At What Age Can Kids Sit in the Front Seat of a Car in Colorado?
Understanding Colorado’s car seat law doesn’t just help you avoid fines; it also keeps your child as safe as possible in the event of a car accident. Child restraint laws and safety guidelines can be confusing for caregivers, though; the two do not always match up.
One of the most common areas of confusion is when kids can sit in the front seat in Colorado. Here’s what Colorado law says (and doesn’t say) and what safety agencies and manufacturers recommend.
When Can a Child Sit in the Front Seat in Colorado?
Colorado law doesn’t specify when a child can sit in the front seat; it only specifies when a child must sit in the back seat.
According to the Colorado Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Law, children under one year old and less than 20 pounds must be in the back seat with no exceptions. It’s technically legal for a child of any age to sit in the front seat of a car in Colorado as long as they weigh at least 20 pounds, but it isn’t recommended.
Airbags are designed for adults and older teenagers. They can be deadly for young children, even in a car seat. Airbag injuries to young children in the front seat can be serious or even fatal.
The CDC, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and most car and airbag manufacturers recommend that children stay in the back seat until they’re at least 13 years old. An immature skeletal system and smaller size and weight increase the risk of serious injury in a crash for kids sitting in the front seat.
If a child must ride in the front seat before the recommended age, the Colorado Department of Transportation recommends positioning the seat as far from the airbag as possible and ensuring the child is properly secured. The airbag can usually be disabled if needed. A rear-facing car seat should never be placed in front of an active airbag.
Seat Belt and Car Seat Laws in Colorado
Colorado law requires infants and children up to 8 years old to use an approved car seat or booster seat. Specific requirements under the Colorado Revised Statute §42-4-236 depend on the child’s age and weight.
Basic Colorado child restraint requirements include:
- Rear-facing car seats: Birth to age 3 (back seat only for infants under 20 pounds and younger than 1)
- Forward-facing car seats: Ages 1 to 7 (minimum weight of 20 pounds)
- Booster seats: Ages 1 to 8
- Seat belts: Ages 8 to 15
Colorado law also requires that all safety seats are properly installed and fitted according to the vehicle’s owner manual and the manufacturer’s instructions. Safety seats must be federally approved.
Safety Guidelines Differ from Colorado Law
Colorado law sets the legal minimum requirement for child restraints, but it’s important to understand that this law falls well below recommended safety standards.
The NHTSA recommends keeping a child in a rear-facing seat until at least 12 months of age and, if possible, until they reach the height or weight limit. Booster seats are not recommended until four years of age and once a child has exceeded the weight or height limit of a forward-facing car seat.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has similar recommendations. Young children should be in a rear-facing safety seat as long as possible and only transition to the next type of child restraint when they reach height or weight limits.
Car Seats Save Lives – When They’re Used Properly
Safety seats are designed to spread the force of a crash safely to the strongest parts of the body, protect the neck, head, and spine, and prevent ejection.
Rear-facing infant seats spread the force across the back while protecting the fragile head and neck. This reduces the risk of serious spinal cord injuries and brain injuries. Booster seats position the child so the lap-and-shoulder seat belt fits correctly across the chest and hips.
Car seats only work when they’re installed and used correctly. According to 2022 data, 66% of car seats in Colorado are improperly used or installed.
An NHTSA study found that the most common errors include:
- Loose harness
- Loose installation
- Improper recline angle on rear-facing safety seats
- Harness placed behind the child’s back, legs, or arms on forward-facing seats
- Improper position of the lap belt on booster seats
- Improper position of the shoulder belt on booster seats
We encourage parents and caregivers to visit one of more than 140 Car Seats Colorado inspection stations. A certified technician can provide assistance and make sure your child’s safety seat is the right size and installed correctly.
Contact a Denver Car Accident Lawyer if Your Child Has Been Injured in a Collision
Safety seats dramatically reduce the risk of serious injury in an accident, but even a properly installed car seat can’t eliminate this risk completely. If your child has been hurt in a crash, seeking fair compensation can help you get your child the medical care they need.
Contact a Denver car accident attorney for a free initial consultation if your child is involved in a collision. We will help you review your legal options so you can focus on your child’s recovery.