Child Passenger Safety Facts:
- Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children older than age 2.
- A total of 1,210 children younger than age 15 died in motor vehicle crashes in the United States in 2010.
- The number of child passenger deaths has declined by half since 1975.
- Proper restraint use can help reduce deaths even more. The proportion of fatally injured children who were restrained rose from 15% in 1985 to 59% in 2010.
What are Maryland's Child Passenger Safety Laws?
Transportation Article 22-412.2 (Child Restraints)
- Maryland's current law requires that children under 8 to ride in an appropriate child restraint, unless the child is 4'9" or taller. Child restraint includes car seats and booster seats and other federally approved safety devices.
- Every child from 8 to 16 years old who is not secured in a child restraint must be secured in the vehicle's seat belt.
- This law is applicable to in-State and out-of-State vehicles.
- It is the driver's responsibility for making sure all children are correctly buckled up.
- Children under the age of 16 may not ride in the bed of an unenclosed pick-up truck. Some jurisdictions, such as Anne Arundel County, have local Ordinances that prohibit anyone from riding in the bed of an unenclosed pickup truck. If you have questions, contact your county or local police department.
If you're in need of a car seat or booster seat, contact KISS at 800-370-SEAT (7328) for a referral to a local car seat loaner program.
How about children riding in the front seat?
Maryland's child passenger safety laws do not prohibit children from riding in the front seat. The exception is placing a rear-facing child in the front seat with an active air bag. If a driver is unable to turn off an air bag, it is a violation of law (as well as a terrible danger to the baby!) to place a rear-facing child in the front seat.
**Please note: KISS and other child passenger safety experts strongly recommended all children under age 13 ride in the back seat. Research conducted and published in a report by Partners for Child Passenger Safety clearly shows that children are 40% less likely to be seriously injured when properly restrained in the back seat.
What does Maryland Law say about taxis and car seats?
Currently, taxis are exempt from the law. They are not required to transport children using car seats. However, KISS recommends that you follow Maryland's Child Passenger Safety laws when your children are riding in these vehicles.
Which type of child safety seat should I use for my child?
The best seat for your child depends on your child's height, weight, and age.
All infants should ride rear-facing in back seats until they are at least 1 year of age and 20 pounds. Infant seats are small seats with a handle for easy carrying. Many snap into a base that is attached to the vehicle. Ideally, infants should remain rear-facing for as long as possible, up to the height and weight limit of the child restraint. A seat with a higher weight limit may be needed if infants reach 20 pounds before their first birthday. Some rear-facing seats have weight limits up to 35 pounds. Many convertible seats have higher weight limits than infant seats and can be used rear-facing for infants and then forward-facing when children are ready. Three-in-1 seats are designed to be used rear-facing, forward-facing, and as boosters as children grow.
Children should ride rear-facing as long as possible, but children who are 1 year old and 20 pounds can ride in forward-facing child restraints in rear seats. They should remain in forward-facing child restraints until about age 4 and at least 40 pounds, although some forward-facing seats have weight limits up to 65 and even 80 pounds. Toddler seats are forward-facing seats with a harness for children up to 80 pounds depending on the model. Convertible seats or 3-in-1 seats can be used forward-facing for toddlers. Combination seats are designed for use as forward-facing restraints for toddlers, and then as belt-positioning boosters once children have reached the weight limit of the harness. Built-in child safety seats are in some vehicles and vary in their weight limits. Travel vests are harnesses with adjustable straps that are tethered to vehicle seat backs and provide an alternative to forward-facing seats.
CHILDREN 4-8 YEARS OLD
Children should ride in harness-equipped child restraints as long as possible, up to the height and weight limit of the seats. When they have outgrown child restraints, children should use belt-positioning booster seats until adult seat belts fit properly, usually when a child reaches 4'9" in height and 80 pounds. Boosters elevate children to improve the fit of the vehicle's three-point safety belts, which are designed for adults and not children. There are highback boosters, backless boosters, and built-in boosters. Some dual-use highbacks convert to backless by removing their backs. Highbacks have built-in guides to route shoulder belts and lap belts and can offer some head support in vehicles without head restraints in the rear seat. Backless have lap belt guides but may need a plastic clip to properly position shoulder belts in many vehicles. Combination and 3-in-1 seats are designed to be used as boosters as children grow. In booster mode, parents remove the built-in harness and use the vehicle lap and shoulder belts to restrain their child. Some manufacturers have built-in booster seats in their vehicles.
Children should use boosters until adult seat belts fit properly. The lap belt should rest across the upper thighs, and the shoulder belt should fit snuggly across the center of the shoulder. Children should be able to sit against the seatback with their knees bent at the edge of the seat. The shoulder belt should never be tucked under a child's arm or behind the back.
Resources & Links
- Maryland's Child Passenger Safety Law (Effective October 1, 2012) - PDF
- Maryland's Kids In Safety Seats (KISS) Program
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Research on Child Restraints
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Research Booster Seat Ratings
- The Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems
- Traffic Safety Facts Occupant Protection
- Traffic Safety Facts Children