In the state of Colorado, all persons riding in a moving vehicle must be either in a car seat or wearing seatbelts, and there are no exceptions to this rule. Parents can be ticketed and even fined if they are caught allowing their children to ride in a vehicle without the proper child-restraint system. In addition, it is highly recommended that all persons 13 years of age or younger ride in the back seat and not the front, especially if the front seat has an airbag.
Like most states, there are height, weight, and age restrictions in Colorado car seat laws that must be met so that every child is in the proper type of child-restraint system. If you read the instructions on the child-restraint system you purchased, it is a good idea to heed the recommendations listed there regarding age, weight, and height. Following the manufacturer’s instructions is the best way to ensure your child will be as safe as possible every time you get behind the wheel of a car. They have already done the research for you; all you have to do is learn what that research recommends.
Laws for Rear-Facing Car Seats
The state of Colorado recommends a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible up until the age of three.
Babies one and under should definitely be in a rear-facing car seat, but parents can use the recommended guidelines set by the car seat’s manufacturer to determine at which age the child can switch to a front-facing car seat.
With rear-facing car seats, make sure the harness is snug and that it comes from below or at the baby’s shoulders. In addition, the chest clip should always be at the chest/armpit area.
Laws for Front-Facing Car Seats
Starting at around age two, you can place your child in a front-facing car seat. Just like a rear-facing car seat, the front-facing car seats must have snug harnesses that come from at or below the baby’s shoulders and a chest clip that is secured at the chest/armpit area. The seat should be installed using either the lower anchors and top tethers, or the seatbelts. The lower anchors have weight limits, so you should always be aware of these.
Front-facing car seats are designed to be used with children ages two to five; however, your particular child-restraint system will help you determine the right age to switch for your child, as long as you read the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations.
Laws for Booster Seats
There are two types of booster seats. One is a high-back seat, and the other one is backless. Both of them require the use of a standard seatbelt. Once again, paying attention to the recommendations set forth by the car seat’s manufacturer is your best bet, and in Colorado, these booster seats are recommended for children ages 4 to 12, or until a regular seatbelt will fit them properly.
With any type of booster seat, it is important to remember that the shoulder belt must fit snugly across the child’s shoulder and not across the face or neck area. The lap belt should never fit across the stomach, but instead, it should be positioned flat across the upper thighs. If this doesn’t happen when you try to strap your child in, it could be the child isn’t yet ready for a booster seat and, therefore, you should go back to a front-facing car seat. The seatbelts should fit properly on the right areas of the child’s body, and this is the best way to determine if your child is indeed ready for a booster seat.
Height and Weight Requirements
There are no actual height and weight requirements in the state of Colorado, but instead, the following general guidelines are stated in their DMV documents:
- Ages 0-3: rear-facing car seats as long as possible
- Ages 2-5: front-facing car seats
- Ages 4-12: high-back or backless booster seats, until the child is ready for a standard seatbelt
- Ages 8 and above: lap and shoulder seat belts are required; however, many children won’t fit in these until age 12
Laws for Seatbelts
In Colorado, regular seatbelts aren’t recommended until the child is a minimum of eight years old. No child under the age of eight is allowed to ride in a moving vehicle without being in a proper child-restraint system. Once they reach the age of eight, they may be ready for regular seatbelts. To ensure the seatbelts are appropriate for your child, make sure:
- The shoulder belt fits snugly across the child’s shoulders
- The lap belt fits across the child’s thighs
- The child’s back is against the seat
- The child’s knees can bend in a comfortable position in the car’s seat
If the seatbelts do not fit your child properly, or if your child doesn’t have the maturity to ride in a seat with only seatbelts for the entire trip, chances are good that he or she isn’t ready for them yet. In this case, or if you feel uncertain in any way, it is best to put your child back into a booster seat until he or she is ready for standard seatbelts.
In addition to all of these requirements, it is a must in Colorado that all children under the age of 13 be in the back seat of a vehicle, not the front seat. This is especially important if the front seats have airbags. If you need any assistance or have questions regarding seatbelt laws or Colorado car seat laws, you can visit https://www.codot.gov/safety/carseats for additional details.
The state of Colorado also provides checklists for people who have purchased a previously owned car seat, which helps you make sure you are purchasing one that is safe and practical. It asks you questions regarding the seat’s age, if it’s been in a car accident, what the manufacturer’s instructions say, how to check the buckles and latches, and how to determine if the car seat has been previously recalled. This can be a big help when deciding whether or not to purchase a used car seat, helping you make sure you get the right one in the end.