By Thomas J. Duff, Attorney and David Wolf, Attorney
Published by Child Injury Lawyer Network
Iowa’s motorcycle laws have a loophole that permits children, some barely toddlers, to legally ride a motorcycle without helmets. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Iowa, Illinois and New Hampshire are the only 3 states in the nation that do not have helmet laws, even to protect their youngest residents. The Iowa Department of Transportation revealed that at least one child under 14-years-old and 17 children under 24-years-old have died in motorcycle crashes since 2007. So far, at least 13 people have been killed this year and others have been severely injured, including one man whose legs were severed upon impact. According to the Brain Injury Association of America, helmets are 37% effective at preventing deaths in motorcycle accidents and 67% effective at preventing brain injuries. The group also estimated a total of 1,829 lives saved by helmets since 2009 and an additional 823 lives would have been saved had the drivers been wearing helmets. Motorcyclists who are involved in crashes and are not wearing a helmet are 3 times more likely to sustain brain injuries than those motorcyclists who do wear helmets, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
Opponents of helmets laws argue that education, not legislation, is the best method for preventing motorcycle injuries and deaths. These opponents reason that helmet-wearing is a freedom of choice issue and say that the choice regarding children should be left up to the parents, not the government, as to whether or not their child wears a helmet. Advocates of helmet laws rebut the freedom of choice argument stating that it is tax payers who, in the long run, end up paying for the numerous health care or other long-term disability costs associated with motorcycle injuries. Although advocates are pushing for legislative reform, they are highly opposed from lobbyists and opposition groups. Due to the high amount of opposition, it is unlikely that Iowa will reform its laws to require helmets and, instead, continue to stress education courses. To read more about the motorcycle debate in Iowa see Iowa citizens urging state to reform its motorcycle laws.
Motorcycles are dangerous and should be driven with caution and care. Although parents are left a high amount of discretion on how to raise their child, parents should be aware of how much a helmet can save their child’s life. Children are extremely vulnerable and depend on their parents to make good, sound judgments for them. It may not be possible to force an adult to wearing a helmet, however, adults who are parents should protect their children and urge helmet wearing.