August is the month when many families start thinking about what they need to do or purchase before the kids get back to school. New clothes, new school supplies, new backpack. These are all pretty standard items on the shopping lists of both students and parents. But what about items that can help actually get the child safely to the doors of the school? Is your car appropriately equipped to transport children back and forth? Just as kids outgrow their shoes and shirts, they may have outgrown their safety seat since last year, or they may have “aged out” of the previously applicable restrictions.

Here are some tips to help you assess the adequacy of the accommodations in your “limo.”

  1. Under the laws of Maryland, children under 8 MUST ride in an appropriate child restraint, unless the child is 4’9″ or taller, and it is the driver who will be held responsible if they are not.
  2. Children under 2 years of age should be in a rear-facing car seat, and it should be in the back seat, where a deploying airbag won’t be a hazard. In fact, in Maryland it is against the law to place a rear-facing car seat in the front passenger seat.
  3. Between ages 2 and 4, children can ride in a forward-facing car seat, but it should still be in the back seat.
  4. Check the weight-limit instructions for your car seat model to determine when you can switch from a top tether to the car’s safety belt.
  5. Children 4 years old or 40 pounds can graduate to a booster seat. And guess where it should be positioned – that’s right, the back seat.
  6. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children not ride in the front seat until they are 12 years of age.
  7. Maryland law requires that every child from 8 to 16 years old who is not secured in a child restraint must be secured in the vehicle’s seat belt.

If you’re transporting a van-load of neighborhood kids to school, or other activities, make sure that each child is appropriately restrained on every trip. Remember that as the driver – even if you’re not the child’s parent – it’s your responsibility.

We hope that every trip you make to and from school, from August to June, will be a safe one. But if you have an accident, call the Law Offices of Steven Heisler, at(410) 625-4878.