The National Transportation Safety Board is asking legislators in Iowa to approve a mandatory helmet law. The N-T-S-B included the request on a “wish list” issued this week. Iowa did have a mandatory helmet law for nine months in the 1970s.
Scott Falb, with the Iowa Department of Transportation, says lawmakers approved the measure in September of 1975 to avoid losing federal highway construction funding. The federal funding provision was repealed a few months later.
“And then, after many motorcyclists showed up at the state capital – in fact, riding around the capital on their motorcycles in protest – the State of Iowa repealed the (helmet) law effective June 30, 1976,” Falb said. Over the nine months Iowa had a mandatory helmet law, 34 people were killed in motorcycle accidents.
Eight of those deaths were blamed on head injuries. That compared to 47 fatalities, with 19 head injuries, over the same nine month period the next year. Prior to the helmet law, Iowa had 45 motorcycle fatals with 22 involving head injuries.
“So, over the time we had the law, the fatalities were down and head injuries were less than half of what they had been,” Falb said. “As soon as we repealed the law, those numbers went right back up to where they were before.” So far this year, 60 people have died in motorcycle crashes in Iowa. Iowa, Illinois and New Hampshire are the only states with no helmet laws.