Using a car seat for your child can spell the difference between life and death.
And we’re not even exaggerating.
This is why, in Maryland, there are strict car seat laws that every parent must follow. On top of that, there are also seat belt laws to keep adults safe.
Sure, it might seem unnecessary, but you must follow these laws to avoid the penalties, and, more importantly, injuries and even deaths.
To help you, we’re going to walk you through the Maryland car seat laws, exemptions, and penalties. We’re going to do the same for the seat belt laws.
So are you ready?
Buckle up and let’s go!
Car Seat Laws in Maryland
Maryland, just like all other states, has its own Child Passenger Safety Law.
This law states that…
“All children below 8 years old must be in a car seat unless they are taller than 4 feet and 9 inches.”
But what kind of car seat?
Let’s take a closer look.
Rear-Facing Car Seats
For children under 2 years old, a rear-facing car seat is required.
A rear-facing car seat better supports the head, neck, and spine of an infant. And since the child is still very young, these parts of the body are more fragile.
At the same time, your child should fall within the required weight indicated by the car seat’s manufacturer. In most cases, rear-facing car seats can support children up to 40 pounds.
Front-Facing Car Seats
Once your child reaches 2-4 years old, you can now use a front-facing car seat. Again, make sure that your child matches the weight and height limitations specified by the car seat manufacturer.
For 4-8-year-olds, they can usually ride in a booster seat. This is a seat that is boosted up so that the child can snugly fit a seat belt.
Once the child reaches 4’9, that means they are tall enough to reach the seat belt without a booster seat.
That said, if the seat belt still doesn’t fit snugly, even if they go over the height requirement, it’s wise to use a booster seat. Remember, this is more about safety than obeying the law.
Can your child ride in the front seat?
By Maryland law, children that still use a rear-facing car seat are NOT allowed to be placed in the passenger seat. Besides that, children are not prohibited from sitting in the front seat.
However, you must always turn off the airbag feature. This is because the impact of an airbag might be too great for a smaller child and will just cause more injuries.
Car Seat Exemptions in Maryland
There are 3 scenarios where your child can be exempted from Maryland’s car seat laws.
The first one is when you have already purchased a car seat but are still waiting for it to be delivered to you. If you don’t want to get caught, you have to show proof of purchase.
The second one is if the child has a medical condition that prohibits them from using a car seat. You must show proof of the medical condition signed by a physician.
The third is if you are riding a taxi. You don’t have to tow a car seat or booster seat if you and your child ride a taxi.
Are ride-sharing platforms like Uber and Lyft exempted from the law as well?
Unfortunately, no. These ride-sharing services are guided and restricted by the law, hence, they need to have car seats and boosters on hand.
We advise that you contact the driver first to check if they have these with them before you book the ride.
Car Seat Penalties in Maryland
The Maryland car seat laws are primary enforcement. This means that a traffic enforcer can pull you over if they see your child unrestrained in a moving vehicle.
And what penalties will you face?
Those who fail to comply with the Child Passenger Safety Law will be fined up to $50. You will also receive a ticket and need to pay the court fees.
This applies to those who don’t use a car seat, are using a car seat wrongly, or are caught using the wrong car seat.
Now, if this is your first offense, then you can get out of the penalty by purchasing a car seat on the spot. But this will no longer work if it is your second or subsequent offense.
Seat Belt Laws in Maryland
Okay, now that you’re familiar with the car seat laws, it’s time to move on to the adults.
As you might expect, the Maryland seat belt law is very straightforward.
Everyone in a moving vehicle must wear a seat belt, whether you are the driver, in the passenger seat, or the back seat.
Seat Belt Penalties in Maryland
In Maryland, the driver and front passenger are under primary enforcement if they don’t wear a seat belt. This means that a traffic enforcer can pull you over if not wearing a seat belt.
However, for those seated at the back, it is secondary enforcement. The driver will face a seat belt penalty only if they get into an accident and the back passengers are not wearing a seat belt.
So what is the penalty?
You will have to pay a fine of $83, including any court fees. Not only that, you are responsible for paying the fine for each person under 16 years old that is not wearing a seat belt.
Importance of Safety Restraints
Why is there so much stress on using car seats and wearing seat belts?
Well, there are 2 main reasons.
First, it reduces the injury children and adults alike may receive if an accident happens.
Safety restraints protect important and fragile parts of the body, such as the head, neck, spine, and even internal organs.
Second, these safety restraints can save lives.
It is made to keep children and adults in place. And when you’re kept in place, you won’t fly out of the vehicle, hit objects inside, or the like. With this, you have more chances of surviving a big crash or accident.
If those 2 reasons are not good enough to make you serious about obeying these laws, then we don’t know what will.
And that was everything you needed to know about the Maryland car seat and seat belt laws.
Remember, these laws are in place to protect you, your passengers, and most importantly, your children.
Some think that these are unnecessary, but know that safety is always necessary.
So make sure you follow these laws and be a responsible driver.