Child Passenger Safety Laws Colorado

man buckling child into car seat

We all want to keep our youngest passengers as safe as possible. Sometimes, however, we may be distracted or in a hurry and look for ways to get from one place to another as quickly as possible. This may involve overlooking the basic safety requirements for traveling with a child. But allowing a child to sit up front too soon, skip the carseat, or remain unbuckled can not only have disastrous consequences, the driver who allowed it to happen may also face legal repercussions. 

What are Colorado’s Child Passenger Law Requirements?

Colorado has regulations for child passengers up to a certain age and weight. In general, the following rules apply:

  • If the child is younger than 1 year old, he or she must be in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat only.
  • If the child is between the ages 1-3 and less than 20 lbs, the child should remain in a rear-facing car seat. It is permitted to put the car seat rear-facing in the front seat, but not recommended. 
  • If the child is between the ages of 1-3 and between 20 and 40 lbs, he or she may sit in a forward facing safety seat. 
  • If the child is between the ages of 1-3 and exceeds 40 lbs, he or she may sit in a forward facing car seat or booster seat
  • Between the ages of 4-7 and from 20 lbs onward, a child may sit in a forward facing car seat or booster.
  • Ages 8 and onward may sit in a booster or utilize a seatbelt only. 

All car seats and booster seats must be federally approved.

Car Seats and Public Transportation

There are exemptions to Colorado’s car seat laws. Colorado statute § 42-2-402(4)(a) stipulates that car seats are not required on public transportation, including on trains, buses, and other commercial motor vehicles. 

Why Do Children Need a Booster Seat?

Once a child has grown out of a car seat, it can be tempting to simply utilize the regular shoulder and lap belt. However, most children are not tall enough for the seatbelt to be safe and effective. To work properly, a shoulder belt must cross the chest, not the neck, and the lap belt must lay flat across the upper thighs (not across the stomach). 

A booster seat raises the child up high enough to where the shoulder belt can be in the optimal position. Should an accident occur, the belt will not press against the vital organs of the torso or injure the child’s neck. 

In the US, it is estimated that up to 46 percent of car seats and booster seats are not used correctly. If you have any questions about how to install a car seat or a booster seat, visit one of Colorado’s statewide inspection stations. These stations are available at no cost to check that your car seat is installed correctly. They will also help you decide if you are using the right kind of car seat, and provide access to the appropriate child passenger restraints if you cannot afford them. 

What Happens if You Don’t Use a Booster Seat or Car Seat?

In 2019, 608 children under the age of twelve died in motor vehicle accidents. Of those children, 38 percent were found to be unrestrained. This percentage indicates that child passenger restraints (at the very least, a seatbelt), can reduce the risk of youth fatalities in car accidents. 

In addition to significantly lowering the risk of injury or death, you can avoid legal action by using the correct child passenger restraints. Colorado law classifies failure to use a car seat as a Class B Traffic Infraction, which carries a fine of $65. Currently, there is no jail time associated with this infraction, nor are any points deducted from your license.

Car Seats and Negligent Supervision

If a child is harmed in an accident when he or she was not properly restrained, the driver may be accused of negligent supervision. Generally speaking, negligent supervision applies in the following scenarios: 

  1. A child his injured due to improper care by a parent or guardian
  2. A child harms another child without intervention by a supervising parent or guardian

Failing to properly restrain a child in a moving vehicle would fall under the first scenario. These cases can be difficult, but not impossible, to prove. You will need to prove that the caregiver had a duty to protect the child, that they breached that duty, and in so doing, the child suffered harm. 

When to Hire an Attorney for a Car Accident Involving a Child

If your child was injured in a car accident due to the negligence of another, contact an experienced auto accident attorney as soon as possible. Car accidents can be a traumatic experience for all parties involved, especially when a child is involved. 

David Roth has years of experience representing clients in all types of claims, including personal injury and car accidents. Call or go online today to schedule your free consultation. 

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Heather Kleinman