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Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ's about Colorado's Car Seat Law

Is it legal to have a car seat in the front seat of a vehicle when there is no back seat (i.e. for a single-cab pickup truck)?

When can my child legally ride without a booster seat?

At what age can a child sit in the front seat?

What does the Colorado Law state regarding children riding in RV’s?

My son is just 3 years old, but is 41 inches tall and weighs around 40 lbs. Can he ride in a booster seat even though he is not 4?

Can my child ride in a high back booster at age 3 if he is taller than the straps of her current 5-point harness seat?

Have the car seat laws changed recently? I have heard "rear facing and weight limits" have changed…

Does the law require a child to be 4 years old to use a booster, or is it OK once he's 40 pounds?

Does my child need a car seat or booster seat when riding in taxi cabs, shuttle vans or commercial buses?

I own/work at a child care facility with a 15-passenger van. Are children being transported in this vehicle exempt from the Car Seat Law?

What should I do with an old/broken car seat?

Are previously used car seats safe to use?

Do I need to replace my car seat after being in a crash?

 

Is it legal to have a car seat in the front seat of a vehicle when there is no back seat (i.e. for a single-cab pickup truck)?

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 over 1 year old and over 20 lbs., then it is legal for them 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 their car seat, and that their car seat is properly installed in to your vehicle. NEVER place a rear-facing child restraint in front of an active airbag.

 

When can my child legally ride without a booster seat?

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’ 9” 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?

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.

 

At what age can a child sit in the front seat?

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 under 1 year & under 20 lbs. must ride in the back seat; however, the safest practice is to keep children in the back seat until they turn 13.

 

What does the Colorado Law state regarding children riding in RV’s?

Motor homes are in a class of vehicles that are exempt from child restraint laws (except the front passenger seat -- if a child sits there, they are required to abide by all applicable car seat/seat belt laws).

We recommend restraining children in motor homes -- with their child restraint installed in a designated seating position in the RV.

 

My son is just 3 years old, but is 41 inches tall and weighs around 40 lbs. Can he ride in a booster seat even though he is not 4?

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 5-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 lbs., and they have higher height allowances also).

 

Can my child ride in a high back booster at age 3 if he is taller than the straps of her current 5-point harness seat?

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 5-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 5-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 seat, and those must be followed.

If your child's shoulders are above the highest harness slots available on their car seat, then it is definitely time to consider a new seat -- whether it is one with a 5-point harness that can accommodate a taller child, or a booster seat, is up to you.

 

Have the car seat laws changed recently? I have heard "rear facing and weight limits" have changed…

The main change, effective August 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 4’9” 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 lbs. (as a minimum!), and they must be placed in the back seat of the vehicle.

 

Does the law require a child to be 4 years old to use a booster, or is it OK once he's 40 pounds?

According to Colorado Law, children under the age of 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 lbs.), 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 lbs. 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 5-point harness car seat until he or she reaches the upper limit set by the car seat manufacturer.

 

Does my child need a car seat or booster seat when riding in taxi cabs, shuttle vans or commercial buses?

No. These types of vehicles are exempted 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 exempted vehicles.

 

I own/work at a child care facility with a 15-passenger van. Are children being transported in this vehicle exempt from the Car Seat Law?
This type of vehicleis notexempt from the Colorado Car Seat 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+ requires a driver's license endorsement.

 

What should I do with an old/broken car seat?
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.

 

Are previously used car seats safe to use?
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 or if you don't know the full history of the seat. Avoid purchasing a seat from second hand 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.

 

Do I need to replace my car seat after being in a crash?

"The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that car seats be replaced following a moderate or severe crash in order to ensure a continued high level of crash protection for child passengers. Car seats do not automatically need to be replaced following a minor crash.

What defines a minor crash? A minor crash is one in which ALL of the following apply:

  • The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site.
  • The vehicle door nearest the car seat was not damaged.
  • None of the passengers in the vehicle sustained any injuries in the crash.
  • If the vehicle has air bags, the air bags did not deploy during the crash and
  • There is no visible damage to the car seat.

Never use a car seat that has been involved in a moderate to severe crash. Always follow manufacturer’s instructions."

*Answer quoted from Parents Central.

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