Effective August 1: Colorado’s new car seat law and how your children are impacted
posted by: Lori Holden
**This post was originally published in May after Governor Ritter signed the new car seat law SB10-110. The law went into effect today. Please keep reading to find out how your children may be impacted.
This was said as we got in the car on my daughter’s recent birthday. I countered with, “Sorry, Tessa. That’s not safe or legal.”
“So when CAN I ride in the front?”
“Mrmbmrmbmrmm……let me get back to you on that.”
Most parents know that a newborn belongs in a properly-installed rear-facing infant seat. But after that, the requirements for safety get a little murky. So just in time for summer travel, here’s the low down on car seats and kids.
Newborn to 1 year. Rear-facing child seat.
The law: requires infants to ride in a rear-facing child safety seat until they are at least one year old and weigh at least 20 lbs.
Safety advocates recommend: Restrain your infant in a rear-facing seat as long as possible for the best protection in a crash. Many larger “convertible”-type car seats allow children to ride rear-facing up to 30 lbs.
1 to 4 years old AND over 20 pounds. Forward-facing child seat.
The law: The law requires that children ages one year to four years who weigh 20 pounds up to 40 pounds be restrained in a forward-facing child safety seat.
Safety advocates recommend: Restrain your child in a 5-point harness system until they are at least 40 lbs. Use upper-tether straps where applicable (refer to your car seat and vehicle’s owner’s manual for more information.)
4 to 8 years. More than 40 pounds but less than 55 inches. Booster seat.
The law: The law requires that children who are at least four years old but less than six years old and are less than 55 inches tall eight years old be properly restrained in a child booster seat or with a child safety belt-positioning device.
Safety advocates recommend: Restrain your child in a booster seat until they are about 57” (4’9”). A child’s height is the best predictor of proper seat belt fit.
8 to 18 years AND more than 40 pounds AND more than 55 inches.
The law: The law requires that a child who is at least six eight years old and is at least 55 inches tall, must be properly restrained with the motor vehicle’s safety belt.
Safety advocates recommend: proper seat belt fit is achieved when these five conditions are met:
- The child can sit all the way back against the auto seat
- The child’s knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat
- The belt crosses the shoulder between the neck and the arm
- The lap belt is as low as possible touching the thighs
- The child can stay seated like this for the whole trip
While the back seat is safer for a child, what does the law say about riding in the front seat?
Nothing. THERE IS NO LAW ABOUT THIS. I had lied to Tessa. Inadvertently, of course.
I checked with Vera Fullaway, Technical Training Coordinator at the Colorado State Patrol. “The law does, however, require correct use of child restraints according to manufacturer instructions.” Which, because of that label on your visor, makes it illegal to transport a rear-facing child in the front seat with an active passenger airbag.
And the new law brings a new development.
The law as of August 1, 2010: The law requires all children less than 1 year of age to ride in the back seat. The bill is a measure that will improve the safety of children while riding in a car by requiring all children under the age of 8 years old to be properly restrained in a booster seat.
Still, this doesn’t address the question Tessa asked me. So I had to dig deeper. When CAN she ride in the front seat?
Corporal Eric Wynn of the Colorado State Patrol says we should never put a child in front of an active airbag. He explains that the passenger-side airbag explodes at 200 mph in a crash, while the driver’s side airbag explodes at only 150 mph. “The difference is in the distance the bag has to travel to protect the person. And the bags were designed for a 140 pound man who is wearing a seat belt, not a smaller, lighter, child, and especially not without a seat belt.”
So here is what the Colorado State Patrol suggests: “Airbag and vehicle manufactures recommend that all passengers in front seats be at least 13 years old, weigh at least 100 pounds, are tall enough to fit into the lap and shoulder belt and are mature enough to remain in their seating position — out of the airbag deployment zone,” says Fullaway.
So Tessa has a few more years in the back seat. For safety reasons, if not legal reasons.
What about interstate travel? Do the laws change when you cross state lines?
“Yes,” says Corp. Wynn. “It’s the responsibility of the parents to know the laws of the states they travel in. I get calls constantly from parents and grandparents traveling to Colorado. Parents are trying to do the right thing.”
Fullaway adds, “If parents follow Best Practice Recommendations [above], they will be compliant with all laws in all 50 States of the USA and the District of Columbia.”
Safe travels this summer and always!
For additional information on the child restraint law and how to keep your kids safe, please go to The Children’s Hospital’s helpful resource page.