If you are expecting a baby or are a new parent, it is time to brush up on Colorado’s car seat laws. There are suggested guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for how long your child should remain in certain types of safety seats. Colorado also has a law requiring appropriate safety restraints for infants and children. As your child grows, you need to be sure they are in the proper safety seat for their size and in accordance with the law.
Colorado’s Child Car Seat LawsColorado’s child safety seat laws are found in C.R.S. 42-4-236 & 237. Based on these laws, your child should be in a rear-facing child restraint system in the rear seat of the vehicle until they are 1 year and weigh at least 20 pounds. Keep in mind, this is a minimum requirement. Your child can and should be in a rear-facing car seat longer. The AAP recommends that your child remains in a rear-facing car seat as long as possible. You should keep your child in the rear-facing car seat until they reach the limit specified by the manufacturer, which may not be until they are between 2 and 4 years old.
Child Is between 1 and 4 Years OldWhen your child is between 1 and 4 years old and between 20 and 40 pounds, Colorado car seat laws require that your child is in an appropriate rear-facing or forward-facing child restraint system. You are required to keep your young child in a safe seat. However, the car seat laws do not specify which kind. If you adhere to the AAP recommendations, then your child should be in a rear-facing seat until they weigh too much. Then, they can be turned around and placed in a forward-facing seat that is appropriate for their height and weight. Most seats are appropriate to about 60 pounds; However, always be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions.
After Child Outgrows Car SeatAt some point, your child will outgrow a car seat yet will be too small to properly wear a seatbelt. Colorado car seat laws require that your child use a booster seat until they are 8 years old. After your child’s 8th birthday, Colorado requires your child to use a lap and shoulder seatbelt in the vehicle until they turn 16 years old. However, review the booster seat’s instructions and your child’s weight and height. If your child is on the smaller side, they may need to continue using a booster seat a little longer. Your child should not be without an appropriate safety seat until the vehicle’s shoulder belt can cross their shoulder and chest—not their neck—and the lap belt crosses their upper thighs—not their stomach. Also, your child’s knees should bend at the edge and their feet should touch the floor.
Summary of Colorado Car Seat LawsIn summary, Colorado car seat laws require:
- Less than 1 year, Less than 20 pounds: Rear-facing car seat in the rear seat of the vehicle.
- 1 to 4 years, 20 to 40 pounds: An appropriate rear- or forward-facing child safety seat based on your child’s size.
- Up to 8 years old: An appropriate child safety seat, which is typically a booster seat.
- 8 to 15 years: The vehicle’s seatbelts or an appropriate booster seat, depending on your child’s size.
Have Someone Check Your Car Seat InstallationThere are several places you can go to have your car seat installation inspected in Denver. You can find Inspection Stations through the Colorado Department of Transportation. One of these stations is at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children in Denver, where you can receive an inspection by appointment. You also can visit Arvada Fire Protection Districts, Stations 1-8, for an inspection without an appointment. Other options are Aurora Fire Rescue, Aurora Police Department, and Children’s Hospital Colorado, by appointment only.
Were You in a Car Crash?If you were in a crash, your car seat may need to be replaced. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends you replace the seat after a moderate or severe crash. You can keep your car seat after a minor crash, which means all of the following are true:
- Your vehicle could be driven away from the crash;
- The vehicle door closest to the car seat was not damaged;
- None of the passengers in the vehicle were injured;
- None of the vehicle’s airbags deployed in the crash; and
- There is no visible damage to the car seat.