Maryland’s child safety law requires that all children under the age of 8 be properly secured in an appropriate child safety seat while riding in any motor vehicle unless they’re 4’9″ or taller. Additionally, children who are 2 years old or younger must be in rear-facing seats.

As a mother, I’ve extensively researched Maryland’s laws concerning car seats and kids’ safety in the state. I’m pleased to say that Maryland has an impressive rate for seat belt usage at 91%, far above the national average of 89%. The state also has a dedicated organization, Kids in Safety Seats (KISS), which provides car seat safety education and offers free training and inspections to help parents correctly install their child’s car seat. The organization also makes regular recommendations to the state on updating the laws for the safety of children.

It’s reassuring that your state is actively looking for ways to keep your children safe on the road. But it’s also vital for the parents and caregivers to be aware of their state’s laws and ensure that they follow them accordingly. So in this article, we’re breaking down Maryland’s car seat laws, how and where they are enforced, and how you can make sure your child is riding safely in the state.

Maryland Car Safety Laws

Maryland’s laws are fairly comprehensive and updated compared to passenger safety laws in several other states. The last major update passed in October 2022, requiring children under 2 to be restrained in rear-facing seats.

Here’s a breakdown of Maryland’s car seat law:

  • All children under 8 years old must use an appropriate child passenger restraint device unless they are 4’9″ or taller.
  • Infants and toddlers under 2 years old must be restrained in a rear-facing car seat, preferably in the back seat.
  • Kids above 8 years or taller than 4’9″ can be restrained by a lap/shoulder belt as long as it fits properly.
  • Every kid under the age of 16 must be secured in a safety belt. After 16, the general Maryland seatbelt law applies-all passengers, and the driver must wear a seatbelt.

The law also defines the “appropriate child restraint device” as a federally approved car seat, booster, or another device that meets or exceeds Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213. It also states that restraint should properly fit the child’s weight, height, and age.

Rear-Facing Car Seat Law

On October 1, 2022, Maryland passed a legislature requiring all children under 2 to be secured in a rear-facing car seat only. The state also forbids using rear-facing car seats in the front seat unless the passenger side airbags are turned off.

This law aligns with AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommendations, which encourage parents to keep their children rear-facing until age 2. Only 16 states in the nation have such a regulation, so this is a crucial step forward in child passenger safety.

Parents can choose either an infant seat (weight: 4-25 lbs) or the convertible car seat (weight: 5-50 lbs). The height varies, but generally, the child should not exceed the manufacturer’s stated weight and height limits for rear-facing positions.

Front-Facing Car Seat Law

Once a child has outgrown the rear-facing car seat, they can graduate to a forward-facing car seat with a five-point harness. Usually, it’s around when the child starts to weigh more than 40 lbs, and they stay in the same kind of seat until they reach 80 lbs, around 4 years old.

Kids’ height also plays a role in choosing the right front-facing seat – make sure their head is at least one inch under the top of the seat.

Booster Seat Law

Once your child outgrows the front-facing car seat, they can upgrade to the booster seat. According to Maryland law, children under 6 years and 4 feet 9 inches tall must use a booster seat while riding in the car. The code was enacted in 2013; before this, the state allowed children to use the regular safety belt once they were 65 lbs.

But please don’t be eager to switch to a booster seat: the AAP recommends that children remain in a five-point harness for as long as possible. As most front-facing seats can hold a child up to 65 lbs, this can be close to 7-8 years old, depending on the weight and height of the child.

Lap-Shoulder Seat Belt Law

Once the child reaches 4’9″ and 65 lbs, they can use a lap-shoulder seat belt. But remember, it’s more about the fit than the age – if your child isn’t ready for a regular seat belt, keep them in their booster seat until they are.

You can use a five-step readiness test to double-check if your child is ready for the lap-shoulder seat belt.

Five-Step Readiness Test

Check if your child has the following traits before transitioning to a lap-shoulder seat belt:

  1. The child can sit up straight while their back is against the vehicle seat.
  2. The child’s knees can bend over the edge of the vehicle seat.
  3. The lap belt snugly fits on the hips, not the stomach.
  4. The shoulder belt fits across the chest, not the neck or arm.
  5. The child can stay in this position for the entire trip.

If any of these steps aren’t met, the child isn’t ready for the seat belt yet and should stay in their booster seat.

When Can A Child Ride In The Front Sit In Maryland

The State of Maryland does not have a defined age, weight, or height requirement for children to travel in the front seat. However, according to recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics and Maryland’s KISS initiative, children under 13 should ride in the back seat.

It cites a 2015 research paper that found that children under 13 years old are at 40% increased risk of injury when travelling in the front seat. Experts suggest a child should be at least 100 lbs and 5 feet tall before riding in the front seat.

However, if you must have a child in the front seat, deactivate the airbag and fasten the car seat away from the dashboard.

Maryland Car Seat Law for Taxi/Ride-Share Services

Under Maryland’s law, taxis are currently exempt from car seat requirements. This means drivers are not responsible for providing car seats, and the parents or guardians are not liable for providing a car seat to their children inside a taxi.

But the case is not the same for ride-share services like Uber and Lyft. Maryland’s all child safety and car seat laws apply to these services, and children under 8 or 4’9″ must be in an appropriate car seat. Some ride-share companies may provide car seats for an additional fee.

KISS advises that parents follow the same car seat recommendations in every vehicle, regardless if it is a Taxi or an Uber. If you’re a resident, it’s best to carry your child safety seats every time you travel.

In Maryland, the vehicle’s driver is responsible for ensuring that all children under 16 are properly secured. Failing to do so will result in a $50 fine and a written warning for violation.

Learn More About Kids in Safety Seats (KISS)

Maryland’s Kids in Safety Seats (KISS) Program is a statewide initiative to educate parents and guardians about car seat safety and its laws. In addition, the agency works with the state’s coalition partners to provide free car seat inspections and educational events throughout the year.

KISS carries out monthly virtual webinars, offers individual technical consultations, and has several inspection sites all over the state where you can get your car seat inspected by a certified technician. It also works with social service programs like WIC to help low-income families get safe car seats for their children.

You can find more information and contact details of the KISS program on Maryland’s official website.

 

KISS Program

Bottom Line

As a parent or guardian, it’s your responsibility to make sure your children are secured properly in the vehicle. Maryland’s car seat law is designed to keep children safe, but following best practices and age/size guidelines is important.

Here’s a quick recap of what we understood:

Contact a car seat technician or KISS for more information and guidance.

Author

Welcome to my car seat blog! As a mom of 3, I put together with other hard-working moms a highly informative one-stop car seat resource, full with many reviews and buyer guides. I hope you find it invaluable. Thank you for trusting me & my team! - Keren

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Keren Simanova

Welcome to my car seat blog! As a mom of 3, I put together with other hard-working moms a highly informative one-stop car seat resource, full with many reviews and buyer guides. I hope you find it invaluable. Thank you for trusting me & my team! - Keren