Child restraint in a motor vehicle can be the difference between severe injuries in a car accident. All drivers, parents and guardians transporting young kids should make proper child restraint a priority in any automobile. Child safety restraint systems, like child seats, booster seats and seat belt attachments are proven to reduce injury risk to child passengers in car accidents. Studies indicate safety restraints for children can reduce the risk of injury by more than 80% in the event of a collision. Colorado law regulates the use of child seats to encourage their use. Ignoring the child seat laws can increase the risk of injury to a child in your car but also risk a traffic citation.
Why do I need a car seat or booster seat for my child?
Significant research by government agencies, car manufacturers and child safety restraint manufacturers all agree that these modifications reduce the risk of harm to a child in the event of a car accident. Child seats are unfortunately expensive but it may save your child’s life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 600 children die in car accidents each year with 63,000 child injuries each year. (Of the children lost to car accident injuries, 38% were completely unrestrained.) The CDC research concluded child seats reduce the risk of injury by 71-82%.
Normal car seats in automobiles include a number of safety devices to reduce injuries; however, these safety mechanisms are designed for passengers who are the typical height and weight range of an adult. Children do not receive the same degree of protection from normal passenger safety devices. They may even be at risk of dangers caused by seat belts and normal car seating. In the event of a car accident, you want your child to have the best protection from injury as possible. A car seat or booster seat that is properly installed and used gives your child passenger the best protection from harm.
Car seats required in Colorado for children under 8 years of age
Colorado’s safety restraint law requires all children under 16 years of age wear seat belts or other safety devices depending upon their age. Although adult passengers may ride without seat belts in rear seats, children under 16 must wear the appropriate safety restraints in all seats. Children under the age of 8 must ride in child safety seats rather than using seat belts. Where the child may ride in a child seat, how the child seat may be positioned and the type of child safety restraint depends upon the child’s size and age.
Which car seat is correct?
The Colorado child seat law defines different restraint rules depending upon the child’s age and size. Child safety restraint systems are designed by manufacturers to operate safely under specific circumstances. Allowing a child to ride as a passenger in the wrong seat or in the wrong configuration can reduce the protective effect of the safety seat. Allowing a minor to ride in the wrong type of seat may actually make them more vulnerable to car accident injuries. Under the child seat law, a child must ride in the following types of safety restraints:
- Under 1 year old: From birth to one year old–and weight under 20 pounds–the child should sit in a rear-facing seat from the greatest protection. The rear-facing safety seat should be secured in a back seat, not the front seat.
- Ages 1-4: Children age 1-4 with a weight between 20-40 pounds should sit in a forward-facing child car seat. Generally these seats secure best in back seats but may be placed in the front seat.
- Up to age 8: Children who weight more than 40 pounds, regardless of age, should sit in a booster seat instead of a full child seat. If the child is tall enough and meets the weight requirement, a booster seat is the appropriate restraint system. Children should ride in a booster seat until they are age 8 and at least 4’9″ tall.
- Ages 8-15: After the child turns 8 years old, the child may ride in any normal seat using a seat belt. The child must wear a seat belt in every seat until turning 16. Seat belts should be adjusted for proper use with a shorter passenger. If the seat belt cannot adjust to a proper height, the child should be placed in a different seat as possible.
Exceptions to the car seat restrictions
Situations may arise where a child may not have access to a car seat as a passenger. Under the Colorado child safety seat regulation, a child must ride in the appropriate safety seat unless an exception applies. Failing to follow the law under other circumstances may result in a traffic citation to the driver. Ultimately it is the driver’s duty to ensure the safe operation of the vehicle and make sure children are in the correct safety restraint. Exceptions to the law’s requirements include:
- transporting a child for a life-threatening emergency if no restraint system is available
- a child care center transporting a child in a commercial motor vehicle
- transporting a child by a contract carrier, limo service, or common carrier
The state car seat law is a primary enforcement law. That means a police officer may lawfully pull over a driver for violating the statute without any other reason for a traffic stop. The driver may receive a ticket for the offense which carries a $65 fee plus a $6 surcharge.
Car seat tips for parents and drivers
Drivers may be legally responsible for making sure any child passenger is secured in the proper restraint system; however, parents or guardians should make sure they own appropriate safety seats for their child’s age, height and weight. Read the instructions to make sure your child falls within the measurement range. Keep your child in a car seat until the child reaches the maximum limits. Parents or guardians should make sure that their children will ride at all times with the appropriate car safety seat. That may require taking a safety seat with the child if the child will ride in another person’s vehicle.
When purchasing any child restraint system, check for recalls before purchase. A safety seat with a recall is not safe to use in its current condition. Once you purchase a seat, make sure you register with the manufacturer so you can receive prompt notice of a recall or defect and take the product out of service.
Avoid purchasing used or secondhand car seats. It is difficult to know what kind of wear or damage may have occurred to the restraint seat that compromises its ability to protect an infant or toddler in the event of a car accident. Even if the car seat or booster seat appears in good shape, there may be damage that fails when you need it most.
After purchase, you can also take your car for an inspection to make sure the car seat or booster seat is properly installed. Colorado offers many inspection stations for this purpose, including many children’s hospitals through the state. If the seat is not correctly installed, they can assist you with proper installation and use.
Do I need to replace a car seat after a motor vehicle collision?
You should replace any child car seat or booster seat if it was installed in a car involved in a motor vehicle collision–even if there was not a child in the seat at the time of the crash. The restraint system may have damage to the belting mechanism or where the car’s seat belt secures the child restraint. In the event of a second crash, it could fail leading to harm to your child. The same forces that cause bodily injury, such as whiplash or lower back injuries, can cause damage to the child safety restraint. Even a small crack over time can get worse and cause the seat to fail in an emergency.
You can file a claim to replace the car seat or booster seat after an auto accident. If another driver caused the accident, you can include the replacement cost of a car seat under the property damage claim along with damage to your car. If you caused the crash, you can file a claim under your collision coverage if available.
Find our Denver law firm
Front Range Injury Attorneys is conveniently located in the Curtis Park neighborhood of Denver, Colorado. Our law firm is blocks east of downtown Denver and easy to reach from major roadways including Colfax Avenue, Colorado Boulevard, Interstate 70 and Interstate 25.
Did you know a child car seat can reduce the risk of injury in a car accident by 80%? Learn more:https://t.co/mFVOuMebnj— Front Range Injury Attorneys (@Injurylawfirmco) March 20, 2023
And additional resources:https://t.co/yHEGpd71ZVhttps://t.co/HnVDq2nzWjhttps://t.co/hnEsVGLJi4https://t.co/Nw8VTyAFDUhttps://t.co/ESST4ZZ390