Child Passenger Safety Laws help make sure that your child is as secure as possible when riding in the car. According to Maryland's Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA), automobile crashes are the leading cause of death for children over the age of two. But many of these deaths can be prevented by following the laws set in place for child passengers, including the use of effective child restraints.

What are the the laws for children passengers in Maryland?

Maryland Child Passenger Safety Laws vary by age and height. The following laws are enforced for both in and out-of-state vehicles in Maryland:

  • Every child under the age of 8 must ride in a proper child restraint, unless he or she is 4 feet 9 inches or taller. These restraints may include car seats, booster seats, and other safety devices that have been federally approved.
  • Any child ages 8 to 16 who is not secured in a child restraint needs to use the vehicle's adult safety belt.
  • Children under the age of 16 are prohibited from riding in the bed of an unenclosed truck. Certain areas also have ordinances that prohibit anyone from doing this.

Maryland Child Passenger Safety Laws do not prohibit children from sitting in the front seat, except in the case of rear-facing car seats. However, child safety experts strongly recommend that children under the age of 13 sit in the back seat. Ultimately, it is the driver's responsibility to ensure that all children riding in the car are safely and securely buckled up.

Booster Seats vs. Adult Safety Belts for Children

Booster seats are not just for toddlers. In order to be properly secured while riding in the car, most children ages 4 to about 10 or 12 need to use a booster seat. In order to determine if your child is ready to use adult car belts, check to make sure that:

  • The child can sit all the way back in the seat
  • The child's knees bend comfortably at the end of the seat
  • The seat belt crosses the child comfortably between the neck and arm
  • The lap portion of the belt is as low as possible, touching the thighs

If the child can stay seated this way for the whole ride, then he or she is ready to use an adult car seat belt.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that child restraints are often misused. One study found that out of 3,500 observed car and booster seats, 72% were used improperly in a way that could impact the child's risk of injury during a car crash. To ensure your child's safety, it's essential that you learn how to properly install and use child restraints in motor vehicles.

It is essential to obey Maryland Child Passenger Safety laws, not just to be compliant with the state law, but to support the health and safety of your child. If you need help finding an appropriate car seat or booster seat or need assistance with proper installation and use of child restraints, call Kids in Safety Seats (KISS) at 800-370-SEAT (7328) for more information.