Maryland Car Seat Laws
Maryland child car seat laws require child restraint seats for children under 8 and shorter than 4'9". In 2013, the state repealed a law that exempted children over 65 pounds from child restraint seats. Children between 8 and 15 who are not in child restraint seats must use a seat belt.
- Infants: Have your baby sit in the back in a rear-facing car seat. Use an infant carrier that may or may not have a base. You can also use a convertible seat that has a five-point harness. Once your child approaches one year old or weighs 20 pounds, use rear-facing convertible seats with a 30-pound upper weight limit. Never place your child in the front if there are passenger-side airbags.
- Toddlers: Use a forward-facing child seat after your child turns one and weighs around 20 to 40 pounds. Read the seat instructions for proper seat installation and harness adjustment.
- Preschoolers: Use a child safety seat that has a harness. Once your preschooler reaches 40 pounds, use a booster seat that allows the lap and shoulder belt to correctly fit. The lap belt should fit over the upper thighs and the shoulder belt should fit across the chest. Continue using a booster seat until your child turns 8 years old or reaches 4'9". According to the CDC, child passenger safety requires child booster seats for children ages 4-8 reduces the car accident injury risk by 45 percent compared to a standard seat belt.
- School-age children: Once your child turns 8 and reaches at least 4'9", they are permitted to sit in a car's back seat. Make sure to properly secure their seatbelt. The shoulder belt should never be placed under their arm or behind their back.
According to Transportation Article 22-412.2, Maryland requires children under 8 are required to sit in child restraint seats. This law exempts children who are at least 4'9". Children between 8 and 16 who are not sitting in child restraint seats are required to be secured in a vehicle's seat belt. This child seat belt law applies to both in-state and out-of-state vehicles. Drivers are responsible for properly buckling up all children.
The non-profit organization SafetyBeltSafe USA devised a 5-Step-Test that determines whether your child still needs a booster seat.
- Can your child sit back against the entire car seat?
- Can their knees comfortably bend at the car seat's edge?
- Is the lap belt covering their upper thighs?
- Is the shoulder belt across the chest between the neck and arm?
- Can your child sit comfortably in this position for the entire ride?
Answering "no" to any of these questions means your child still requires a booster seat.
Maryland child car seat laws do not explicitly prohibit children from sitting in the front seat. The only exception is placing a rear-facing child in the front with the airbags turned on. If the driver cannot turn off the front seat airbags, they are prohibited from placing a rear-facing child in the front.
Despite the absence of Maryland laws prohibiting children from sitting up front, many agencies, including the NHTSA, the CDC, and various car seat manufacturers advise that children under 13 sit in the back. A younger child's fragile skeletal structure cannot withstand a deployed airbag's impact. They may sustain severe injuries. Your child should continue to sit in the back seat until they turn 13. This ensures their safety.
According to Transportation Article 22-1121, children under 16 are prohibited from riding in a pickup truck's unenclosed bed.
Maryland law exempts taxis from child car seat restrictions. They are not required to use special car seats to transport children. However, you should continue to follow Maryland child safety seat laws when your children ride in taxis.
Unlike taxi services, Maryland child car seat laws apply to rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft. Rideshare drivers must follow these laws. If you are riding in an Uber or Lyft with a child under 16, please follow Maryland child car seat laws.
If you cannot afford a child car seat, please call Kids In Safety Seats (KISS) at (800) 370-SEAT. They will refer you to a local Car Seat Assistance Program that provides low-cost seats for qualifying families and car seat recommendations.