Did you know a driver can’t be stopped in Colorado for not wearing a seatbelt? While it’s mandatory for drivers and front-seat passengers to buckle up, Colorado’s seatbelt law is a secondary enforcement law, which means people can’t be ticketed for not wearing a seatbelt unless they’re also committing some other traffic offense like speeding. But what about child safety seat law?
The absence of a primary seatbelt law in Colorado may not seem related to child safety seats and child safety, but it is.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), restraint use among young children often depends upon the driver’s seat belt use; in one study, almost 40 percent of children riding with unbelted drivers were themselves unrestrained.
Colorado: Child Safety Seat Use is Low
According to federal data, Colorado currently ranks 35th for seat belt use in the country. In 2016, approximately 15 percent of Colorado drivers didn’t wear their seatbelts.
Colorado law currently distinguishes adult drivers from child passengers, and all child passengers are required to be properly restrained. The age and size of a child determines what type of restraint must be worn.
Unfortunately, child restraint systems are often used incorrectly, or in some cases not at all.
Other factors such as a restraint’s expiration date and vehicle choice can also impact the effectiveness of a restraint system and how and when a driver uses these restraints properly.
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is presently seeking to overturn the secondary law for primary enforcement.
Colorado Child Safety Seat Guidelines
In Colorado, all children less than 8 years old are required to wear a seat belt using a child restraint system (i.e. child safety seat or booster seat). The age, weight, and height of a child determine what kind of seat is required. These factors also affect where and how restraints are located and affixed.
Here’s a breakdown of Colorado’s child car seat laws:
- Infants less than 1 year old and under 20 pounds must ride in the back seat and in a rear-facing car seat, no exceptions. Single-cab trucks are therefore prohibited from carrying such passengers under any condition. (Note: while not stipulated in the law, it is recommended that children ride in a rear-facing seat until age 2.)
- Children 1 to 3 years old and a minimum of 20 pounds are permitted to sit in a forward-facing car seat in the back seat of the vehicle.
- Children 4 to 7 years old should be restrained in a child booster seat. (Note: it is recommended that children, even those 8 or older, remain in a booster seat until he or she reaches 4 feet 9 inches tall.)
- If they are under 8 years old, children may ride without a child restraint system but must use a standard seat belt.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it’s recommended that children ride in the back seat of a vehicle until the age of 13.
Child Safety Seat or Booster?
Colorado’s child car seat laws are pretty straightforward, but choosing a car seat or booster seat can be daunting.
Specifically, front airbags and other common vehicle safety features aren’t designed to meet the specific safety needs of small passengers. Rear-facing seats ensure little ones are less likely to be injured, but only if they’re properly used.
Here’s a look at three popular types of car seats and boosters:
- Infant Car Seat (rear-facing only): These seats are specially designed for newborns and small babies. The infant-only car seat can only be used rear-facing. Infants usually outgrow these car seats by 8 or 9 months even though they must remain rear-facing for a year. At this time, parents should purchase a convertible or all-in-one car seat and use it rear-facing.
- Convertible Seat: These dynamic seats can change from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat with a harness and tether. A rear-facing seat is recommended for children under the age of 2.
- All-In-One Seat: This seat can change from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat (with a harness and tether) and to a booster seat as a child grows. Children can stay in the rear-facing position longer, and the booster ensures safety up to 8 years old.
Parents and caregivers should read and understand the manufacturer’s weight and height requirements. Variations in seat design and model influence what is appropriate.
Exceptions to Colorado Child Safety Seat Rules
There are exceptions to child safety seat rules in Colorado that parents and caregivers should be aware of.
For example, children in a taxi, bus, or other commercial vehicle are not required to be in a child restraint system. This does not mean, however, that these types of vehicles are safer for children than regular passenger vehicles; child restraints are simply optional while riding in these types of vehicles.
Also, children do not have to be restrained while riding in an RV, unless the child is sitting in the front seat, in which case he or she must wear the appropriate restraint.
Useful Colorado Child Car Seat Programs
CDOT is focused on helping parents and caregivers drive safely with small passengers.
There are currently more than 140 inspection stations where people can go to learn more about child seat safety.
There are also programs available to help families of limited means gain access to effective child seats and boosters. CDOT and Colorado State Patrol offer subsidized car seats for qualified low-income individuals. Visit a Colorado inspection station to see if you qualify.
Children model what they see. Use a seatblet every single time and ensure they do too. Parents that do so are less likely to experience a serious injury in the event of a crash.
If you or your child was injured by a reckless driver, you may have a claim. Furthermore, if a child seat was defective, you should reach out. Call 303-237-7373 to speak with an experienced injury attorney today or contact us online to arrange your free consultation.