Iowa car seat laws are in place to help keep your child safe. When parents follow these laws, it keeps the child in place while the vehicle is moving and protects everyone. 

Iowa car seat laws require children to use rear-facing car seats until they are one and reach 20 pounds or more. If the child is under 20 pounds at age one, they must remain rear facing. All children 6 and younger must be in the proper child safety seat. 

Parents have some room to choose when to move from a forward-facing seat to a booster seat. Follow the recommendations on the car seat you choose to determine when it is safe to move the child. 

All children 18 and under must sit in the car using a car seat or a seat belt to stay safe. Those older than 18 may sit in the back without a seat belt on if they choose. 

Iowa has seen some changes in their car seat and seat belt laws over the past few years. This has added a bit of confusion so let’s take some time to explore these to keep each other safe!

Iowa Rear-Facing Car Seat Laws

Iowa rear-facing car seat laws recently changed in March of 2019. This has added some confusion as parents work to learn and understand the new car seat laws and how these affect their families. 

Children who weigh under 20 pounds and are under the age of three should be in a rear-facing car seat. This helps keep them safe in case of an accident. 

All children between the ages of one and six need to be in some kind of car seat or child restraint. Older children can use a booster seat. A seat belt is not considered safe enough. Children under the age of one, and under 20 pounds, must use a rear-facing system. 

Iowa Front Facing Car Seat Laws

Iowa car seat law requires that any child younger than six needs to be in a child restraint system. This may include a car seat or a booster seat. Regular seatbelt is not enough. 

Younger children must use a forward-facing car seat with a five-point harness. It is recommended that parents continue to use this until their child meets the maximum age and weight requirements on the car seat. 

New laws put in place in 2019 require all children under the age of 18 to be either in a car seat or use a seat belt. As mentioned before, a child under the age of six needs to be in a car seat or booster seat. 

The parent may choose when to move the child safely from a car seat to a booster seat. This usually happens around age four. 

The booster seat must have a back to it unless the vehicle has proper headrests in place. A back on the booster seat also helps put the seat belt in a better position for the child. Older children may choose to progress to a booster seat that no longer has the back on it. Consider whether the seat belt can fit properly before allowing this. 

The child must remain in the booster seat until age six. Parents may choose to keep their child in the booster seat for longer if they wish. 

Iowa Car Seat Laws for the Front Seat?

Iowa car seat laws state a child is safest in the back seat until they turn 13. However, there are some exceptions to the rule. If the vehicle does not have a backseat, then the child may sit in the front before they turn 13. They must follow all other car seat laws. 

What Age Can a Child Ride in the Front Seat in Iowa?

Iowa car seat laws state that children can sit in the front seat of a vehicle when they turn 13. They should remain in the back seat until this time. Parents may choose to keep their children in the back seat for longer if they choose. The child should not move to the front seat before age 13. 

If there is not a back-seat present in the car, the child may sit in the front. They must follow all the other car seat laws in Iowa. If all the back seats are taken by younger children, then the oldest child may sit in the front before age 13. They must still wear a seat belt for the duration of the trip. 

Can You Place a Car Seat in the Front Seat in Iowa?

Iowa car seat law allows a car seat to be placed in the front seat of a vehicle. This should only be done when no back seat is present

If you need to transport a child in a truck with no back seat, or a back seat not large enough for the base of the car seat, the car seat may be in front. Do not put a rear-facing car seat near an active airbag. 

Car Seat Laws While Riding in a Taxi or Uber

Iowa car seat law states that Uber, Lyft, and taxi drivers will not be fined for any violations with child restraints. However, the parent or guardian of the unrestrained child will be ticketed if the car is pulled over. 

If you plan to ride in a taxi or an Uber, you should bring along the proper car seat or booster seat. Once the child is old enough to no longer need these, make sure they wear a seat belt properly while in the car. 

Iowa Seat Belt Laws 2020

All children under the age of 18 must be properly restrained. This can be done with a car seat, booster seat, or a seat belt following the rules listed above. If the passenger is required to wear a standard seat belt, it must have a shoulder and a lap belt. A simple lap belt will not count for this requirement. 

The seat belt must also be used properly. This means that the lap belt should not fit across the stomach as it belongs across the lap. The shoulder must fit over the area of the shoulder, and not under the arm. If the child struggles with wearing the belt properly, it is best to consider putting them in a booster seat again. 

If you are older than 18 and ride in the back of the vehicle, then a seat belt is not required. However, it is often recommended because it will keep you safe while driving. All drivers must wear a seatbelt while the vehicle is in motion. These seat belt laws apply to everyone inside the vehicle, whether they are residents of Iowa or not. 

Iowa Seat Belt Ticket Cost

Iowa car seat laws do levy fines if a passenger or driver is not wearing a seat belt. Authorities in the state can pull you over, even if they only suspect you aren’t wearing a seat belt. 

Both the passengers and drivers can be ticketed separately. It will depend on their age. The amount of the fine for a first offense is $50 in most cases. Failure to use the proper child restraint system will be a misdemeanor fine of $25 plus costs that will total at least $83

Iowa New School Bus Law

Iowa car seat and seat belt law have moved to the world of school buses as well. The State Board of Education in Iowa proposed new rules for school buses in October 2019. These include:

  1. All new buses made on or after October 2, 2019, would be made with seat belts. All buses manufactured before this date would not have seat belts. 
  2. These seat belts would include lap and shoulder belts, along with other safety equipment. 

This is meant to help keep children safe when riding the bus to school. Children may run into some confusion as older buses will not have this feature. 

Iowa Seat Belt Exemption

There are a few exceptions to the car seat and seat belt rules in Iowa. The laws above will not be applicable in some of the following situations:

Peace officer who are serving in their official capacity. 

  1. Children who are in vehicles made before 1965, motor homes, buses, and emergency vehicles do not need to follow the seat belt rules in Iowa. 
  2. The exception to this is if the child is in the passenger’s seat to the right of the driver. They must wear a seat belt. 
  3. Any child who can’t use child restraints. This would include a mental, physical, or medical problem that makes it inadvisable to secure them in a car seat or seat belt. 
  4. If the child is in the back seat with no seat belt to use. This only works if there are no seat belts because all available seat belts are used by other passengers. 

Penalties for not following Iowa Car Seat Laws

Anyone who violates the laws is guilty of a simple misdemeanor.  According to code section 805.8A, subsection 14 paragraph c, they would receive a $100 fine.

A driver who violates this section while transporting a child 14 years of age or younger would receive a citation for a violation of the section. If the passenger is 14 years or older and violates these laws, they can receive the citation instead of the driver.

In a case, when a child 14 years of age or younger has a disability that prevents them from being able to fasten their safety belt, and they’re riding in a taxicab or personal vehicle operated by a transportation company, the parent or legal guardian can receive a citation for a violation of this section. If the child is 14 years or older, the police officer can serve them the citation.

A person who has received a citation for a violation of this section and hasn’t purchased a car seat won’t receive a conviction if they produce evidence in court that they have purchased or received one.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if a baby weighs over 20 pounds but they haven’t turned one-year-old yet?

Choose a seat that you can use rear-facing for children weighing over 20 pounds and keep them rear-facing as long as you can. The important thing is that you’re following Iowa’s laws.

At What Age is a Child Finished Using a Booster seat?

The requirements for a child to be finished using a booster seat in Iowa aren’t age-related. They’re finished when their legs are long enough for them to sit back in the vehicle seat with their knees bent over the edge and their feet reach the floor.

When they’re buckled in the seat belt, the shoulder belt should cross over their collarbone, and the lap belt should cross over their hip bones and upper thighs.


Iowa has recently made some changes to their car seat laws, which has caused some confusion for parents. Understanding how these new laws (including smoking in the car laws) pertain to you and your family is important. 

All car seat laws in Iowa are designed to help keep your child safe. Following them will not only help prevent you from getting a ticket but will also keep your child safe.


Welcome to my car seat blog! As a mom of 3, I put together with other hard-working moms a highly informative one-stop car seat resource, full with many reviews and buyer guides. I hope you find it invaluable. Thank you for trusting me & my team! - Keren

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