New Iowa law stiffens penalties for at-fault drivers

| 4/12/2006

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack signed a bill into law April 6 increasing the penalties for drivers at fault for wrecks where someone is killed or seriously injured. The effort won widespread support in the General Assembly.

The measure was sought in reaction to a June 2002 accident in Tama County, IA, where three motorcyclists were killed and others were seriously injured, The Quad-City Times reported.

The wreck happened when the driver fell asleep and crossed the center line. The driver was acquitted of vehicular homicide and manslaughter charges and received only a $70 fine.

Under the new law, drivers who break traffic laws – such as failure to yield or interfering with the right-of-way – in wrecks that cause serious injury could face additional fines up to $500 and/or suspension of driving privileges for up to 90 days. If someone is killed because of their negligence, the fine could jump to $1,000 and/or as much as 180 days without driving privileges.

The new law, previously SF2267, also requires driver education courses in the state to include instruction about how to share the road with motorcycles and bicycles.