Nearly 80% of Iowa motorcycle fatalities have no helmet

As thousands of bikers head to Sturgis, Iowa State Patrol urges safe driving

By: - August 3, 2023 5:07 pm

About 8 in 10 Iowa motorcycle fatalities in 2022 were riders not wearing helmets, Iowa Department of Transportation data shows. (Stock photo via Canva)

Nearly 80% of Iowa motorcyclists killed in 2022 were not wearing a helmet, Iowa Department of Transportation data shows. And as hundreds of thousands of bikers flock to Sturgis, South Dakota, the Iowa State Patrol is urging vehicle operators to be safe on Iowa roadways. 

Seventy-eight percent of motorcyclists killed in 2022 were not wearing a helmet, a 3% increase from 2021, and a 10% increase from 2020. 

The number of fatalities, 49, was down from 2021, when 68 motorcyclists died. 

Iowa saw an increased rate of unhelmeted fatalities in 2022. (Table courtesy of the Iowa Department of Transportation)

Despite Iowa’s lack of a motorcycle helmet law, Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Alex Dinkla said the Iowa State Patrol always recommends safety.

“That’s a choice that they can make on their own,” Dinkla said. “But as of right now, that is not a law requiring people to wear a helmet.”

Thirty-two bikers have been killed on Iowa roads so far in 2023, putting Iowa on track to see more motorcycle fatalities than in 2022.

“We’ll let the experts look at the data and whatever recommendations that they want to make for any laws,” Dinkla said. “We have to leave that up to our Legislature to deem any new or change any laws that might be existing on any books, but we’re always going to recommend safety from the State Patrol.”

There were no laws introduced in the most recent legislative session to require riders to protect themself with a helmet.

Iowa, Illinois and New Hampshire are the three states with no motorcycle helmet laws. Other states require helmets for riders age 17 or younger, or for all riders. 


As summer wears on, drivers let their guard down when it comes to looking for bikers, Dinkla said.

“We’ve really talked about it in the springtime,” Dinkla said. “People have kind of let their guard down. But those motorcycles can be hidden behind the smallest of objects or blind spots in your vehicle.”

In 2022, 45% of motorcyclists were impaired, a 2% decrease from 2021 and 6% decrease from 2020. 

Dinkla said state troopers are always looking out for signs of impairment, and other drivers have provided assistance in keeping roads safe, too.

“Our officers are out there day and night,” Dinkla said. “They’re looking for just those different indicator clues, as well as answering 911 calls from people that are calling in with people that are driving erratically all over the road showing signs of impairment. We get those calls weekly and we go out and investigate those, just to make sure that people are safe on our roadways.”

The Sturgis motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota begins Friday and finishes Aug. 13.

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Jay Waagmeester
Jay Waagmeester

Jay is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch intern. Jay is based in Ames and is currently a senior majoring in journalism and marketing at Iowa State University. He has interned at New Century Press and contributed to the Iowa State Daily.