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Iowa Traffic Laws

Being the driver of a vehicle in Iowa often means traveling on many types of roads, including through agricultural and city areas. You'll have to adjust to different conditions and know which rules apply along the way.

Don't risk traffic accidents and tickets. Protect your driver's license by learning more about the law of the road. You can also find tips and traffic regulations through the Iowa Department of Transportation.

Iowa Laws for Motor Vehicles

The state driving rules appear in Title VIII, Subtitle 2 of the Iowa Code. See the statutes for common traffic violations, vehicle requirements, and more in the chart below.

Drinking & Driving Violations Operating While Intoxicated (IA Code Chapter 321J)
Driving Without a License / With a Suspended License Operators licensed (IA Code section 321.174)
Driving Without Insurance / With Insufficient Insurance Proof of security against liability (IA Code section 321.20B)
Driving Without Registration / With Expired Registration Misdemeanor to violate registration provisions (IA Code section 321.17)Operation without registration (IA Code section 321.98)
Illegal U-Turn Turning at intersections (IA Code section 321.311)
Leaving the Scene of an Accident / Hit & Run Information and aid, leaving scene of accident (IA Code section 321.263)
Mechanical Violations Vehicle Equipment (IA Code sections 321.384 to 321.481)
Overtaking / Passing Overtaking and passing (IA Code section 321.302)Overtaking a vehicle (IA Code section 321.299)
Reckless Driving Reckless driving (IA Code section 321.277)
Running a Red Light / Stop Sign Obedience to official traffic control devices (IA Code section 321.256)
School Bus Violations Discharging pupils, stopping requirements, penalties (IA Code section 321.372)
Seat Belt / Child Restraint Violations Safety belts and safety harnesses (IA Code section 321.445)Child restraint devices (IA Code section 321.446)
Speeding Speed Restrictions (IA Code sections 321.285 to 321.295)
Unlawful Vehicle Modifications Vehicle Equipment (IA Code sections 321.384 to 321.481 )

Speed Limits and Speeding in Iowa

With long highways and interstates, driving through Iowa can be an exercise in patience. But speeding can be dangerous even on straight roads that stretch for miles. You might get pulled over by law enforcement or accelerate into an auto wreck.

State law sets default speed limits for roads that don't already have a posted speed limit or local rule, such as:

  • 20 mph in business zones
  • 25 mph in residential zones
  • 25 mph in school zones
  • 45 mph in a suburban area
  • 65 mph on divided multi-lane highways
  • 70 mph on interstate highways
  • 55 mph on other road types, including unpaved secondary roads

traffic ticket for speeding can have various penalties depending on how fast you were driving above the limit. The basic fine amount ranges from $30 to well over $200 at high speeds. Surcharges and court fees also add to the total cost of a ticket.

You could also get a ticket for drag racing or careless driving if you speed. On the other end of the speed spectrum, a peace officer might cite you for driving slower than the minimum speed limit.

Driving in Iowa's City Streets

The traffic rules and potential hazards change when driving in Ames, Des Moines, Iowa City, or another hub.

When driving in the city, consider taking extra precautions, such as:

  • Slow down at intersections and safety zones to watch for pedestrians with the right of way, even if there is no clearly marked crosswalk or traffic control signal
  • Obey all parking regulations and signs to prevent towing and parking tickets.
  • Drive slowly in poor weather conditions like snow and ice
  • Turn on your headlamps in conditions with poor visibility, even if the city lights seem bright enough
  • Pull over to the right shoulder if an emergency vehicle with flashing lights approaches you on a single-lane road (Iowa Code section 321.324). If parked cars line the street, slow down and move as far to the right side of the lane as possible.

Local ordinances may differ slightly from the statewide code of Iowa. Watch for traffic signs and signal devices that can help show you the rules of the road.

Fighting Iowa Traffic Tickets

Getting a ticket in Iowa, whether for reckless driving, running a stop sign, or violating the speed restrictions, can damage your driving record, raise your insurance rates, and risk license revocation. A violation could even lead to your arrest. You can consider legal defense if you face a ticket or criminal offense like drunk driving.

Many traffic law attorneys in Iowa help drivers dispute their cases. A lawyer can examine the evidence and why the police pulled you over. They can explain your rights before you decide how to proceed.

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