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

Key points

  • A child under one year old and weighing less than 20 pounds must be secured in a rear-facing child restraint system.
  • A child under six 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 six 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 three and not in a child restraint system
  • Between three and six years of age and not in a child restraint system or wearing a seat belt
  • Age six 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 zero to 13, the driver receives the citation, and for unrestrained passengers 14 to 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

Infants (birth to one year)

  • Weight: Up to 20-22 pounds
  • Type of seat: infant only or rear-facing convertible
  • Seat position: rear-facing only
  • Children to one year and at least 20 pounds in rear-facing seats.
  • Harness straps at or below shoulder level. 
  • Do not place infants in the front passenger seat of cars with air bags.

​Toddler/preschool (Over one year)

  • Weight: 20 to 40 pounds
  • Type of seat: Convertible or forward-facing
  • Seat position: forward-facing
  • Harness straps should be at or above shoulders.
  • Most seats require top slot for forward facing
  • All children age 12 and under should ride in the back seat.

​Young children

  • Weight: Over 40 pounds up to about 80 pounds and 4'9" tall
  • Type of seat: belt positioning booster seat
  • Seat position: forward-facing
  • Belt positioning booster sears must be used with both lap and shoulder belt.
  • 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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