Car Seat Safety: Colorado Law vs. Safest Practice

By Children's Hospital Colorado September 27, 2017

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury for Colorado kids. Make sure you are following the current laws and the safest practice for your child. The best practice may differ from the law, so remember these tips from Children's Hospital Colorado to make sure your child is properly secured on every trip:

Infants up to Age One

  • Colorado Law: Infants must ride in a rear-facing car seat in the rear seat of the vehicle until they are 1 year old AND weigh at least 20 pounds.
  • Safest Practice: Use a rear-facing seat for as long as possible. Many convertible car seats can be used facing the rear until 35 or 40 pounds. 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 protect your baby better in other types of crashes, particularly side impacts.

Children Ages 1-4

  • Colorado Law: Children who are older than age 1 and weigh more than 20 pounds must be properly restrained in a car seat.
  • Safest Practice: Restrain your 1 to 4-year-old in a rear- or forward-facing seat with a 5-point harness system until they are at least 40 pounds. This type of harness system has more places to distribute crash forces and offers better protection than a lap and shoulder belt. Keep them in the back seat. Use tether straps where possible.

Children Ages 4-8

  • Colorado Law: Children ages 4 until age 8 must use either a car seat or booster. Effective, Aug. 1, 2011, if you are not in compliance with this law, you could face a fine of $82 or more. This can be a five-point harness child safety seat for younger children or a booster that uses the vehicle's lap and shoulder belt as kids get older and bigger. 
  • Safest Practice: Children should be in a booster in the back seat until they are 57" tall and at least 8 years old. 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:
    • he/she is 4'9" (57") tall; for many children, this is after age 8 (height is the safest guideline)
    • the shoulder belt of the car's seat belt crosses his/her shoulder and chest (not her neck)
    • the lap belt crosses his/her upper thighs (not her abdomen)
    • his/her knees bend at the edge of the back seat and her feet dangle down

Children Ages 8-16

  • Colorado Law: Children between the ages of 8 and 16 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, at least until age 13. If your teenager is in the front seat, put the seat as far back as possible in case the airbag deploys in a crash.

Make sure your car seat or booster is installed correctly to best protect your child. Safe Kids Denver Metro coalition affiliated agencies provide free car seat education and inspection throughout the Denver metro area where a certified technician can help with car seat installation.

Contact a certified child passenger safety (CPS) technician at

Remember that children learn by watching their parents; this includes good driving habits. Make sure you always buckle up too!