November 4, 2020

Standard Penalties in Fatal Traffic Crashes

If a bicyclist is killed or injured on Iowa roadways, it is a lesser penalty than if a motorist or a pedestrian is struck on Iowa roadways. This legislation does not raise the penalty but creates the same penalty regardless of the mode of transportation. If the motorist is charged with steering unreasonably close to a bicyclist (321.281) the current result is a traffic ticket. 

The enhanced penalty levies a $1000 fine and 6-month revocation for fatal crashes or $500 fine and 3-month revocation for serious injury to a list of infractions in the Iowa Code listed in 321.482A.  That list includes passing of vehicles or violation of pedestrian right-of-way, but not bicyclists. 

Steering unreasonably close to a bicyclist (321.281) is charged in 27% of fatal bicycle crashes.  This is second to Homicide by Vehicle (33% of fatal crashes).  Unless the driver is drunk, drugged, drag racing, left the scene, or texting, the result is usually a traffic ticket without enhanced penalties.  The same crashes involving motorists or pedestrians are subject to enhanced penalties.

Talking points:

  1.  Under the current Iowa Code, fatal or serious bike crashes are not subject to the same enhanced penalties that fatal or serious injury crashes involving motorists or pedestrians.   
  2. This proposal does not raise fines.  This simply adds the infraction to the existing list of similar infractions subject to enhanced penalties.
  3. We do not see this proposal as a deterrent to fatal crashes, but rather a consistency in the Iowa Code to subject similar actions to the same penalties.  

Please fill out the form on this page and contact your legislator.  Ask your legislator to support the legislation. 

Moving violations listed in 321.482A: Click to View

  • 321.178(2)(a)(2) Restricted license (electronic communications or entertainment)
  • 321.180B(6) 321.180B Graduated driver’s licenses for persons aged fourteen through seventeen. (electronic communications)
  • 321.194(1)(c) Special minors’ licenses (electronic communications)
  • 321.256 Obedience to Traffic Control Devices
  • 321.257 Official Traffic Control Signal
  • 321.275 (4) Use of traffic lanes two abreast
  • 321.276 Use of electronic communication device while driving — text-messaging.
  • 321.297 Driving on right-hand side of roadway – exceptions.
  • 321.298 Meeting and turning to right.
  • 321.299 Overtaking a vehicle
  • 321.302 Overtaking and passing
  • 321.303 Limitations on overtaking on the left
  • 321.304 Prohibited passing
  • 321.305 One-way roadways and rotary traffic islands
  • 321.306 Roadways laned for traffic
  • 321.307 Following too closely
  • 321.308 Motor trucks and towed vehicles – distance requirements
  • 321.309 Towing – convoys (subsection 2 – maintain 500′ between towed vehicles)
  • 321.311 Turning at intersections
  • 321.319 Entering intersections from different highways
  • 321.320 Left turns – yielding
  • 321.321 Entering through highways
  • 321.322 Vehicles entering stop or yield intersection
  • 321.323 Moving vehicle backward on highway
  • 321.323A Approaching certain stationary vehicles
  • 321.324 Operation on approach of emergency vehicles
  • 321.324A Funeral processions
  • 321.327 Pedestrians’ right-of-way
  • 321.329 Duty of driver – pedestrians crossing or working on highways.
  • 321.333 Duty of drivers (approaching visually impaired persons)


In the past five years (2020-16), fatal crashes involving bicyclists were charged as follows:

  • Failure to Maintain Control: 7%
  • Homicide by Vehicle: 33%
  • Leaving the Scene: 13%
  • No charges: 20%
  • Steering Unreasonably Close to a Bicyclist: 27% (4 crashes)

Current Bills:

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