Editor’s note: This article was updated in 2022 to link to a more appropriate section of the relevant statute.
In Maryland law, a child under eight years old and less than 4’9” tall must be secured in a child safety seat, a child eight to fifteen years old must be secured in a child safety seat or seat belt, and a child sixteen to seventeen years old must be secured by a seat belt while being transported. Only one person at a time may use a child safety seat or seat belt.
The child safety seat law defines a motor vehicle as a Class A (passenger), Class E (truck), or Class M (multipurpose) vehicle. The seat belt law defines a motor vehicle as a Class A (passenger), Class E (truck), Class F (tractor), Class M (multipurpose), or Class P (passenger bus) vehicle required by federal motor vehicle safety standards to have seat belts.
A motor vehicle used by a nursery school, camp, day nursery, or child care center for children with intellectual disabilities to transport children must have seat belts for each seat unless the motor vehicle is or was registered as a school vehicle.
Babies and Children Up to Seven Years Old
A child under eight years old must be secured in a child safety seat according to the child safety seat and vehicle manufacturer’s instructions while being transported unless the child is 4’9” tall or taller.
A child safety seat is defined as a device intended to restrain, seat, or position a child being transported in a motor vehicle which is certified by the manufacturer to comply with applicable federal safety standards and includes a child booster seat but does not include a seat belt or combination seat belt and shoulder harness.
A child safety seat must be installed and used according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Children Eight to Fifteen Years Old
A child between the ages of eight and fifteen years old must be secured in a child safety seat according to the child safety seat and vehicle manufacturer’s instructions or by a seat belt while being transported. A seat belt is defined as a restraining device which may include a combination seat belt and should harness.
Children Sixteen to Seventeen Years Old
A child between the ages of sixteen and seventeen years old must be restrained by a seat belt as a passenger in the front seat adjacent to a door or the rear seat of a motor vehicle.
Penalties for Violations
A violation of the child safety seat law is not a moving violation. If you fail to secure more than one child in a child safety seat or seat belt in the same vehicle at the same time, the violation must be treated as a single violation.
You may be fined $50.00 for a violation of the child safety seat law. If you did not possess a child safety seat at the time of the violation but you acquire a child safety seat prior to your hearing date and provide proof to the court, the court may waive the fine.
A violation of the seat belt law is not a moving violation. You may be fined up to $50.00 for a violation of the seat belt law.
Law Enforcement May Not Stop Your Vehicle for a Suspected Violation of the Seat Belt Law
A police officer may not detain you only for a suspected violation of the seat belt law. A police officer may enforce the seat belt law only as a secondary action if you are detained for a suspected violation of another provision.
Seat Belt Requirements for Motor Vehicles Registered, Offered for Sale, or Sold in Maryland
A motor vehicle manufactured or assembled after June 1, 1964 and registered in Maryland must have two front seat belts. A motor vehicle manufactured or assembled with a rear seat after June 1, 1969 and registered in Maryland must have two rear seat belts. A motor vehicle in violation of these requirements may not be sold or offered for sale. This requirement does not apply to motorcycles (other than three-wheeled motorcycles), buses, trucks, or taxicabs.
Your child may be exempt from the child safety seat requirement if a physician licensed in the state in which your vehicle is registered provides written certification that using a child safety seat would be impractical due to your child’s weight, height, physical unfitness, or other medical reason.
Your child may be exempt from the seat belt requirement if a physician licensed in Maryland provides written certification that a seat belt would not appropriately restrain your child due to a physical disability or other medical reason.
Your vehicle may be exempt from the seat belt law if it is a Class L (historic) vehicle.
* Ms. Blake is licensed in the state of Maryland. The information provided in this article does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.