Maryland Car Seat Laws

Current as of March 2024

Maryland Car Seat Laws: What Every Parent Must Know

As a parent in Maryland, keeping your child safe in the car is always a top priority. Following the state's car seat laws is not only legally required, but also one of the best ways to protect your little ones on the road. We've broken down the key points you need to know to ensure you're using the right car seat correctly every time you buckle up.

Maryland Car Seat Requirements by Age and Size

Maryland law requires all children under 8 years old to be properly secured in a child restraint system, unless they are 4'9" or taller. The specific type depends on your child's age, height, and weight:

  • Infants and Toddlers (under 2 years): Must ride in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the seat's height or weight limit.
  • Toddlers and Preschoolers (2-4 years): Should use a forward-facing seat with a harness until they outgrow it.
  • School-Aged Kids (4-7 years): Must use a booster seat unless they are 4'9" or taller.
  • Older Kids (8+ years or 4'9"+): Can use a seat belt if it fits properly across the lap and shoulder.

Remember, all children under 13 are safest in the back seat. By following these guidelines, you significantly reduce the risk of serious injury or death for your child if a crash occurs.

Installing Your Car Seat Right: Tips and Tricks

Choosing the right car seat is just the first step. To truly keep your child safe, the seat must be installed and used correctly every time. Always follow these key points:

  1. Read your car seat and vehicle manuals thoroughly.
  2. Place the seat in the back, facing the correct direction for your child's age/size.
  3. Secure the seat tightly with either the seat belt or LATCH system. It should not move more than 1 inch side-to-side or front-to-back when pulled at the belt path.
  4. Adjust the harness snugly against your child's body, with the chest clip at armpit level.
  5. For rear-facing seats, ensure the correct recline angle so your child's head does not flop forward.

Maryland offers free car seat checks at fitting stations statewide, where certified technicians can inspect your installation and offer guidance. It's a quick, easy way to double check your work and ensure your child's safety.

Consequences of Breaking Maryland Car Seat Laws

In Maryland, police can pull you over and issue a ticket if they see a child passenger who is not properly secured in a car seat, booster, or seat belt. Fines start at $50 and also add points to your license - but the real cost is the danger to your child's life.

Car crashes are a leading cause of death for kids. Using the right car seat can reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers. So while it may be tempting to let them ride without the proper restraint, it's never worth the potential price.

Your Maryland Car Seat FAQs, Answered

Still have questions about keeping your kids safe on Maryland roads? We've got you covered:

Q: What if my child is over 8 but too small for a seat belt?

A: Keep them in a booster until the belt fits right, even past age 8. The lap belt should lie across the upper thighs (not stomach) and shoulder belt across the chest (not neck).

Q: Are there any times my child can legally ride without a car seat?

A: Maryland allows very few exceptions, like in taxis or vehicles without belts. If a proper restraint is available, you must use it for kids under 8. Don't risk it!

Q: Where can I go for help with car seat installation?

A: Maryland has many free car seat fitting stations where certified technicians can check your installation and offer expert advice. Many fire/police stations and hospitals also offer this service.

The bottom line for Maryland parents is simple: always properly secure your child under 8 (or 4'9") in the right car seat, booster, or belt, installed correctly every single ride. By following the state's laws and best practice recommendations, you're giving your kid the best chance of coming home safe from every trip. And that's what matters most.