For new parents, and even seasoned parents, choosing a car seat and installing it correctly can be overwhelming. In fact, according to Colorado’s Department of Transportation, a majority of parents think their child is in the right car seat, but they actually are not.
From rear-facing to convertible and boosters, there’s a lot of car seat options to choose from. But how do you know which one is right for your child? The state of Colorado requires that all children be in a child restraint until eight years old, and they have different requirements depending on the child’s age and size.
Below, we’ll go over where to start when looking for the right car seat for your child.
Rear-Facing Car Seats
Colorado law requires infants to ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are one years old and weigh at least 20 pounds. They cannot ride in the front seat. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children stay rear-facing as long as possible, even up to four years old, up to the limits of their car safety seat.
Rear facing is the safest way for your child to ride. It offers the best protection during a crash because your child’s whole body is cradled by the back of the safety seat during a frontal crash.
When securing your child, make sure the shoulder harness comes from at or below your child’s shoulders. The chest clip should be on the chest at armpit level.
Budget-friendly tip: Look for infant seats that can hold infants up to 35-40 pounds to get the most use of your car seat. Also consider convertible car seats, which can be switched to forward facing when the child is ready.
Forward-Facing Car Seats
After one year old, children can legally ride forward-facing in the state of Colorado, though safety advocates recommend staying rear-facing as long as possible.
Once in a forward-facing seat, children should stay in this style of seat until they’ve reached that seat’s weight and length limits. Most seats accommodate up to 65 pounds or more. The seat should have a five-point harness system (two shoulder straps, two hip straps, and a crotch strap). This style offers better protection than booster seats for older children because it has more places to distribute crash forces.
When securing your child, make sure the shoulder harness comes from at or above your child’s shoulders. The chest clip should be on the chest at armpit level.
Safety Tip: Some seats have safety anchors to help you clip in the seat. However, these clips have weight limits, so make sure to change the installation after your child outgrows the limit.
Between four to eight years old, Colorado law requires children to either be in a five-point harness forward-facing seat or a booster seat. Though, safety advocates say a child may need a booster longer–even up to 12 years old–until the vehicle’s seat belts fit the child properly.
The booster seat allows the child to use the vehicle’s lap and shoulder belt by keeping it at the right height.
After eight years old, your child can stop using a booster when:
- The vehicle’s shoulder belt fits snugly across the shoulder and the lap belt lies flat on their upper thighs.
- Your child’s knees bend at the edge of the back seat and their feet touch the floor
- Your child can stay seated like this for the entire trip.
Safety Tip: Check your child’s booster to make sure the shoulder belt fits snugly across the shoulder–not the neck. And the lap belt should lie flat across the upper thighs–not the stomach.
Car Seat Inspections
The best thing you can do to ensure you have the safest car seat for your child and make sure it’s installed properly is to have it inspected by a certified technician. If you are an expecting parent, it’s best to have your infant car seat installed and inspected before your due date to be ready for your baby’s arrival.
To find a car seat inspection site near you, visit Colorado’s Department of Transportation website.