Thanks to Maryland’s car seat laws, which require most children under 8 to be properly secured and restrained while in a vehicle, the rate of children dying in auto accidents has gone down nearly 60 percent since 1975. Obeying federal and state laws regarding child restraints is an easy and effective way to ensure that a child is not as severely injured or killed in the event that car accident does occur.
At Otway Russo, P.C., ensuring safety on the road is one of our primary goals as a firm. For parents, this means highlighting Maryland’s car seat laws across all ages, with the hope that this will make the road a better and safer place for all drivers and passengers.
When is a Car Seat Required?
According to Maryland state law, children under the age of 8 must ride in a restraint system appropriate for their age. This law is effective until the child reaches 4 feet 9 inches or taller, at which point they may stop using a car seat and begin riding in a car as normal. However, children between the age of 8 and 16 who do not use a car must use the seat belt in the vehicle at all times.
Maryland’s car seat laws apply to all drivers in Maryland—state residents or not—and it is the driver who is ultimately responsible for ensuring that children in their vehicle are properly restrained as the law dictates. Currently, taxis are exempt from Maryland’s car seat law, but it is still highly recommended to follow the safety precautions outlined by the law when riding in a taxi with a child.
Can My Child Ride in the Front Seat?
Maryland has no law preventing children from riding in the front passenger seat. While some states have laws that outright prohibit children from riding in the front passenger seat on the basis of age or height, Maryland’s car seat laws only prevents children from sitting in the front seat if a rear-facing car seat (i.e. a baby carrier) is being used. All other restraints—such as a booster seat—are legal for use in the front passenger seat.
Despite the fact that it is legal to have your child ride in the front passenger seat in a vehicle in Maryland, it is still recommended to have younger children ride in the back with appropriate restraint. While the risk of severe airbag injury has gone down in recent years, children seated in the front seat are 40 percent more likely to be injured in a car accident than rear-seated children.
What Restraint Should I Be Using For My Child?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends specific types of car seats and boosters for children according to height, weight and age. It is important to pick a seat that not only fits properly into your vehicle, but also will keep your child safe until they outgrow a specific model of restraint system. In order to provide maximum safety and comfort to your child, always make sure to follow manufacturer’s instructions closely.
The NHTSA’s recommendations based on your child’s age are as follows:
Birth – 12 Months: Your child under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. There are different types of rear-facing car seats:
- Infant-only seats can only be used rear-facing.
- Convertible and all-in-one car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period of time.
1 – 3 Years: Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It’s the best way to keep him or her safe. Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer.
Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether.
4 – 7 Years: Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer.
Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, it’s time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat.
8 – 12 Years: Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face.
Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat because it’s safer there.
Contact a Maryland Auto Accident Attorney
For most parents, the safety and wellbeing of their children is paramount to anything else. Because of this, the fundamental purpose of Maryland’s car seat laws are to keep you and your family safe on the road. Despite all of the precautions that you can take, however, accidents still happen that can result in great injury to both you and your children.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence, you may be eligible for legal compensation for your injuries. Contact an experienced Maryland auto accident attorney to discuss the details of your case and begin filing a claim today.