Maryland car seat laws requires that all drivers and riders in a moving vehicle be restrained by either car seats or seatbelts. They have a primary seatbelt law regarding drivers, front-seat passengers, and back-seat passengers under the age of 16, which means that they can pull you over simply for not wearing a seatbelt even without any other violations.
Secondary seatbelt laws apply to everyone else, including back-seat passengers over the age of 16, which means that you cannot be stopped merely because you are not wearing a seatbelt. Since 1997, Maryland has had seatbelt laws officially on the books, resulting in a 92% seatbelt use for the state, which is higher than the national average of 89%.
Laws for Rear-Facing Car Seats
Although not a requirement, the state of Maryland recommends that all babies up to the age of two be secured in rear-facing car seats, which must be in the back seat. This is in accordance with recommendations made by the American Academy of Pediatrics and more states are now following suit. All children under the age of eight have to be in either car seats or seatbelts but if they are two years old or younger, they should be in car seats that face the rear of the vehicle.
If you have a brand-new car seat, which is highly recommended, you must adhere to the guidelines set forth by the manufacturer, including all height and weight requirements. This usually means keeping the child facing the rear of the vehicle until the age of two, when he or she can then be placed in a front-facing car seat. Rear-facing car seats do a much better job of supporting the child’s head and shoulder areas in the case of a car accident, which is why these types of car seats are recommended for infants.
Laws for Front-Facing Car Seats
Once a child reaches the age of two, parents can switch to front-facing car seats. Once again, you must adhere to the height and weight recommendations described in the owner’s manual and developed by the manufacturer. Although not recommended, you can even put a front-facing car seat in the front seat if you have to; however, this should not be done if the front seat has an airbag. If your child is still using a rear-facing car seat, you are never allowed to have it in the front seat.
Babies and toddlers usually remain in a front-facing car seat until around the age of four but if the child is smaller or shorter than average, it is recommended that you not move up to a booster seat but instead keep using the front-facing car seat. The child’s height and weight will help you determine whether or not you’re ready to move up to a booster seat.
Laws for Booster Seats
Booster seats are usually used starting around the age of four and there are two distinct types of booster seats. If you have proper headrests, you can utilize a backless booster seat because the headrests will properly support the child’s head and neck area. If you have no headrest, you have to use a full-back booster seat because these seats will properly protect the child’s head and neck while the vehicle is moving.
Both types of booster seats need to be secured with a lap and shoulder belt, never just a lap belt. The shoulder belt must fit snugly over the child’s chest and the lap belt needs to be placed over the child’s hip and thigh area. To properly fit in a booster seat, children should be able to:
- Keep their feet on the ground
- Keep their backs against the back of the vehicle seat
- Bend their knees comfortably over the edge of the vehicle seat
- Maintain this position for the entire ride
If your child doesn’t fit these requirements, you may have to go back to using a front-facing car seat. After all, children rely on adults to keep them as safe as possible when riding in a vehicle so it is up to those adults to make sure that this happens every time.
Height and Weight Requirements
There aren’t many actual height and weight requirements issued in writing from the state of Maryland but there are a few of them. If your child reaches a height of 4’9”, he or she is able to ride in a vehicle without a car seat but must use seatbelts just as adults do. In addition, anyone under the age of 13 should always ride in the back seat because this is the safest place for them.
If your car seat is new and you’re following the height and weight recommendations in the owner’s manual, your child will be safe. Never buy a used car seat because it may no longer meet the safety standards set forth by the state and national safety organizations. There are also different types of car seats — including infant, convertible, and booster seats — and each will have its own recommendations regarding height and weight requirements.
Laws for Seatbelts
Seatbelts are required by everyone over the age of eight in Maryland. This includes the driver and all passengers of every moving vehicle. The authorities can stop you and give you a fine simply for not wearing a seatbelt, making this a primary seatbelt law state. If someone under the age of 16 is not wearing a seatbelt when you are stopped, the driver will receive that ticket as well. In other words, all passengers can receive a fine if they are not wearing seatbelts and the first fine is $83, including court costs.
As with most states, Maryland provides exemptions from seatbelt laws in some vehicles including post office vehicles, buses, taxicabs, and a few others. You can also get an exemption if you have a medical condition that states that wearing a seatbelt would be dangerous for you but you have to have a doctor’s statement with you every time you drive. Other than these exceptions, everyone in the state of Maryland who is inside of a moving vehicle must be restrained the entire time.