Child Car Seat and Seat Belt Safety

By Ursula Nizalowski


Whether it’s winter, spring, summer, or fall, young children have to be properly put in their
specially designed car seats or wear their seat belts the correct way. Otherwise, they could get
their parents in trouble with the law. At worse, improper seat use might endanger the children’s
lives. For these reasons, we have safety standards when it comes to wearing seat belts and how
to deal with car seats. So here’s an outline on the different car seats available to kids of different
ages along with the kinds of risks and precautions to take into consideration.

Types of Car Seats for Kids

Rear-Facing – Car seats that face away from the front of the car are typically used for
newborns and children between the ages of 1 and 3 years old. It has a built-in harness which
“cradles and moves with your child to reduce the stress to the child’s fragile neck and spinal
cord” according to NHTSA . So it’s strongly advised to keep infant and young toddlers in a rear-
facing car seat as long as possible due to their very fragile bodies.
Forward-Facing – Once a young toddler has outgrown his or her rear-facing car seat,
they are ready for the next type of car seat that faces forward instead of backward. What makes
this one different is that it’s for children ages 1 to 7 years of age and has a tether in addition to a
harness. Together, the tether and harness limit a “child’s forward movement during a crash”
NHTSA says.
Booster – Compared to the other car seats for kids, boosters can be worn by children
between 4 to 12 years old. The reason for this huge overlap has to do with the forward-facing
car seat they’re using, which have different height and/or weight limits depending on the manufacturer. So after a child reaches those limits, NHTSA advises putting them in a booster seat with the belt fitting “snugly across the upper thighs” for safety reasons.

At What Point Should a Kid Only Wear a Seat Belt?

When a child reaches 12 years of age, they typically become too big for their booster seat. This
means they’re ready for wearing just the seat belt without the car seat, but how can you know for
sure? According to the CDC , “A seat belt fits properly when the lap belt is across the upper
thighs…and the shoulder belt is across the center of the shoulder and chest”. But no two
vehicles have the same kind of seat belts, so it’s best to check before deciding whether the kid
should only wear a seat belt in one vehicle versus another.

Risks and Precautions

Child Restraint Laws – To legally protect child passengers in light of a vehicle-
related accident, every state has child restraint laws and Colorado is no different. For instance,
on the Colorado Department of Transportation ’s website, it says, “Parents and caregivers are
responsible for properly restraining a child and will be ticketed if they fail to do so”.
Additionally, there will be further charges made to the caregiver or parent following the injury of
a child if they weren’t placed in the correct seat.
Do’s – In the process of fitting the child into their car seat, one must consider how tight
the car seat’s installation is. The CDC advises “Installed car seats should move no more than
one inch from front-to-back and from side-to-side at the belt path”. Because that way, the child’s
body won’t move too much around and possibly get injured.
Don’ts – Regarding harnessed car seats, the harness itself should not be “behind the
child’s arms, legs, or back for all car seats” as stated by the CDC . Not only does this increase the risk of injury, but it’s not the proper way to put on a harness either. The belt should also be placed on the child the right way, such as not being across the stomach or the neck, face, and off the shoulder for extra safety.

For further questions about child safety and liability, feel free to contact attorney Rick Wagner .