roll up a towel and put it around the babies’ head to make sure nothing is between the baby and the car seat. Never buy a car seat from a garage sale or used unless it’s from a trustworthy friend and you know exactly what’s happened to that car seat.
If you have any questions about whether your child’s seat meets federal safety standards, has been recalled or is installed correctly, find one of the Colorado inspection stations at: https://www.codot.gov/safety/seatbelts-carseats/carseats/inspection-stations and speak with a certified technician. These inspection stations offer assistance for parents and caregivers, ensuring that your child’s car seat is the right size and installed properly. For car seat installation videos, visit: https://www.codot.gov/safety/seatbelts-carseats/carseats.
When Can Kids Ride in the Front Passenger Seat?
When a child reaches the age and size required for a front facing car seat, that child can go anywhere – including the front seat – so any age or size after that. This is the legal requirement. Best practices are that you should wait until the child is 13. However, often people are carrying multiple children (for example, in a carpool) so you should always place the oldest child in front.
Colorado Law for Booster Seats
Proper use of a booster seat and seat belt means the shoulder belt crosses the shoulder and chest (not the neck or face), and the lap belt lies flat across the upper thighs (not the stomach).
Eight years old is a guideline that makes it easier for law enforcement officers to enforce, however, if you have children who are small at the age of eight, you should keep them in booster seats until they reach 4’9″ which is the best practices guideline to stay safe in adult seat belts. Babies younger than 12 months old and weighing less than 20 pounds must ride in a rear-facing car seat, only in the back seat.
If Children in Rear-Facing Seats Are Cramped (picture knees jammed in the air), Do You Have to Keep Them in Rear-Facing Seats?
No. The actual law is in a rear-facing seat at one year and/or 20 lbs. Best practices recommend keeping children in rear-facing seats until the age of two. However, if that child is way over 20 lbs, look at putting the child in a forward facing seat for comfort and safety.
How Are the Laws Enforced When Children in the Car Are from Several Families? Is It the Responsibility of the Driver or the Parent to Ensure their Kids Are Properly Restrained?
It’s always the responsibility of the driver unless the parent is in the car. Parents in the car (whether driving or not) can be issued a citation for their child. If you are taking a load of children – whether they are your children or not – it’s your responsibility for all the children to be properly restrained. So, consider keeping a few extra booster seats in your car and know how to install them “on the fly” in case you need them.
Common Error in the Cold:
A common error in Colorado is that children are restrained in heavy snowsuits and coats. Many parents are concerned for the comfort of their child and will try to put children in car seats who are wearing big puffy coats. However, if you examine the kids, this leaves a huge pocket of air between them and the seat belts and in an accident, they’re not protected. It’s a good idea to take the children out of their coats, and after putting them in their car seats, place the coat on the child backward for warmth.
Colorado Child Passenger Safety Law
|Younger than 1||Age 1-3||Age 4-7||Age 8-15|
|Less than 20 lbs.||Rear-facing safety seat in back seat only||Rear-facing safety seat|
|20-40 lbs.||Rear-facing safety seat||Rear- or forward-facing safety seat||Forward-facing safety seat or booster|
|Exceeds seat weight limit and 40+ lbs.||Forward-facing safety seat or booster||Forward-facing safety seat or booster||Booster or seat belt|
All safety seats should be installed and fitted according to the manufacturers’ instructions and the vehicle owner’s manual.
Chart Courtesy of the Colorado Department of Transportation
It Is Your Responsibility to Know the Laws in the State You Are Visiting
You can be held liable for the specific laws in each state – despite your ignorance. Officers are under no obligation to let you off with a warning simply because you are out of state. For travel in our surrounding states, review these car seat laws: