My patients regularly ask me questions about car seat laws, and so we figured we’d summarize the recommendations we’ve researched. It’s also been on the forefront of my mind recently because my son just turned 8 years old and was counting down the days until he wasn’t required to ride in a booster seat any longer….or maybe he still was, as we learned in our research for this post!
Colorado Department of Transportation provides a good chart listing the Child Passenger Safety Laws that you can find here. The chart not only gives the legal requirements, but also lists the more stringent recommendations of the “Safety Advocates”, who consist of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Safe Kids USA.
Below is a summary of these requirements, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation’s website. But again, please view the complete printable chart here.
- Children less than 1 year old and less than 20 pounds must ride in the back seat of the car in a rear-facing car seat. It is safest to keep the child rear-facing as long as the car seat allows.
- Children from 1 to 3 years old must ride in a rear or forward-facing car seat. The child has to be at least 20 pounds to use a forward-facing car seat. Always check the car seat manufacturers weight limit for forward facing use of any harnessed car seat, as many will require a child to be a minimum of 22-25 pounds, and may include a minimum age.
- Children from 4 to 7 years old must ride in a forward-facing car seat or a booster seat. Whether you use a a forward-facing car seat or a booster seat, it is important to make sure to follow the height and weight requirements of the seat. It is safest to restrain your child in a “5-point” harness system until they are at least 40 pounds, or to the upper weight limit of the seat (even if by age they can legally ride in a booster).
- Children from 8 to 16 years old must use either a booster seat or lap and shoulder seat belt. In doing our research for this post, and talking to Bill Flinchbaugh, an amazing resource listed again below, it is important to be aware of the proper use/fit provision. Children can only ride without a booster seat once they are 8 years old and are about 4’9” tall and can pass the 5-Step Test developed by SafetyBeltSafe, USA. The test is located here. So, if an 8 year old child does not pass the height recommendations or 5-Step test, they must stay in a booster seat until they do.
- It is safest to keep children in the back seat until they are 13 years old. Vehicle manufacturers display warnings against letting children ride in the front seat because of the danger posed by air bags.
- Bill “The Car Seat Guy” is located in Boulder, CO and is one of the most experienced car seat technicians in the country. He is available for consultations before you chose a car seat for your child, to inspect car seats after an accident, to assist you in properly installing your car seat in your car, and much more. Please visit his website here.
- Children’s Hospital has information on car seat safety here. If you live in Denver, or take your kids to Children’s for medical care, you can schedule an appointment for a free car seat check by calling Children’s Hospital at 720.777.4808.
- Child Passenger Safety Colorado supports car seat safety inspection stations. To locate a station check here.
- The Colorado Department of Transportation also has a FAQ page located here.
- Today Show Segment: “Car seat alert: A winter coat could endanger your child.” Watch here.