Child Passenger Safety

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Safety Law | Car Seat Safety | When to Go Without a Booster Seat 

Child Passenger Safety Law

Maryland's Child Passenger Safety Law (as of October 1, 2012):

  • Every child under 8 yrs old must ride in an appropriate child safety seat or booster seat unless the child is taller than 4ft 9in.
    • Child safety seat includes infant seats, convertible seats, forward facing seats, booster seats or other federally approved safety seat devices.
  • Every child from 8 to 16 years old who is not secured in a car seat must be secured in the vehicle's seat belt.

For more information, call Maryland Kids in Safety Seats (KISS) at 1-800-370-SEAT or 410-767-6016.

Don't miss this car seat Checkup list: Top 5 Things to Do

Car Seat Safety

african american infant car seatBirth – 12 months

Infants should always ride in a rear-facing car seat.  This can be done in an infant carrier or a convertible car seat.  Convertible car seats have higher height & weight limits for the rear-facing position, which allows you to keep them rear facing for a longer period of time.

Read more about Car Seat Safety for Infants here.

20 months car seat

1-3 years

Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible – minimally to age 2 yrs and until they reach rear-facing weight & height limits of the convertible car seat.  Once they reach that limit, they are then ready to travel facing forward in a car seat with a harness.

boy booster seat

4-7 years

Keep your child in a forward facing car seat with a harness until they reach the height or weight limit of your car seat’s manufacturer (they should stay in a harness minimally until they go over 40 lbs).  Once they reach the height & weight limit of the harnessed forward facing seat, they are ready for a booster seat.  If your child reaches the limit before they are developmentally ready for a booster you may want to consider a combination booster seat that allows the use of a harness to a higher weight limit. 

girl 10 years old seat belt

8-12 years

Your child should ride in a booster seat until they are big enough to fit in a seat belt properly.  The lap belt should lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach & the shoulder belt should lie across the shoulder and chest and not across the neck or face. 

No matter what age, your child should always ride in the back seat because it’s safer. 

Read more about booster seat safety tips here.

When is my child ready to ride without a booster seat?

Take the 5-Step Test*:

(Have your child sit in the car using the lap/shoulder belt without their booster seat to take the test)

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

If you answered no to any of these questions, then your child still needs to use a booster seat to ride safely in the car.

Seat belts do not usually fit kids safely until they are 4’9” tall, weigh about 80 pounds and are about 8-12 years old. 

Read all about seat belt safety tips here

*5-Step Test taken from SafetyBeltSafe USA

The back seat is the safest place to ride. Children should ride in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old!

For Inquiries Contact Maryland Kids in Safety Seats by phone: 1-800-370-SEAT

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