Traveling with young children can be stressful, especially when the kids are still in car seats. Under Colorado car seat laws, all children under the age of eight must be secured in an appropriate child restraint. It can make you uneasy if you are new to Colorado or just traveling through and are unsure of Colorado’s car seat laws. What if you are pulled over? Or worse, what if you are in an accident and your child’s restraints are inadequate?
Colorado has rear-facing car seat laws, forward-facing car seat laws, and booster seat laws for children under the age of eight and for children under a certain weight. Additionally, all car seats must be federally approved. In this post, our attorneys at Gerash Steiner Blanton, P.C. will brief you on Colorado car seat essentials and tell you what to expect if you violate these laws when traveling with children in car seats in Colorado.
What Is Colorado’s Rear-Facing Car Seat Law?
Colorado’s car seat laws require that children under one year old or under 20 pounds ride in a rear-facing car seat. Parents must also follow their specific car seat manufacturer’s use and installation guidelines. In the law, using the car seat as the manufacturer specifies or intends is referred to as “proper use.”
Check your car seat’s information manual to understand the rear and forward-facing limits for your specific car seat. Some manufacturers make seats that permit children to face forward as soon as they are one year old, as long as they meet other height and weight requirements. Other manufacturers require toddlers to be at least two years old, meet certain height and weight requirements, and face forward in their car seats. It is important to note that even if you are using a car seat for your child—if you are using it improperly, you may still be cited in Colorado.
What Is Colorado’s Forward-Facing Car Seat Law?
Whether your child is required to be in a forward-facing seat or a rear-facing seat, parents should know that, by law, all children must be in one of those two types of car seats until age eight in Colorado.
There is no magic age when a forward-facing seat is required or appropriate. As we noted, Colorado law requires parents and caregivers to follow manufacturer guidelines for the proper use of car seats. If your child meets the height and weight limits to face forward prescribed by the manufacturer, Colorado law permits it.
However, rear-facing is significantly safer for children as long as their car seats can accommodate their height and weight. Rear-facing dramatically decreases the risk of head and neck injuries. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ current guidance is that children should remain rear-facing to the limits of their convertible car seat. Check your manufacturer’s guidelines, but this is typically about 40 pounds or the size of an average four-year-old child. Since height and weight limits vary, be sure to check your car seat, your child, and the expiration date on your car seat frequently.
Is There a Booster Seat Law in Colorado?
You may remember your booster seat in the car from when you were growing up. Booster seats were actually the first car seats and were created to help parents keep an eye on their children in the car, with less of a mind to keep them safe in a crash. Now, booster seats can be a great transitional tool to help children reach a seated height where adult safety restraints can fit their bodies appropriately.
In Colorado, children need to ride in booster seats from the age of four until at least eight years old. Make sure that you are following your manufacturer’s guidelines when using and installing your seat, as the proper use requirements under the law also apply to booster seats.
Most children do not fit properly in an adult seatbelt until they are 10-12 years old. This is when most children are old enough to pass what is known as the “5-Step Test,” or a visual and practical exam a parent or caregiver can perform to identify whether a child is large enough to ride in a vehicle seat without the use of other safety restraints.
When Can Kids Ride in the Front Seat?
Legally, Colorado’s car seat laws only prohibit children from sitting in the front seat when they are under a year old and under 20 pounds. However, the Colorado Department of Transportation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and many child passenger safety experts strongly recommend that they sit in the back seat until they reach at least the age of 12. More than 63,000 children are seriously injured each year in car crashes, and many of these injuries could have been prevented with proper restraints.
If you have concerns about your child riding in the front seat, waiting is best. Taking a cautious approach and trying the 5-Step Test several times until your child is large enough can make everyone feel secure. Also, you should know that even if your child meets height and weight requirements, children under eight who sit in the front seat must still use a car seat or booster seat.
Are There Any Expected Changes to Colorado’s Car Seat Laws?
Colorado has not recently updated its car seat laws, and it is unclear whether any new changes are forthcoming. Colorado’s Department of Transportation has the most up-to-date changes and information on its website. If you are planning a trip in or through Colorado, be sure to check with both the Department of Transportation and your car seat manufacturer’s most current information.
Talk to an Attorney Today
At Gerash Steiner Blanton, P.C., if you are cited for improper car seat use or involved in an accident with your child in your car, we may be able to help. We have helped countless Colorado car accident victims receive the compensation they deserve so they can get on with their lives after accidents that have changed their lives. We work with you to create a personalized approach to your case and are skilled negotiators as well as litigators. Our goal is to help you and your family get back out on the road. Contact us to schedule your case consultation.