2018 Car Seat Laws in Maryland, DC and Virginia and Nationwide:

By Let Mommy Sleep. May 9, 2018

Car seat safety laws vary by jurisdiction.  For families who travel between Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, it can be difficult to know each area's laws. The following are DMV area laws and the CDC's Nationwide recommendations. While it is recommended everywhere that a rear-facing child safety seats be used until 2 years of age or longer, depending on the weight and height limits specified by the manufacturer, here are the current laws for each jurisdiction:

Washington, D.C.

  • Any child up to 16 years of age must be in a properly installed child safety seat or restrained in a seat belt.
  • Children under 8 years old must be in a properly installed infant, convertible (toddler) or booster child seat in accordance with the manufacturers' height and weight limits.
  • Booster seats must be used with both lap and shoulder belts
  • The District of Columbia does not have a law preventing children from riding in the front seat, but recommend that all children ride in the back seat until the age of 13.
  • The driver and all passengers in a vehicle, including taxis and private car serivces, must be properly buckled up at all times, in the front and back seats.

Maryland:

  • Children under 8 must ride in an appropriate child safety seat, unless the child is 4'9" or taller. Child safety seats include car seats and booster seats.
  • Every child from 8-16 years old must be secured with a seat belt
  • The law applies to both in-State and out-of-State vehicles, and is the driver’s responsibility.
  • Children under the age of 16 may not ride in a bed of an unenclosed pick-up truck.
  • Maryland does 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.

Virginia:

  • Infants should ride in a rear-facing safety seat minimally until they are at least 1 year old AND at least 20 pounds.
  • Infants should never be in the front seat of a vehicle that has an active airbag.
  • Child safety seats are required for all children until their 8th birthday. Safety seats must be used and approved by the Department of Transportation standards. There is no height or weight requirement. The law is based solely on age.
  • Rear-facing child safety seats must be placed in the back seat of a vehicle. If the vehicle does not have a back seat, the child safety seat may only be placed in the front passenger seat if there is no passenger side airbag or if the airbag has been deactivated
  • A 5 point harness seat is recommended.
  • When children outgrow their booster seats and they are 4’9″ tall, they can use the adult seat belts in the back seat provided they fit properly with the lap belt laying across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fitting across the chest.
  • Children cannot ride unrestrained in the rear cargo area of vehicles.
  • Children ages 8-17 (until 18th birthday) must be restrained by a seatbelt.
  • Children under the age of 16 may not ride in a bed of an unenclosed pick-up truck.

Despite the laws, most states also cite recommendations for safe car seat practice and offer resources on the types of child safety seats available with recommended age, weight, and height requirements.  Please read the current suggestions on this fact sheet, courtesy of the CDC: