Teen in the Back Seat of a Car Using a Seat Belt

Every state except New Hampshire has a seat belt law, but not every state has the same seat belt law. Whether you live, work, or travel in Iowa, you must comply with the Iowa seat belt law while traveling on public roads within the state.

What Is Required by the Iowa Seat Belt Law

Motor vehicles, except for motorcycles and motorized bikes, must have seat belts if they are the model year 1966 or newer and subject to registration in Iowa. When a car is being used, Iowa law requires:

  • All front seat occupants to wear a seat belt when the car is in forward motion
  • Anyone under the age of 18 who is no longer in a car seat to wear a seat belt in the front or back of a vehicle, unless the child is riding in a school bus

Drivers must also ensure that children are in appropriate child restraint devices as required by Iowa’s car seat law.

The Backseat Exception

At least 28 states and Washington D.C. have seat belt laws that require all passengers, including those in the backseat, to wear seat belts. Iowa law, however, does not require passengers who are 18 or older to wear seat belts in the backseat.

According to a University of Iowa study, 85% of people surveyed always wear a seat belt in the front seat, but only 36% of people surveyed always wear a seat belt in the back seat. The study found that many people report that they do not wear a seat belt in the back seat because it is not legally required in Iowa.

Despite the responses about seat belt use, the survey also found that the majority of respondents strongly support an Iowa law that would require adult passengers to wear seat belts in the back seat.

It used to be that the back seat was significantly safer than the front seat. However, with technological advancements, such as airbags, the difference is no longer as significant as it once was. Accordingly, adults in the back seat should consider buckling up to prevent being ejected from a vehicle, thrown around a vehicle, and seriously injured in a motor vehicle crash.

Other Iowa Seat Belt Law Exceptions

Not having to wear a seat belt in the backseat is not the only exception to Iowa’s seat belt law. Iowa law also provides exceptions for drivers and passengers who:

  • Frequently get in and out of their vehicle for work, as long as the vehicle does not exceed 25 mph
  • Are rural letter carriers for the United States Postal Service (the exception applies between their first deliveries and last deliveries only)
  • Are bus passengers
  • Have written certification from a licensed healthcare provider that explains the physical or medical reasons why the person cannot safely wear a seat belt. The certification must be for a specific amount of time. The first certification may not exceed 12 months. Any subsequent certifications may be for longer amounts of time, or it may be a permanent exemption.
  • Are front seat occupants, other than the driver, in authorized emergency vehicles that are being used in an emergency.

How Failure to Wear a Seat Belt Impacts a Car Accident Recovery

Seat belts do not prevent car crashes. However, failure to wear a seat belt could impact your recovery in a crash. According to Iowa law, the failure to wear a seat belt is not evidence of comparative fault, but the failure to wear a seat belt may be considered to mitigate damages if the party introducing the evidence introduces substantial evidence that the failure to wear a seat belt contributed to the person’s injuries. If the judge or jury finds that there is substantial evidence that the failure to wear a seat belt contributed to a person’s injuries, then that person’s damages may be reduced up to 25%.

Don’t let an insurance company or another driver try to convince you not to bring a case because you failed to wear a seat belt. Instead, learn the truth about your rights and take action to protect your recovery by contacting our experienced Iowa car accident lawyers today for a free and confidential consultation.

Jason F. Abraham
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Helping car accident and personal injury victims throughout Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa since 1993.