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Iowa Child Restraint Law Guide

(Iowa Code 321.446, Data Code 198a) - as of July 1, 2004

Key Points

  • A child under 1 year old and weighing less than 20 lbs. must be secured in a rear-facing child restraint system
  • A child under 6 years old must be secured in a child restraint system (a safety seat or booster seat--NOT a seat belt)
  • A child from the age of 6 up to the age of 11 must be secured in a child restraint system or by a safety belt
  • Rear seat occupants up to age 18 secured by safety belt.

A Citation may be issued to the driver if a child passenger is:

  • Under the age of 3 and not in a child restraint system
  • Between 3 and 6 years of age and not in a child restraint system or wearing a seat belt
  • Age 6 or older and not wearing a seat belt while sitting in the front seat

    A "child restraint system" is a specially designed seating system, including a belt positioning seat or a booster seat that meets federal motor vehicle safety standards.
  • The driver is responsible for the fine
  • The misdemeanor fine is $100, plus costs (nonmoving violation)
  • The law applies to both residents and nonresidents of Iowa
  • The child restraint system must be used in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions
  • The child must be secured in the child restraint and the child restraint must be properly secured to the vehicle
  • Non-use of a child restraint is probable cause to stop a vehicle
  • An officer may investigate a suspected violation
  • For unrestrained passengers age 0 - 13, the driver receives the citation, and for unrestrained passengers 14 - 17, the passenger receives the citation.
  • First-offense citations will not result in convictions if the driver "produces in court" proof of acquisition of a child restraint



  • Children certified by a physician as having a medical, physical or mental disability making restraint use inadvisable
  • Children on a bus, including a school bus
  • Children riding on motorcycles
  • Children riding in vehicles manufactured before 1966
  • Children being transported in authorized emergency vehicles
  • Children transported by peace officers on official duty
  • Children riding in motor homes except if riding in the front passenger seat (where they must be restrained)

This is only a guide, provided through the courtesy of the Iowa Governor's Traffic Safety Bureau, Department of Public Safety

Common Child Safety Seat Misuses:

  • Seat installed too loose
  • Improper seating position (in front of an air bag)
  • Not buckling child into restraint
  • Not securely anchoring the child restraint to the vehicle
  • Improper seat for child's age and size
  • Infant riding facing forward
  • Harness retainer clip not at armpit level
  • Loose harness straps

To graduate to an adult belt -- a child must be able to sit with their back/buttocks against the seat with their knees bent at the edge of the seat. The belt system must be snug across the center of the child's chest and across their lap at the hips.

Common Safety Belt Misuses for Children:

  • Lap belt up on abdomen
  • Lap belt loose, shoulder belt loose
  • Shoulder belt behind back
  • Shoulder belt under their arm

Nationally Recommended Standards for Safe Use of Child Restraint Systems

 InfantsToddler/PreschoolYoung Children
WeightBirth to 1year
Up to 20-22 lbs.
Over 1 year
20-40 lbs.
Over 40 lbs. up to
about 80 lbs. and
4'9 " tall
Type of SeatInfant only or
Convertible or
Belt positioning
booster seat
Seat PositionRear-facing onlyForward-facingForward-facing
Always Make SureChildren to one year AND at least 20 lbs. in rear-facing seats

Harness straps at or
below shoulder level
Harness straps should be at or above shoulders

Most seats require top slot for forward facing
Belt positioning booster seats must be used with both lap AND shoulder belt
WARNINGDo not place
infants in the front
passenger seat of
cars with air bags
All children age 12
and under should
ride in the back seat
Make sure the
lap belt fits low
and tight to avoid
abdominal injuries

For further information, you may contact the State Child Restraint Coordinator at 1-800-728-3367.

For Certified Child Passenger Technicians / Child Restraint Checks, visit this website: www.blankchildrens.org/cps

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