Iowa Car Seat Laws: Not As Difficult As You Think

Iowa Car Seat Laws

With all of the things you have to learn and remember as a parent, your kids get bigger before you know it and you may find yourself wondering whether or not they are in the right car seat. Understanding Iowa car seat laws and guidelines are important for the safety of your child.

2017 statistics from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) amplify the importance of having the proper child restraint:

  • Car crashes involving a child happen every 32 seconds
  • 325 children under the age of 5 had their lives saved by being in a car seat
  • Car seats reduce an infant’s risk of fatal injury in a car accident by 71%

With car accidents involving children happening so often, proper use of car seats is essential.

Know Your Iowa Car Seat Laws

The Iowa Code 321.446 – Child Restraint Devices states the car seat laws for Iowa are as follows:

  • Infants under 1-year-old and under 20 lbs. must be in an infant, rear-facing car seat
  • Children under 6 years old, but older than 1 and over 20 lbs., must still use a child restraining system in the form of a front-facing car seat or a booster seat
  • Children ages 6 to 18 must use booster seats or seat belts

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your car seat.

You could wind up with a traffic ticket if you fail to use the right car seat or don’t use one at all. 

More importantly, using the wrong car seat or failing to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines could be used against you in a civil case to prove comparative fault.

Either way, the laws and guidelines are there for a reason. It’s not an issue of breaking the law–it’s an issue of your child’s safety.

Iowa Car Seat Laws For Seats and Restraints

There are so many different brands and types of car seats out there, it’s easy for anyone to get confused about which ones to use at what stage in your child’s development.

Besides the Iowa car seat laws discussed in the previous section, Iowa law doesn’t dictate any specific brands or types of car seats.

A good resource is the Right Seat Campaign on the NHTSA’s website.

Simply enter your child’s date of birth, height, and weight, and you will be given a recommendation on which seat to use. Then you can see brands and models that fit your specifications.

NHTSA Car Seat Recommendation Tool
Car Seat Brand and Model Recommendations

Photos Obtained from NHTSA Website

The Different Types of Car Seats and Child Restraints

Let’s quickly review the different types of car seats that are available.

Rear-Facing Car Seat

This is an infant-specific car seat for children under 20 lbs. and under age 1.

This type of seat works as an infant car seat, but also converts into a rear-facing seat when the child is past age 1.

All-in-one car seats go from infant all the way to booster seat by removing pieces and making adjustments as the child grows.

Forward-Facing Car Seat

Convertible rear-facing seats can turn around and adjust to become forward-facing to secure the child safely.

Forward-facing combination car seats take the next step up and go from forward-facing down to booster by removing additional pieces.

As with rear-facing all-in-one car seats, forward-facing all-in-one car seats function in the same way by adjusting from infant up to booster seat.

Booster Seat

Booster Seat With High Back
High-backed booster seats help boost kids taller so seat belts fit properly, while providing head and neck support.

Backless Booster Seat
These seats also boost a child’s height so that safety belts fit properly, but do not have the added back and neck support.

Combination Seat
These booster seats also serve as a forward-facing car seat described above.

All-In-One Seat
The booster portion of the car seat is formed by removing excess pieces of the all-in-one car seat.

Safety Belt

Normal vehicle seat belt
Children ages 13 and older, as well as adults, still need to always be safely fastened with a seat belt.

Failure to do so may result in a violation (when pulled over or in an accident) or serious injury if you are in a car crash.

Iowa Car Seat Laws FAQ

When Can a Child Sit in the Front Seat in Iowa?

Iowa does not have specific laws pertaining to a child sitting in the front seat, other than to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your car seat or booster seat.

The NHTSA advises that you keep your child in the back seat until they are at least 12 years of age. They must also be the height and weight to no longer require a booster seat.

Can a 3 Year Old Sit in a Booster Seat?

At age 3 your child grows quickly and starts interacting with you at a level that makes you think that they are ready to get rid of the big, forward-facing car seat and start using a booster seat.

However, the NHTSA recommends that the earliest age that a child uses a booster seat is age 4.

Remember that you should only allow your child to move to the next level of car seat if they meet the age requirement as well as the height and weight requirements according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Should I Replace My Car Seat After a Crash?

If you have the unfortunate circumstance of being in a car crash, it is likely that you should replace your car seat, whether it was occupied during the crash or not.

The NHTSA recommends that unless the crash was minor, the seat should be replaced.

To get a new car seat, some insurance companies will have you cut the straps of the old car seat and send photo proof. The value of the car seat is then added to your settlement.

Contact VanDerGinst Law After a Car Crash

Even if you follow Iowa car seat laws, accidents can happen.

If you have been in a car crash in which people were injured, it’s important to have a personal injury attorney on your side.

At VanDerGinst Law, we are passionate about securing fair compensation for our clients.

We have represented tens of thousands of injury victims throughout Iowa and the rest of the country and recovered millions of dollars on their behalf.

Contact us for a free consultation and let us see how we can help you.

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