Child-restarint laws get more stringent

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— Greater use of child-restraint systems and seat belts is now required throughout Colorado under a child passenger safety law that went into effect on Friday.

The old statute, which required only that drivers implement an approved child-restraint system for newborns to 4-year-olds, was fairly broad and lacked clear statement of many details, Colorado State Patrol Sgt. Gary Meirose said. The new laws are much more specific.

"They really haven't changed the laws, just made it more defined in terms of age and weight," Meirose said.

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, the new law requires that a rear-facing child-restraint system be used for child younger than 1 year or weighing less than 20 pounds. Children ages 1 to 4 weighing 20 to 40 pounds must travel in front-facing child-restraint systems.

Children who weigh more than 40 pounds or are between the ages of 4 and 6 must be restrained in a booster seat or with a child seat belt positioning device until they are 55 inches tall.

Once taller than 55 inches or at least 6 years old, a child must be restrained using a seat belt.

All child-restraint systems must be approved by the state and correctly installed according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Meirose said the law allots a one-year grace period to allow drivers to adjust.

"We're not going to be issuing citations on the new portion of the law until Aug. 1, 2004," he said, but he added that officers are still able to issue tickets on the old portions of the statute.

Officers can issue warnings to drivers until the grace period expires.

According to CDOT, the minimum fine for violating the law will be $58.80. Drivers can be fined for each unrestrained child.

The law is intended to keep child passengers safe, Meirose said. "It's one we decided would be good for kids," he said.

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