Iowa does not have any motorcycle helmet laws requiring motorcyclists wear head protection. There are no fines for not wearing a helmet. Motorcyclists can decide on their own whether to wear protective gear.
While motorcyclists in other states lawfully may be allowed not to wear a helmet, most states have certain criteria they must meet first. And many states have laws requiring riders of a certain age wear a helmet. So Iowa is somewhat unique in having no laws requiring motorcycle helmets – or eye protection for that matter.
Doesn't Iowa have to enforce motorcycle helmet laws?
No. In 1967, the federal government enacted a law stating all states must enact a universal motorcycle helmet law or it would retract certain state highway funds. But in 1976, Congress retracted this mandate and simply stated that states should implement helmet laws. Iowa once had a universal motorcycle helmet law but retracted it in 1986.
There are three states that do not have motorcycle helmet laws: Iowa, Illinois and New Hampshire. The 47 other states have some motorcycle helmet laws, and 19 states have instituted laws requiring all riders to wear a helmet.
Should I wear a helmet?
Legally, that's up to you. Of course, motorcyclists should be aware that wearing a helmet could prevent or reduce the severity of a head injury. It could even save your life. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that in 2008, motorcycle helmets saved 1,829 lives. And helmets could have saved another 822 lives had the riders been wearing one.
But aside from the health and safety reasons to wear a helmet, choosing not to wear one could affect you in another way. If you're in an accident, whether you were wearing a helmet may be relevant if you file a claim against a driver who caused your crash.
How might motorcycle helmet use affect my accident claim?
Even though Iowa does not have a motorcycle helmet law, if you choose not to wear one, it might affect your comparative negligence if you suffer head injuries in an accident – even if you didn't cause the accident. For example, if another driver merges into your lane and runs you off the road, causing you to suffer a head injury, not wearing a helmet could mean you're partially liable for the injury.
As such, it could reduce your settlement proportional to the percentage of fault assigned to you. If you're assigned 15 percent of the fault, for example, and you suffered $20,000 in damages, you'd collect $17,000 instead of the full $20,000.
Your attorney might argue that wearing a helmet would not have prevented or reduced severity of the injury, but this is a challenge you could face. On the other hand, if you suffered leg injuries, helmet use would not have affected your injuries, so it would not be relevant to your case.
If you're ever in an accident, discuss helmet use with an attorney and how it might affect your particular case. You also can check out our free guide, Iowa Consumer's Guide to Motorcycle Crashes. Call us at (888) 435-9886.