New Child Seat Law Near

BERLIN – Larger and older children in Maryland not currently required to be secured in a child safety seat or booster seat will be required to do so starting Monday when a change in state law goes into effect.

Currently, state law requires children to use safety seats until they reach age six and/or weigh 40 pounds. However, a new state law goes into effect on Monday, June 30, raising the minimum standards to children eight years old or younger, unless they are at least 4’9” tall or weigh 60 pounds, in which case they will be allowed to use an adult seat belt.

State lawmakers enacted the change during this year’s General Assembly session and the new requirements go into effect on Monday. Changes in the law were made when research revealed a large number of children using adult seat belts in most vehicles were sustaining serious injuries during accidents.

Proper fit for an adult seat belt means the lap-shoulder belt fits low on the child’s hips and across the mid-chest. If the adult seat belt fits across a child’s neck or stomach, the chance for serious injuries increases in the event of a crash. The intent of the new Maryland Child Passenger Safety Law is to ensure children of all ages and sizes are allowed the time they need to grow to a safe height and weight for the adult seat belts to fit properly and work more effectively.

With the effective date of the new law on Monday, Maryland will become the 17th state to mandate child safety seat use for children up to eight years old. The new law means some children who have graduated to adult seat belts will be required to go back to using a child safety seat, or in many cases, a booster seat.

The appropriate seat for most 6-8 year-olds is a booster seat, which is designed to raise the child to a level where traditional adult seat belts fit properly. Unlike child safety seats, the booster seats do not have harness straps and are not permanently attached to the vehicle. The booster seats can be easily transferred from one child to the next, or from one vehicle to another.

Ocean City Police Chief Bernadette DiPino said this week the changes would help protect the lives of young children riding in vehicles and prevent serious injuries in accidents.

“The motivation for updating the Maryland Child Passenger Safety Law is to protect children with proper safety seats in order to prevent the amount of serious injury that we see in crashes because they were not adequately protected,” she said. “We are confident that by increasing the size and age that is required for an adult seat belt, we can greatly reduce the risk of injuries for children.”