Traveling by car is much safer for children than it used to be. The rate of children dying as passengers in vehicles has gone down by 60 percent since 1975, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Using appropriate restraints, including car seats, can further reduce the number of children dying or being seriously injured in vehicle crashes.
In Maryland, state law requires that children younger than 8 ride in a restraint system that’s appropriate for children, unless the child is 4 feet 9 inches or taller. In addition, children between the ages of 8 and 16 who do not use a child restraint system must use the seat belt in the vehicle. Child restraint systems include car seats, booster seats and other safety devices approved by the federal government.
The law applies to vehicles from within Maryland and from out of state, and the driver has responsibility for ensuring that children in the vehicle are appropriately restrained. Taxis are not subject to the law and are not required to use child car safety seats when transporting children. However, experts recommend that you follow standard safety advice regarding car seats when you ride in taxis with your child.
Maryland has no law against children riding in a vehicle’s front seat. However, children may not ride in a rear-facing child seat in the front seat with an airbag that is active. If you’re the driver and you cannot turn off the airbag, understand that it is against Maryland law for a child facing the rear to ride in the front — and it is extremely dangerous for the child.
Despite the lack of prohibition by the state of Maryland against children riding up front, child safety experts recommend that children younger than 13 always ride in the back seat. Newer generations of airbags appear to be less dangerous for children, but riding in the front seat still increases the risk of injury to children by 40 percent over riding in the back.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration advises that you choose a child car seat according to your child’s age, height and weight. Select a seat that fits properly in your specific vehicle, and always use it.
You should always refer to instructions from your vehicle’s manufacturer; check your owner’s manual for information on installing your child car seat using the vehicle seat belts or the LATCH system. In addition, be sure to check the height and weight limits for the seat.
To keep your child as safe as possible in the car, have them ride in the same car seat for as long as they are within the height and weight requirements from the manufacturer. For maximum safety, your child also should ride in the back seat until they are at least 12 years old.
The NHTSA offers specific recommendations based on the age of your child:
If you or your child have been injured in an accident, work with experienced attorneys to ensure that your rights are protected. Please contact DuBoff & Associates, Chartered, for a free consultation.
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