I have a 1995 Buick Roadmaster with 235/70R15 tires. The other day after washing the car I decided to check the air pressure. While I was getting the air pressure gauge out of the garage my next door neighbor's teenage son came over and asked what I was doing. After explaining that I was about to check the tires he knelt down and read the maximum air pressure of 44psi that was written on the sidewall. He told me that this was the amount I should put in the tires. I wasn't sure, but it seemed like maybe it was too much.
You were right; 44psi is too much for normal driving conditions. When a tire manufacturer designates a maximum air pressure, it means just that. This tire cannot safely handle any additional pressure. Also, the only time that it would warrant using a higher than normal pressure in a passenger car tire would be in a situation attempting to carry an abnormally large amount of cargo weight.
The best way to get an exact specification for the recommended air pressure for your vehicle is the decal located within the drivers side door jam and/or the owner's manual. If the specs are not available simply keep this in mind . . . you can't go wrong with 32psi under normal conditions on a passenger car tire, and always check the air pressure when the tires are cold.
If you are currently driving around with the tires overinflated at 44psi, you should be noticing an abnormally hard ride, and, as time goes on, the tires will begin to wear prematurely toward the middle of the tread. The opposite applies when driving on underinflated tires. You will notice sloppy handling and the tread will wear quickly on the outer edges. Either way it can be dangerous due to the loss of traction involved.