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Sunday, July 5, 2020

Iowa: The Northern Rebel

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Chad Brislawn
Chad Brislawn
A lifelong Muscatine resident, Chad Brislawn has a passion for motorcycles and writing. He writes No Baffles No Brakes, for Discover Muscatine newspaper.

Did you know that Iowa is the only state that has no motorcycle helmet laws whatsoever? That’s right. No helmet, no age requirements, no eye protection. Who cares? Ride how you want to ride!

That’s not entirely accurate. Illinois is also on the bandwagon for helmet freedom, but they do require that you wear eye protection, which I would recommend anyway. If you’re flying down the highway with nothing blocking the wind from those peepers, you’re going to show up with tears streaming down your face looking like you’ve been crying all day. But hey, this is Iowa! If that’s how you want to roll, go for it. It’s your party. You can cry if you want to.

Iowa hasn’t always been the rebellious biker state it is now. We repealed our mandatory helmet laws back in 1976. There was some legislation attempts resurfacing in 2013, but it must not have gotten much traction because, well, here we are. Nice try suckers. Not up in here.

So, what’s everyone else’s deal? Why just us? The rest of the United States is torn about 50/50 on helmet laws. Around half of them require that all riders, including passengers, wear a helmet. The other half have some sort of age requirement. Some states say that if you’re under 18 you have to wear one and some say 21, along with all kinds of other different stipulations. For instance, some states say you have to wear eye protection in addition to your helmet, whether that is sunglasses, safety glasses, goggles, bifocals, spectacles, I don’t know. Cover your eyes! That is, unless you have a windshield–then you don’t need any of those things. Some states only require that you have a helmet in your possession on the bike, similar to a life jacket on a boat.

As if all of those different instructions weren’t hard enough to follow, you also have to make sure that the helmet that you’re wearing is DOT approved. Some of the standards for a helmet to be DOT approved are that it must be specifically designed to reduce head injury. You don’t say? Also, it is required to have a lining, padding, and a chin strap. If the bike is in motion the chin strap must be secured.

It’s crazy and confusing. I guess I always took it for granted, riding in mostly Iowa and Illinois, that I have never really had to wear one. I usually ride with just the bandanna and shades myself. Although, I will say that whenever my kids ride, they are always wearing helmets.

So, do I agree with helmet laws? No, not really. I feel that every adult should have the freedom to decide for themselves. I do see the benefits of wearing them for sure, especially when it comes to kids. But as for me, myself, I think as long as we’re in rebellious Iowa, I’ll just stick with the bandana, give thanks to my lucky stars, and let the breeze flow.

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