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Maryland Child Car Seat Laws

Securing your child in a safe car seat may be the difference between life and death if you are involved in a serious auto accident in Maryland. The statistics related to child seats are stark and are the reason behind Maryland child seat laws.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the use of a properly fitted car seat reduces the risk of death to infants one-year-old or under by 71 percent and toddlers aged 1-4 who are strapped into passenger vehicles by 54 percent.

Using a booster seat for an older child reduces the risk of serious injury by 45 percent for children aged 4–8 years when compared to seat belt use alone.

Car Accident Statistics for Children

Every year hundreds of children lose their lives in car wrecks, according to CDC. Thousands are injured. The agency states:

These alarming statistics provide a good reason for Maryland child seat laws. However, they are routinely flouted, sometimes with tragic consequences.

law, books, lawsuit, legalWhat Are the Maryland Child Seat Laws?

Maryland’s child safety seat laws are found in Maryland Transportation Article §22-412.2(d).

The laws state any person “transporting a child under the age of 8 years in a motor vehicle shall secure the child in a child safety seat in accordance with the child safety seat and vehicle manufacturers’ instructions unless the child is 4 feet, 9 inches tall or taller.”

Maryland Safety Belt Laws for Children Under 16 Years of Age

In addition to the required child safety seat laws mentioned above, a child under the age of 16 must be secured in a child safety seat or a seat belt. Maryland Transportation Article §22-412.2(e) states subject to this law, “a person may not transport a child under the age of 16 years” unless the child is secured in:

  1. A child safety seat in accordance with the child safety seat and vehicle manufacturers’ instructions;
  2. A seat belt.

The Requirement for One Child Safety Belt per Child

Parents sometimes cut corners. If a safety belt is not working or too many children are in a vehicle, they may seek to strap more than one child in the same seat belt. This is an unlawful practice under state law.

According to Maryland Transportation Article 22-412.2(g), “a child safety seat or seat belt may not be used to restrain, seat, or position more than one individual at a time.”

judge, jury, courtroom, Penalty, Child Safety Seat LawsWhat is the Penalty for Violating the Child Safety Seat Laws in Maryland

Parents or others who fail to comply with Maryland’s child safety laws face a fine of $50 for a first offense.

A judge may waive the fine when a defendant who did not possess a child safety seat proves they acquired one before the hearing date and gives proof of acquisition of the seat to the court.

On occasions, parents may be unsure if their children need to be strapped in a child safety seat. The uncertainty usually occurs with older and larger children.

Does My Child Need a Child Safety Seat in Maryland?

To determine if your child requires a child safety seat in Maryland, you should consider these two questions.

If you answer ‘yes’ to either of these questions then Maryland law requires a child must be secured in a child safety seat.

Child, Safety Seats in MarylandA Quick Guide to Child Safety Seats in Maryland

Which Car Seat Should My Child Be In?

The type of seat your child requires is linked to his or her height and weight. Here are the seats you should fit in four scenarios.

Even if parents get the weight correct, they may not be sure about what kind of seat their child should be placed in.

Which Child Safety Seat is Right for My Child?

There are various styles and types of child safety seats on the market. They are broken down into three different categories:

  1. Rear-facing car seat;
  2. Forward facing car seat;
  3. Booster seat.

While there are three main categories, there are variations based on the manufacturer’s specifications that allow for different uses with each child safety seat.

Rear facing Car Seat

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that a child should ride in a rear facing child seat until he or she is 2-years old, or until they reach the maximum height and weight for the rear facing child car seat in their 2011 updated recommendations.

A study in the journal Injury Prevention highlighted the benefits of rear-facing car seats. The research found that children under the age of two are 75 percent less likely to be killed or to be seriously injured in a crash if they are rear-facing. Another study found riding in rear-facing seats to be five times safer than in forward-facing seats. Rear-facing car seats do a better job of supporting the head, neck and spine of infants.

Most rear facing car seat manufacturers recommend that children use a rear-facing child seat when they:

If the child’s head is less than 1 inch below the top back of the child restraint the infant should be in a rear-facing seat.

Forward-Facing Car Seats

In the past, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised parents to keep kids rear-facing seats up to the maximum limit of the car seat before switching to a forward-facing seat. One year and 20 pounds was cited as the minimum age and weight for flipping the seat.

In its updated advice the AAP says infants should not be put in forward-facing car seats until they are at least two-years-old.

Children should ride in a seat with a harness as long as possible. Typically, they should be in a forward facing car seat until they reach 4 years of age. 

Back-Facing Versus Front-Facing Car Seat

It is easier for parents to interact with their children in front-facing car seats and to get them in and out of them. However, forward-facing car seats provide less protection for the infant’s head, neck and spine than back-facing seats, according to most research.

The traditional wisdom that rear-facing car seats are safer was questioned in a 2015 study in the Journal of Traffic Injury Prevention. This research found that an infant-sized crash-test dummy registered serious head injuries when a rear-facing car seat pitched forward in a crash test.

The projected head injuries were more severe when the car seat was attached to the vehicle seat’s lower “LATCH” anchors compared with its seat belts.

Experts maintain a rear-facing seat is safer because it distributes the force of a crash over a child’s whole body.

Booster Seats

Booster seats fit on the back seat of a car and are for children who have outgrown car seats. The child uses the vehicle’s regular seat belt. A booster seat raises a child up ensuring the vehicle’s lap and shoulder belt are properly positioned across the child’s hips and chest. A smaller child would otherwise be in danger of internal damage during a crash from a seat belt across his or her belly and neck.

Research by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found the use of belt-positioning booster seats lowers the risk of injury to children between the ages of 4-8 years by 45 percent compared with the use of a seat belt alone.

A booster seat is intended to minimize the damage caused to internal organs or a spinal injury during a car crash.

How to Property Install a Child Safety Seat?

Even when parents fit child safety seats, they may prove ineffective in an accident if they have been improperly installed.

Dr. Alisa Baer, an expert on car seats known as the “car seat lady” claims most children ride around with straps that are too loose. Parents are often afraid of hurting their children. Baer warns they are likely to suffer greater injuries in an accident if straps are poorly fitted. Parents should remove bulky clothing from their children and fit straps tightly.

What is the LATCH System?

Many parents also fail to use the LATCH system properly. LATCH stands for “Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children.” LATCH is comprised of both the parts of the car seat and components in the vehicle

No matter how a forward-facing car is fitted, the tether should always be used as well as the seat belt. However, some parents fail to use this extra precaution that anchors the seat in the event of a crash.

If a forward-facing seat is installed with lower anchors, the tether should be used in addition to the lower anchors.

Fitting a child seat can be difficult and frustrating, especially for parents of new babies. Baer recommends parents get an expert to check that seats are fitted properly.

Most police or fire departments have a trained expert who can check how a seat is fitted at no cost.

You can enter your location in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website to find the nearest technician who can check the safety of a child seat.

Questions, Faqs, Child Car Seat Common Child Car Seat Questions

When can I put my baby in a front-facing car seat in Maryland?

There are no laws that specify when you can put your baby in a front facing car seat in Maryland. However, based on manufacturer recommendations, once the child weighs more than 30 pounds or is taller than 30 inches and at least two-years-old, the child may be placed in a front-facing seat.

Where Is the Safest Place to Install a Child Car Seat?

Typically, the center rear seat is the safest best and safest place for a child car seat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns car seats should never be placed in the front seat.

Can I Use a Child Car Seat That Has Been in a Crash?

No. The seat should be discarded. The plastic material can warp and materials may be damaged or structurally compromised after a car wreck.

Can I Guarantee the Safety of My Car Seat?

No. Major manufacturers of car seats have recalled products for faults in recent years. In 2017, Graco recalled more than 25,000 child car seats after tests found the harness webbing restraining the child could break during a crash resulting in a child being thrown out. If a child seat fails, injuring a child, the parents may have grounds to file a product liability lawsuit against a seat manufacturer.

How Can I Safely Fit Three Children in the Back of My Car?

The model of car you have will make a big difference if you have multiple children. Shop around for a car that has a flat rear seat rather than a seat with raised humps. Make sure the seat belt buckles don’t overlap.

When can my child sit in the front seat of a car in Maryland?

There is no specific law in Maryland for children sitting in the front seat. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents wait until a child is at least 13 years old, weighs more than 100 pounds and is taller than 4 feet 9 inches. If a child is of borderline height and weight, be cautious and place the child in the back seat.

What To Do If Your Child is Injured in a Maryland Car Accident

Few scenarios are more harrowing than car accidents that cause injuries to children. If your child has been hurt in a car collision in Maryland, call an experienced injury lawyer today. Call the Law Offices of Randolph Rice at (410) 288-2900.