Safety

Frequently Asked Questions

Colorado law requires infants under 1 year old and under 20 lbs. to ride in the back seat; there are no exemptions. If your child is older than 1 and heavier than 20 pounds, it is legal for him/her to ride in the front passenger seat—but not recommended. If you must do this, please be sure the vehicle seat is positioned as far from the airbag as possible and be sure that your child is tightly secured in his/her car seat, and that the car seat is properly installed in to your vehicle. NEVER place a rear-facing child restraint in front of an active airbag.

Colorado Law requires children to be in boosters (or other appropriate car seats) until they are 8 years old. However, best practice and the safest recommendation is to keep children in a booster seat until they are about 4-feet 9-inches tall (which is the average 12 year old) and can pass the 5 Step Test*, for seat belts. This is the test:

  1. Does the child sit all the way back against the vehicle seat?
  2. Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the vehicle seat?
  3. Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?
  4. Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
  5. Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?
  6. If you answered "no" to any of these questions, your child would still benefit from sitting in a booster seat.

*The "5-Step Test" was developed by SafetyBeltSafe, USA.

Safety experts recommend that children ages 12 and younger ride in the back seat. Vehicle manufacturers also display warnings against allowing children to sit in the front seat due to the danger posed by air bags.

Colorado law stipulates that children younger than 1 year and lighter than 20 pounds must ride in the back seat; however, the safest practice is to keep children in the back seat until they turn 13.

RVs are exempt from Colorado's Child Passenger Safety Laws, with the exception of the front-passenger seat. If a child is riding in the front-passenger seat, he/she must abide by all applicable Child Passenger Safety Laws and be properly restrained at all times. It is not recommended to transport anyone in the back of RVs. Car seats cannot be properly installed in the back of an RV due to the vehicle design.

It is strongly recommended to transport children in a separate vehicle where they can be properly restrained in an appropriate child restraint.

Within Colorado law, he can transition to a booster seat when he has outgrown the manufacturer's height and/or weight recommendation for his current car seat. However, the safest option is to find another car seat with an internal five-point harness that has higher height/weight limits (there are several on the market that have upper harness weight limits to 50, 60 and 70 pounds, and they have higher height allowances also).

While it is not recommended to put a 3 year old in a booster seat (using the lap/shoulder seat belt in lieu of the five-point harness), it is not against the law. The law requires a child to be in a child restraint up to age 8, whether that is a booster seat or a five-point-harness car seat.

Regardless of which seat you choose, you are required to abide by the manufacturer instructions when using any child seat. Car seat manufacturers will state the appropriate height/weight parameters for their seats, and those must be followed.

If your child's shoulders are above the highest harness slots available on his/her car seat, it's definitely time to consider a new seat; whether it is one with a five-point harness that can accommodate a taller child or a booster seat is up to you.

The main change, effective Aug. 1, 2011, is the enforcement of the enhanced booster seat law, which states that children up to age 8 must ride in a child restraint (and really, whether that is a booster seat or other child restraint is up to the parent). However, safety experts recommend that children continue using boosters seats until they are 4-feet, 9-inches tall.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and NHTSA have recently stated that infants should be rear-facing up to age 2, but it is not law. Colorado law dictates that infants must ride rear-facing to at least 1 year old and 20 pounds (as a minimum!), and they must be placed in the back seat of the vehicle.

According to Colorado Law, children younger than 8 must use a child restraint. Whether that child restraint is one with a harness (there are many that have harnesses that accommodate children up to 60 or even 80 points) or if it is a booster seat is up to you. You definitely have a choice of which type of seat you use to fulfill the law requirement, but you are just required to continue using a child restraint up to age 8.

Some car seats (with harnesses) are only rated to 40 pounds. If that's the case with your seat, you can either use another seat with a higher weight limit or use a booster seat. Keep in mind that each time a child "graduates" to the next type of restraint, the level of protection goes down. It is recommended to keep your child in a five-point harness car seat until he or she reaches the upper limit set by the car seat manufacturer.

No. These types of vehicles are exempt from Colorado's child passenger safety laws. However, this does not mean children are any safer traveling in these types of vehicles. It is always the safest option to use car seats and booster seats, even in exempt vehicles.

This type of vehicle is not exempt from the Colorado Car Seat Belt Law. If the vehicle you use to transport children at your child care center is designed to transport 16 or more people, then the vehicle would be classified as a commercial motor vehicle and therefore exempt from these requirements. However, transporting children in a vehicle designed for 16-plus requires a driver's license endorsement.

Car seats that are damaged, expired, or that your child has outgrown can be destroyed or recycled. Call your local waste management company to find out if they have a car seat recycling program. If not, you can render the seat unusable by cutting and removing the harness, and breaking the plastic shell, or writing "UNSAFE - DO NOT USE" on the plastic shell in permanent marker. The seat can then be disposed of normally.

You can also drop off the old car seat at your Colorado State Patrol Troop Office for recycling.

If your car seat was previously used, make sure that you have the owner's manual that came with the seat, and that the seat has all safety labels on it. Never use a seat that has been involved in a crash, and don't use a seat if you don't know its full history. Avoid purchasing a seat from secondhand stores, flea markets and yard sales, as there is no way to know the full history of the seat. Every seat has an expiration date; if it is not printed on the seat, then it is usually six years from the manufacture date. Never used an expired seat.

Depending on the severity of the crash, the majority of car seat manufacturers will tell you to replace the seat to ensure your child will be safe. It is not possible to visually inspect the seat to determine if there was damage caused by the crash as not all damage will be visible. Refer to your car seat owner's manual to see the crash replacement recommendation for your car seat. When in doubt, you can always call the manufacturer directly to discuss the crash with an employee.

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Colorado: The Official State Web Portal