Does Iowa require motorcycle riders or passengers to wear a helmet?
No. Iowa is one of three states that have no motorcycle helmet law on the books. (Illinois and New Hampshire are the other two.) Every other state has some kind of motorcycle helmet law -- from "universal" laws requiring all riders and passengers to wear a helmet, to laws that only require helmets for riders under a certain age. But Iowa is the Wild West of motorcycle safety regulation -- no helmet law, and no eye protection requirement.
But putting aside what the law says (or doesn't say), if you ride a motorcycle -- whether as an operator or as a passenger -- wearing a helmet is in your best interest. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), when a helmet is worn during a motorcycle accident, it is about 37 percent effective in preventing deaths, and about 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries.
In case your health isn't motivation enough, consider that if you end up getting into a motorcycle accident, any personal injury case you file could be adversely affected if you weren't wearing a helmet, even when another driver is clearly at fault for the accident. (Learn more about Helmet Use and Motorcycle Accident Injury Claims.)
That's because when a personal injury plaintiff (the person filing the lawsuit) also bears some level of legal blame for causing their own injuries, Iowa follows a rule known as "comparative negligence". This rule essentially reduces the plaintiff's damages (the money they will receive) by a percentage that is equal to the plaintiff's share of legal blame.
The issue comes down to whether or not the jury believes that the injured motorcyclist's (or passenger's) failure to wear a helmet amounted to negligence, and whether that negligence played a role in causing the plaintiff's injuries. So, if you weren't wearing a helmet during the accident and you're asking for compensation for head injuries, the Iowa comparative negligence rule could apply to reduce the amount of money you'll receive. Learn more about this shared fault rule in our Iowa Car Accident Laws article.
by: David Goguen, J.D.