Iowa Code 321.446 makes it a simple misdemeanor to have a child who is not secured in a car seat as required by Iowa law travel in your car.
What Iowa Law Specifically Requires
As of January 2016, Iowa law requires that:
- Children under age one and weighing less than 20 pounds be secured in a rear-facing child safety seat.
- Children aged one to six must be secured in a child restraint system. This includes car seats and booster seats, but does not include just a vehicle seat belt.
- Children aged six to eleven may either use a child restraint system or a vehicle safety belt.
All car seats and child restraint systems should be used according to the manufacturer’s directions and should be properly secured to the vehicle.
What the American Academy of Pediatrics Says
While these are the legal guidelines in Iowa, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants and toddlers stay rear-facing until they are two years old. After that, the group recommends that children use a forward-facing car seat with a five-point harness until at least age four or for as long as possible, up to the highest height or weight allowed by the car seat’s manufacturer. Children who have outgrown a forward-facing car seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly. For most children, this occurs between the ages of eight and twelve, when they have reached a height of 4 feet 9 inches and can comfortably sit with their back against the vehicle seat back and their feet flat on the floor.
Why This Is So Important
In 2013— the most recent year for which complete statistics are available —more than a thousand children under the age of 14 died, and approximately 165,000 children under the age of 14 were hurt in motor vehicle crashes. The right car seat can decrease the risk of death in a motor vehicle accident by more than 70% for infants, by more than 50% for children aged one to four and by about 45% for children aged four to eight.
Car seat laws are not just helpful tips for drivers, and complying with Iowa car seat laws is about much more than avoiding a potential fine for violating the law. Instead, these laws are about protecting your child from injury or death in a car crash.