Properly restraining your child and knowing basic safety information can help reduce injuries and fatalities. But is it safe to continue using a car seat following a Colorado auto accident?

You probably know that all 50 states require those under the age of 18 should use a seat belt while traveling in a vehicle. In Colorado, children under the age of 8 must be in a child restraint seat or booster seat, and it’s recommended that even if they’re 8, they continue with a booster seat until they’re 4-foot-9.

But here’s something you may not know: If you are in a car accident in Colorado, do you have to replace a child or booster seat if the seat doesn’t seem to be damaged? The answer may surprise you.

Seat Replacement Requirements Reviewed

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) used to recommend that a child restraint seat be replaced whenever the car it was in was involved in an accident. This was a blanket recommendation whether the accident was minor or severe, and whether or not a child was in the seat during the accident.

But that recommendation has now been changed. If a car is in a moderate or severe accident, it’s still recommended that a restraint seat be replaced immediately, even if no child was using it at the time of the accident. Restraint seats don’t necessarily have to be replaced in case of a minor accident.

The change in philosophy is due in part to the fact that the NHTSA found more children were unrestrained because parents had not yet replaced a restraint seat or booster seat. It also noted that in vehicle crash tests, car seats still performed well in ensuing crashes if the first crash was minor.

What Is Considered a ‘Minor Crash?’

Opinions on what makes a crash “minor” may vary, but according to the NHTSA, a minor accident is one where:

  • You can safely drive the vehicle away from the crash site
  • The door closest to the child safety seat is not damaged
  • None of the car’s occupants are injured
  • The airbags do not deploy
  • There is no visible sign of damage to the child safety seat

Child Restraints Save Lives

Over the years, fewer and fewer children 13 and younger are dying in auto accidents, but car accidents still cause 1 out of every 4 unintentional injury deaths of children. Properly restraining your child and knowing basic safety information can help reduce these fatalities.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute, buckling a child in the rear seat instead of the front seat reduces fatal injury risk by three-quarters for children up to age 3. Restraining children ages 4-8 in the rear seat can cut the risk of fatal injury in half.

Regardless of the law and regardless of age, everyone in a car should always be restrained. Knowing how to properly install and use a child safety seat in Colorado is essential. For those who need guidance, the Colorado Department of Transportation has updated information at In addition, the website highlights places where parents can go to learn more about properly installing a child safety seat.

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