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Safety Laws in Maryland

Seat Belts

All drivers and front seat passengers must wear seat belts. This is a primary law, which means an officer can pull you over and ticket you for the sole reason of not wearing your seat belt.

If you have a disability that makes it unsafe or impossible to wear a seat belt, you must carry a statement from your physician in your vehicle at all times.

Child Car Seat

Maryland's child safety seat law requires that all children under age eight be secured in a federally approved child safety seat according to the safety seat and vehicle manufacturers' instructions, unless the child is 4 feet, 9 inches or taller. The child restraint must be right for the child's size, age, and weight.

Child safety seats include: infant seats, convertible seats, forward-facing seats, booster seats, or other safety devices federally approved for use by children in motor
vehicles.

If you're in the market for one, you can shop online for a car seat at any time. Before ordering, be sure to read our article on How To Buy a Child Safety Seat.

How To Install a Child Safety Seat provides handy information, and Maryland's Project KISS (Kids in Safety Seats) helps families who can't purchase child safety seats. For additional help, call (800) 370-SEAT.

NOTE: Maryland's child safety seat law does not prohibit front seat riding. The lone exception to this comes into play when placing a rear-facing child in a front seat with an active air bag.

Cell Phones and Texting

Cell phone restrictions:

  • while operating a motor vehicle from using hand-held cell phones.
  • All learner permit and provisional license holders younger than 18 are banned from all cell phone usage.

Texting restrictions:

  • Texting is banned for all drivers, regardless of age or license status. This includes checking and sending texts while stopped at a red light.

Bicycle, Motorcycle, and ATV Helmets

If you're:

  • Riding a bicycle and under the age of 16, you must wear a helmet.
  • Riding a motorcycle you must wear protective headgear, regardless of your age.
  • Riding an all-terrain vehicle (ATV), wearing a helmet is entirely up to you. You can find ATV safety information at ATV Safety Institute.

Headlights

When driving in Maryland, you must turn on your headlights whenever the light, weather, or other atmospheric conditions makes it difficult to see people or vehicles 1,000 feet away from you.

You must also turn on your headlights if the weather makes it necessary for you to use your windshield wipers.

Unattended Motor Vehicles

Whenever you leave your motor vehicle unattended in Maryland, you must:

  • Stop the engine.
  • Lock the ignition.
  • Remove the key.
  • Set the brake.
  • Turn the front wheels to the curb, if you're parked on a grade.

Unattended Children and Pets

Children

It's no secret that leaving a young child unattended in a motor vehicle is dangerous. It puts the child's life at risk (especially in extreme hot and cold temperatures) and, because of a child's curiosity with buttons, pedals, and gears, it puts others' lives at risk, too.

The MVA recommends contacting your local law enforcement if you feel a child is in danger due to being unattended in a motor vehicle.

Pets

It's unsafe to leave a pet unattended in a motor vehicle for the same reasons that it is unsafe to leave a child unattended. In fact, unless the animal is working with the police or is in an animal control officer's custody, it's illegal.

If you do leave a pet unattended, a number of people are allowed to use reasonable force to remove the animal from the vehicle, including law enforcement officers, public safety employees, and animal control officers.

Reporting Unsafe and/or Drunk Drivers

There are a few ways you can approach reporting an unsafe or intoxicated driver:

  • You can contact 911 or your local law enforcement agencies, such as the Maryland State Police if the danger is immediate.
  • You can contact an MVA customer service representative for directions specific to the situation.
  • You can contact the Medical Advisory Board at (410) 768-7511 if a disability or medical condition is the source of the driver's unsafe driving practices.

Finding Maryland's Safety Laws

Safety laws may change without notice, so it's wise to know where you can go for updated information. The following resources include information about Maryland's safety laws or information about how to find specific safety laws.

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