Iowa’s Speeding Laws and Penalties

Read about Iowa’s speeding laws and the consequences of getting a speeding ticket.

Iowa has two types of speeding laws: “absolute limits” and a “basic speeding law.” This article explains the differences between the two and the consequences of a speeding violation.

(Also, check out our articles that discuss the different types of speeding laws and ways of fighting a speeding ticket.)

Absolute Speed Limits

There is no trick to how Iowa’s absolute speed limits work: If the absolute speed limit is 50 miles per hour and you drive faster than that, you’ve violated the law. Unless otherwise posted, Iowa’s absolute speed limits are:

  • 20 miles per hour in business districts
  • 25 miles per hour in residential districts
  • 25 miles per hour in school zones
  • 45 miles per hour in suburban districts
  • 65 miles per hour on fully controlled-access, divided, multilane highways
  • 70 miles per hour on interstate highways, and
  • 55 miles per hour on other roadways.

(Iowa Code Ann. § 321.285 (2017).)

Basic Speeding Law

Notwithstanding the absolute limits, Iowa’s basic speeding law requires motorists to drive at a “careful and prudent speed not greater than nor less than is reasonable and proper, having due regard to the traffic, surface, and width of the highway and of any other conditions then existing.” The basic speeding law also specifies that drivers must reduce their speed as appropriate when approaching crossings, curves, a hill crest, or when other road or weather conditions warrant the reduction.

In other words, motorists must always drive at a safe speed. What a safe speed is will depend on the circumstances. For instance, 55 miles per hour might be safe on a bright, sunny day. But if it’s dark and the road is icy, going 55 miles per hour could be dangerous and a violation of the basic speeding law.

(Iowa Code Ann. §§ 321.285, 321.288 (2017).)

Penalties for a Speeding Ticket

Speeding is a simple misdemeanor in Iowa. For most speeding violations, the fines are:

  • $20 for exceeding the speed limit by not more than five miles per hour
  • $40 for exceeding the speed limit by more than five but not more than ten miles per hour
  • $80 for exceeding the speed limit by more than ten but not more than 15 miles per hour
  • $90 for exceeding the speed limit by more than 15 but not more than 20 miles per hour, and
  • $100 plus $5 for each mile per hour in excess of 20 miles per hour over the limit.

And the fine is generally $100 for speeding violations in school zones. However, a driver who’s caught going more than ten miles per hour over the limit in a school zone faces up to 30 days in jail and/or $65 to $625 in fines.

(Iowa Code Ann. §§ 321.285, 805.8A, 903.1 (2017).)

Reckless Driving and Vehicular Homicide

Depending on the circumstances, a speeding violation can lead to a “reckless driving” conviction. Generally, a conviction carries up to 30 days in jail and/or $25 to $625 in fines.

And if a speeding violation results in the death of another person, it’s possible to be convicted of “homicide by vehicle”—a felony. Convicted drivers are looking at up to ten years in prison and $1,000 to $10,000 in fines.

(Read more about Iowa’s reckless driving and vehicular homicide laws.)


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