Maryland Car Seat Laws: What You Need to Know

Motor vehicle crashes are still the primary cause of unintentional deaths and injuries among children, ages 5 to 16, in the United States.

Just like in any other states, Maryland is no different. In the 2016 data, about 12 children passengers in Maryland under 16 years old were killed while around 3,808 were seriously injured.

Based on the summary inspection reports, almost 84% of the car seat incidents involve misuse issues. These include riding in the wrong type of car seat, improper installation of the car seat, or the use of recalled, broken, or expired units.

Sounds alarming, right?

Thus, the knowledge of Maryland car seat laws is important to reduce the number of deaths and injuries among Maryland's children.

Maryland KISS Program

maryland car seat laws 2020

The KISS Program governs the child safety seat laws in Maryland. Kids In Safety Seats (KISS) is a state-wide program that helps reduce the number of injuries and deaths among Maryland children through proper education on child passenger safety. 

KISS is housed in the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and funded by the Department of Transportation through the Maryland Highway Safety Office. To achieve the goal of helping people on the proper use of safety seats, KISS works to:

  • Educate the public on Maryland's Child Passenger Safety Law
  • Offer program materials for the state's residents
  • Provide technical assistance and training about child passenger safety

Maryland's Child Passenger Safety Law

Under Maryland's Child Passenger Safety Law, a child who is zero to seven years old and is shorter than 4'9" must be secured in a child safety seat.

Every child eight to 16 years of age, who is not secured in a child safety seat, must wear a vehicle seat belt.

IMPORTANT:

The Maryland Law applies to transporting a child in a registered motor vehicle, including a passenger vehicle (Class A), a truck (Class E), or a multipurpose vehicle (Class M).

In this section, the child safety seat refers to any device used to restrain, position, or seat a child while being transported in a motor vehicle. This restraint device, including car seats or booster seats, should be manufactured according to the federal standards.

Also, the law requires the use of the child safety seat according to the manufacturer's instructions and directions.

1. Rear-Facing Car Seat

Babies and young toddlers are recommended to ride rear-facing car seats as long as possible. A child should use this type of car seat until the seat's maximum weight or height is reached.

Once the child nearly outgrows the infant-only seat, a rear-facing convertible seat should be used as it can carry up until 30 to 45 pounds.


2. Forward-Facing Car Seat

maryland car seat laws front seat

A child two years older or exceeds the weight or height limit must use a forward-facing car seat. This can be used until the child is four years old and weighs about 40 pounds.


3. Booster Seat

As per the new law concerning booster seats, a child under the age of eight or less than 4'9" in height should use a booster seat.


4. Lap Seat

A child eight years or older, 4'9" in height or taller, and over 65 pounds in weight can ride a lap-shoulder seat belt buckled at the vehicle's back seat.

The 5-Step Test

Maryland's child safety passenger program provided the following 5-step test to check the child's seat-belt readiness.

  1. 1
    Does the child sit all the way back against the vehicle seat?
  2. 2
    Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the seat?
  3. 3
    Does the belt cross the shoulder centered between the neck and arm?
  4. 4
    Is the lap belt as low as possible on the hips, touching the thighs?
  5. 5
    Can the child stay seated like this for the entire trip?

If there is a "NO" answer to any of the questions, the child needs a booster seat to ensure protection and comfort.

Maryland Car Seat Laws for Taxi

Under the Maryland Laws, taxis are exempted from using a child car seat when transporting a child. However, KISS advises parents to follow the same car seat recommendations in every vehicle.

Some taxi companies provide child seats for a small fee.

Transporting a Child in Rear of Pick-up Trucks

According to Transportation Article 22-1121, a child below 16 years of age is not allowed to occupy the bed of an unenclosed pick-up truck.

Penalties for Violations

A person violating the car seat laws in Maryland is subject to a fine of $50. This can be waived if the person acquires a child safety seat prior to the hearing date and provides the proof of acquisition.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can a Child Occupy the Front Seat?

maryland car seat laws booster

The Maryland Laws do not prohibit a child from riding the front seat. The only exception is that the front seat can't be used by a rear-facing child with an active airbag.

However, as per KISS and other child passenger safety experts' recommendations, all children under 13 should not occupy the front seat. 


2. Is It Legal to Leave a Child Alone in a Car?

Leaving a child under eight years of age, alone in a motor vehicle is illegal in Maryland. A violation of this law is subject to fines, imprisonment, or both.


3. Is Smoking in a Car with a Child Prohibited?

Smoking in a car or any motor vehicle with a child passenger under eight is prohibited in Maryland.

Important Information

As stated earlier, the KISS Program has been Maryland's lead agency in ensuring child passenger safety. Some of the KISS services include:

1. KISS Car Seat Assistance Program

maryland car seat laws rear facing

This purchase program helps reduce the cost of the child's car seat for financially eligible families.

It also coordinates to loaner sites throughout the state through their Special Needs Loaner Program.


2. KISS Technical Assistance

KISS produces a newsletter that focuses on the issues and topics involved with child passenger safety. It also includes product information, seat recalls, and the latest updates to keep parents updated within the field.

KISS offers a virtual car seat checkup through Skype for those who are unable to attend car seat inspections events. Make an appointment via the helpline or email for remote inspection.


3. CPS for Children

The Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems offers the CPS & OP Healthcare Project, which aims to promote the best practices in child passenger safety and occupant protection. 

This program provides education and resources to hospitals to ensure that parents and caregivers are knowledgeable enough to keep children safe and protected.

Moreover, this project, together with the Maryland Highway Safety Office's funding, will give away free car seats and patient education materials, which will be given to families being discharged in the hospitals.

Final Thoughts

Maryland has been actively doing their part to ensure the children's safety and security by creating rules and regulations. As responsible citizens and parents, it is your duty to do your share by abiding with these laws.

Keep in mind that Maryland car seat laws are there to protect your children!

What are you waiting for? Grab the car seat that best fits your child!