Is your child's car seat installed correctly? Several Safe Kids coalition affiliates provide free car seat education and inspection where a certified technician can help with hands-on instruction and installation. Find a car seat inspection station near you.
You can also contact a certified child passenger safety technician through Car Seats Colorado.
Car seat safety at Children's Hospital Colorado
Motor vehicle crashes is one of the leading causes of death for children — and according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly half of all car seats and booster seats are used incorrectly. To keep your child safe, make sure you are following the current Colorado car seat laws and the American Academy of Pediatrics' Child Passenger Safety guidelines. And remember: The best practice for your child may differ from the law.
By law, children ages 4 to 8 years old (through their 8th birthday) must use either a car seat or a booster seat. For safety, many children need to continue to use a booster seat until they are 12 years old. Read our tips below to make sure your child is properly secured and protected.
Infants up to age 1
Colorado car seat law: Infants must ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are 1 year old and weigh at least 20 pounds. Car seats must be installed in the rear seat of the vehicle.
Safest practice: The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents and caregivers to keep their children rear-facing as long as possible, up to the limits of their car safety seat. Many car seats can be used rear-facing until your child weighs 35 to 40 pounds. This will include virtually all children under age 2 and most children up to age 4. Rear-facing seats offer the best protection during a crash because the whole body (head, neck and torso) is cradled by the back of the safety seat in a frontal crash. They also better protect your baby in other types of crashes, particularly side-impact crashes.
Children between the ages of 1 and 4
Colorado car seat law: Children who are older than 1 year old and weigh more than 20 pounds must be properly restrained in a rear-facing or forward-facing car seat.
Safest practice: Children should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, up to the seat's limits. This will include virtually all children under 2 years old and most children up to 4 years old. Once they have been turned around, children should remain in a forward-facing car seat up to that seat's weight and length limits. Most seats can accommodate children up to 65 pounds.
Restrain your 1- to 4-year-old child in a car seat with a five-point harness system, which features two shoulder straps, two hip straps and a crotch strap. A five-point harness system has more places to distribute crash forces and offers better protection than a lap and shoulder belt.
Keep your children in the back seat. Always use the upper-tether strap (the long pieces of seat belt material with a clip on the end located on the top back of a convertible or forward-facing car seat) according to the vehicle owner's manual and child restraint manufacturer's instructions.
Children between the ages of 4 and 8
Colorado booster seat law: Children between the ages of 4 and 8 years old (through their 8th birthday) must continue to ride in a child restraint. This can be a five-point harness child safety seat for younger or smaller children or a booster that uses the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt as kids get older and bigger.
Safest practice: Children should be in a belt-positioning booster in the back seat until they can use a seat belt that fits correctly. Studies have shown the use of booster seats can reduce the risk of injury by 59% compared to seat belts alone. Keep your child in a booster until:
- The shoulder belt of the car's seat belt crosses their shoulder and chest (not their neck).
- The lap belt crosses their upper thighs (not their abdomen).
- Their knees bend at the edge of the back seat and their feet touch the floor.
- They can stay seated like this for the entire trip.
Children between the ages of 8 and 16
Colorado law: Children between the ages of 8 and 16 (through their 16th birthday) must use a seat belt or child restraint.
Safest practice: Follow the guidelines above to know when your child can safely stop using a booster. Keep your child in the back seat as long as possible, until at least age 13 and 100 pounds. If your teenager is in the front seat, put the seat as far back as possible in case the airbag deploys in a crash.
Remember that children learn by watching their parents, and this includes good driving habits.
5 car seat reminders for parents
Which car seat or booster is right for my child?
Make sure your car seat or booster is installed correctly to best protect your child. Safe Kids Colorado provides free car seat education and inspection where a certified technician can help with hands-on instruction and installation. Find a car seat inspection station near you.
You can also contact a certified child passenger safety technician through the Colorado Department of Transportation's Car Seats Colorado program.