Car Laws & Safety

Maryland Car Seat Laws 2021 [For Children Of All Ages]

Maryland’s child safety seat laws are governed by The KISS program (defined below). They make regular updates and recommendations to keep kids safe. In this article, we will cover how the car seat laws and guidelines change as your child ages from infant to teenager.

This includes laws concerning rear-facing car seats, forward-facing car seats, booster seats, and lap-shoulder belts. 

Every parent knows that recommendations regarding children are always being updated. This is especially true when it comes to child safety. The State of Maryland updated their child car seat laws as recently as 2013.

It doesn’t matter if you are a visitor or a local, everyone in the state is required to follow the most recent child car seat laws. 

Maryland Car Seat Safety Law

Maryland’s child passenger safety law states that every child under 8 years of age must ride in an appropriate child restraint unless the child is 4 feet 9 inches or taller. Every child from 8 to 16 years old who is not using a child restraint must be secured in the vehicle’s seat belt. 

This law seems pretty all-encompassing of children from birth to 16 years. However, it also seems a bit vague. The part that may confuse you is “an appropriate child restraint”. The State of Maryland defines an appropriate child restraint as “ a car seat, booster seat, or another federally approved safety device”. Additionally, “appropriate” means that the child’s age, weight, and height fall within the seats guidelines and limits. 

Let’s take a closer look. 

Rear-Facing Car Seat Law

Maryland’s law is not specific on when a child must use a rear-facing car seat. It only states that a child must use an appropriate child restraint and to check the manufacturer’s instructions for weight and height limits. 

Thankfully, the American Academy of Pediatrics makes recommendations. It is recommended that your child stay in a rear-facing seat as long as possible, or at least until the age of 2. 

You should begin using a forward-facing car seat only when your child exceeds the weight and/or height limit of their car seat. Many convertible rear-facing seats have weight limits of around 50 pounds. The height limit varies but is generally 1 inch below the top of the seat. Even if their feet touch the back of the vehicle seat, if they are within the height and weight capacities, they should remain rear-facing. 

Rear-facing car seats include infant car seats and convertible seats. Many convertible seats have extended rear-facing weight limits so you can keep your child rear-facing longer. 

Forward-Facing Car Seat Law

When your child is 2 years or older, and/or exceeds the height and weight limits you can turn them around. They must then use a forward-facing car seat. Children should continue to use their forward-facing seats until they are at least 4 years old and weigh 40 pounds.

But don’t be too eager to transition to a booster. The AAP recommends using a forward-facing car seat until your child outgrows it. Most forward-facing and convertible car seats can be used until your child is around 50 pounds. For some children, this means they can be close to 6 years in age. 

A booster seat is a belt positioner. Until your child is heavy enough and mature enough to use a booster seat and maintain proper posture for the entire car ride, they should be in a forward-facing car seat. 

Child Booster Seat Law

Children under the age of 8 or less than 4 feet 9 inches in height must use a booster seat. The law concerning booster seats changed on October 1, 2013. Previously, Maryland law allowed children to stop using a booster once they were 65 pounds. 

However, experts found that many parents were graduating their children to the lap-shoulder belt much too soon. Relying on the weight limit wasn’t enough. Especially because seat belts predominantly rely on height to fit appropriately. The new law helps to ensure children don’t transition out of a booster seat too soon. 

Lap-Shoulder Seat Belt Law

When your child is 8 years or older, 4 feet 9 inches in height or taller and over 65 pounds, they can use the lap-shoulder seat belt. They should remain buckled in the back seat of the vehicle. 

Five-Step Readiness Check

The following is a seat-belt readiness check provided by Maryland’s program for child passenger safety. 

The 5-Step Test
  1. Does the child sit all the way back against the vehicle seat?
  2. Do the child’s knees bend comfortably at the edge of the seat?
  3. Does the belt cross the shoulder centered between the neck and arm?
  4. Is the lap belt as low as possible on the hips, touching the thighs?
  5. Can the child stay seated like this for the entire trip? 

If you answer “no” to any of these questions, your child needs a booster. Remember, this check should be performed in every vehicle as answers may vary with the type of car. 

When Can My Child Ride In the Front Seat? 

Maryland law does not specify at what age, weight, or height a child can ride in the front seat. 

However, KISS, or Maryland Kids In Safety Seats, advises that children should not be allowed to sit in the front seat until they are at least 13. Some experts recommend that children be at least 100 pounds and 5 feet tall before moving to the front seat. KISS cites a report that shows that children restrained in the backseat are 40% less likely to be injured in a crash. 

And remember, children in a rear-facing car seat should never be placed in the front seat. 

Maryland’s Stages of Seat Safety: For Children of All Ages

The four stages for child safety seats are as follows:
  1. Rear-facing infant seats
  2. Forward-facing toddler seats
  3. Booster seats
  4. Safety belts

Additionally, every child under the age of 16 must be secured in a safety belt. After 16 the general Maryland seatbelt law applies. This law says that all passengers and the driver must wear a seatbelt. 

Maryland Car Seat Law for Taxi/Uber

Under Maryland’s current laws, Taxis are exempt. This means that when they are transporting a child the child does not have to be in a child car seat. KISS advises that parents follow the same car seat recommendations in every vehicle, regardless if it is a Taxi or an Uber. 

Some taxi companies or Uber drivers can provide you with a booster seat or a child seat for a small fee. It is also wise to travel with your own child car seat in order to keep your little one safe at all times. 

Accident Replacement Guidelines

Maryland does not specify if you must replace your child safety seat after an accident. 

The AAP recommends that your car seat is replaced after every accident. Even if you cannot see physical damage, structural damage may have occurred. Often, your insurance may help cover the cost of a replacement car seat. 

Other Laws Regarding Children and Vehicles in Maryland

  • It is illegal to smoke in a car with a child passenger
  • It is illegal to leave a child under 8 years of age in a car alone
  • Children under 16 are not allowed to ride in the bed of an unenclosed pick-up truck

What Happens If I Don’t Follow the Law? 

Not following the seat belt or car seat laws in Maryland can result in a fine of $50. Worse than the fine is the danger to your child should you not follow the child restraint laws. 

Where Can You Learn More? 

Maryland Kids in Safety Seats, or KISS, is a one-stop-shop for all things regarding keeping kids safe in vehicles. On their website, you can find plenty of information and guidelines.

They also provide links and locations at which you can receive a car seat check from a certified technician either in-person or virtually. 

KISS Program

Final Thoughts

Maryland child car seat laws are in the business of keeping kids safe in vehicles. Even though some of these laws may specify certain ages at which you can move your child to the next seat type, it is best to wait until your child exceeds the weight or height limits.

In most cases, keeping your child in their rear-facing and/or forward-facing car seat as long as possible is the safest option. 

See also
West Virginia Car Seat Laws [Rear, Forward & Booster]

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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