Maryland Car Seat Laws
Car seat laws in Maryland require all children younger than 8 years old to use the appropriate child restraint system based on the child’s age, weight and height. Booster seat laws are included in the car seat rules because booster seats are also federally-approved child restraint systems.
It is important for all drivers who transport child passengers to understand these child car seat laws, both parents and any caregivers or babysitters. Additionally, non-residents of Maryland are still obligated to follow state laws when driving in the state, so be sure to research any state’s laws where you might drive through with a child passenger.
Booster seat and car seat age minimums are indicated within the law, but you must also always review the weight and height restrictions set by the car seat or booster seat manufacturer. In Maryland, a child’s height can change the requirements, so make sure you take into account the legal requirements in combination with the car or booster seat limitations.
What are the car seat laws in Maryland?
Maryland child car seat safety laws require all children younger than eight years old to use a child restraint system, based on the child’s weight and height. Exceptions to the age minimum can be made for children who are 4 feet 9 inches or taller. Children aged between eight and 16 years old can choose to use a child booster seat or the regular seat belt, but one or the other is required.
Note that weight limits are set by the manufacturer, but you still must adhere to MD laws as well. Monitor both to ensure the safety of your child passengers. The age and height minimums set by the state serve as a baseline, while the manufacturer’s car or booster seat weight requirements are maximums that can pose a safety hazard if they are exceeded.
All drivers are responsible for following the MD car seat law and ensuring that passengers adhere to these laws, whether the driver is a resident of the state of Maryland or not.
Note that residents of Maryland can also access a loaned car seat or booster seat under certain circumstances. You can contact the state’s Kids in Safety Seats (KISS) program if you are in need extra assistance in acquiring a seat to meet the legal requirements.
Penalties for Violating Car Seat Regulations in Maryland
Violating the Maryland car seat safety rules can result in a citation, after which you will have to pay a penalty fine. To avoid any penalties, make sure you carefully follow the legal requirements as mentioned above. These laws were written after extensive testing and modifications to safety devices, all in an effort to keep your children as safe as possible while riding in vehicles.
Types of Car Seats
You should research the best car seats on the market before you make a purchase. Be sure to review the safest car seats available, while also confirming compatibility with your specific vehicle. You will usually find the most popular brands, including Chicco, Evenflo and Graco, rated at the top of safety and quality listings, but you should confirm before you buy.
Learn the different car seat types based on ages and weight limitations before you buy, since your child might fit certain categories. The following are the most common options:
- Rear Facing Car Seat: It is recommended that your child use a rear facing seat for at least the first two years, depending on the weight and height limitations of your car seat model. The longer you can keep your child rear facing, the better. Some styles are called an infant car seat and clip into a base in your vehicle, while others can convert (as described below).
- Forward Facing Car Seat: Once your child reaches the weight or height maximum for your particular rear facing seat, you will then switch to a forward-facing seat. Make sure you observe the weight and height limits for this seat as well, but try to keep your child in this position until the maximums are reached. These might be called a toddler car seat, although you can also use the combination seat options like the next type.
- Convertible Car Seat: A convertible seat option can be used as both a rear and forward-facing seat, which means you can keep the same seat for longer as your child gets bigger and would otherwise outgrow individual seats.
Remember that booster car seats must be used until the child reaches the height or age requirements mentioned previously. It is recommended that, regardless of age, your child should continue to use a booster seat until he or she can comfortably sit properly and use a regular seat belt.
Car Seat Installation Information
Car seat installation can be very tricky if you have never used a car or booster seat before. There are inspection stations throughout Maryland where you can get extra help and guidance, so be sure to take advantage of that assistance. Those are usually at fire stations or medical clinics, but you can find a full list online. To get you started, here are some extra tips for how to install a car seat:
- Read both the car seat instruction manual and your vehicle owner manual to make sure you understand how the car seat can be correctly installed within your exact vehicle.
- The safest spot to install a car seat is the center seat of the back seat of your vehicle. Never install it on a front seat and never in front of an active airbag.
- Double-check that the seat is securely tightened and cannot move more than an inch in any direction when you pull on it.
- Carefully monitor the weight and height of your child in reference to the maximum limits of the seat so that you can adjust your child’s seating position accordingly. Remember the state legal requirements, too, and make sure you meet all the restrictions.
- Register your car seat, if possible, so you can get notifications for any recalls or issues with your purchase.