Maryland does not have a front seat law.
Legally, children can ride in the front seat in Maryland at any age as long as they are properly restrained in a car seat or booster seat.
However, Maryland does specify that using a rear-facing car seat in a seat with an airbag is a violation of the law.
This gives Maryland a de facto front seat law.
- Front Seat Age Maryland: unspecified
- Front Seat Weight Maryland: determined by manufacturer
- Front Seat Height Maryland: determined by manufacturer
According to Maryland’s child restraint guidelines, children should be secured in rear-facing car seats until they reach the height or weight limit on the seat.
Since rear-facing car seats must be installed away from airbags, rear-facing car seats may not be installed in the front seats of vehicles in Maryland unless the front seat has no passenger-side airbag or that airbag can be, and is, turned off.
If a child is in a rear-facing car seat in the front passenger seat of a vehicle with an active airbag, it’s a ticketable offense.
Maryland Front Seat Guidelines
While its legal for children in Maryland to sit in the front seat at any age, children under 4’9” are at more risk of injury from a regular seatbelt than those 4’9” and taller, and studies have shown airbags are a risk to children under age 13 during collisions.
So, the state recommends keeping children under age 13 in the backseat whenever possible.
- Age To Sit In Front Seat In Maryland Guideline: 13 years
General Front Seat Law FAQ
When can a child sit in the front seat?
Legally, the age (or height) at which a child can sit in the front seat varies from state to state.
Some states have no laws preventing children from sitting in the front seats of vehicles regardless of age (even while still in car seats).
When it comes to safety, however, a child should not sit in the front seat of a vehicle until they are at least tall enough to properly fit a standard seatbelt (4’9”).
But the longer you can keep them in the backseat the better.
The CDC recommends all children under the age of 13 sit in the backseat of vehicles.
What is the purpose of front seat laws?
Studies have shown children under the age of 13 are safest in the backseats of cars.
More specifically, the center backseat is the safest place in a vehicle for a child.
This is why some states have laws forbidding children from riding in the front seat of vehicles until they reach a specific height or age.
Why is the front seat unsafe for children?
There are two main reasons the front seat of a car is unsafe for children.
One of the reasons children fare better in the backseat of a vehicle during an accident is because head-on collisions are one of the deadliest types of car crash.
Though they make up only 2% of all car crashes, head-on collisions account for over 10% of car crash deaths. (Rollovers are the only other accident type with such a disproportionate fatality rate for those inside the vehicle.)
Since the back seat is furthest from the front of the vehicle, it is the safest place to be in a head-on collision.
The second reason children fare better in the backseat of a vehicle during an accident is because the safety devices installed in cars to protect passengers during a collision are designed for adults.
Since airbags are designed for adults and not children, the impact of an air bag when deployed can cause more harm to a child than the accident itself.
Research conducted by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found “children exposed to air bags during a crash are twice as likely to suffer a serious injury.”
The Safest Place For Kids Is The Backseat
While Maryland law says children may ride in the front seat at any age (as long as they are properly restrained in a car or booster seat), we recommend following CDC guidelines and keeping your child in the backseat until they turn 13.
And, before that, follow Maryland’s laws regarding car seats and booster seats.
For more on Maryland’s car seat laws, see Maryland Car Seat Laws.
For more on Maryland’s booster seat laws, see Maryland Booster Seat Laws.