It's the Law—Iowa's Snowmobile Laws
Operation of Snowmobiles
It shall be unlawful for any person to drive or operate any snowmobile:
- On public land (see “public land” definition) without a measurable snow cover
- At a rate of speed greater than that which is reasonable or proper under all existing circumstances.
- In a careless, reckless, or negligent manner so as to endanger the person or property of another, or to cause injury or damage thereto.
- Without a lighted headlight and taillight from sunset to sunrise and at such other times when conditions provide insufficient lighting to render clearly discernible persons and vehicles at a distance of 500 feet ahead.
- While under the influence of intoxicating liquor, narcotics, or habit-forming drugs.
- In any tree nursery or planting in a manner which damages or destroys growing stock.
- On any public land, ice, or snow, in violation of official signs of the department prohibiting such operation in the interest of safety for persons, property, or the environment. Any officer appointed by the department may post an official sign in an emergency for the protection of persons, property, or the environment.
- In or on any park or fish and game area except on designated snowmobile trails.
- Upon an operating railroad right-of-way. A snowmobile may be driven directly across a railroad right-of-way only at an established crossing and not withstanding any other provisions of law, may, if necessary, use the improved portion of the established crossing after yielding to all oncoming traffic. This subsection does not apply to a law enforcement officer or railroad employee in the lawful discharge of the officer’s or employee’s duties.
Operating on Roads and Highways
A snowmobile shall not be operated as follows.
- Within the right-of-way of any interstate highway or freeway within this state except under the following circumstances when using an underpass located on an interstate highway or freeway if all of the following apply:
- The underpass has been abandoned and is no longer being used by motor vehicles or trains.
- Use of the underpass is the only alternative to the use of a traveled roadway.
- Not withstanding the provisions of chapter 321, use of the underpass does not conflict with any rules or regulations adopted by a federal government entity of this state or a political subdivision of this state.
- For racing any moving object.
- Abreast with one or more other snowmobiles on a city highway.
- On the roadway portion of a highway and adjacent shoulder, or at least five feet on either side of the roadway.
- On private property without permission.
- On ATV trails except where designated by the controlling authority and the primary ATV trail sponsor.
A registered snowmobile may be operated as follows.
- Upon city or town highways which have not been plowed during the snow season or on highways designated by the municipality.
- On that portion of county roadways that have not been plowed during the snow season and not maintained for or utilized by conventional two-wheel drive motor vehicles.
- On highways in an emergency when and where snow upon the roadway renders travel by conventional motor vehicles impractical.
- On the roadways of that portion of county highway designated by the county board of supervisors for such use during a specified period. The county board of supervisors shall evaluate the traffic conditions on all county highways and designated roadways on which snowmobiles may be operated for the specified period without unduly interfering with or constituting an undue hazard to conventional motor vehicle traffic. Signs warning of the operation of snowmobiles on the roadway shall be placed and maintained on the portions of highway thus designated for the period specified for the operation.
- On the roadway or shoulder when necessary to cross a bridge or culvert, or avoid an obstruction if the snowmobile is brought to a complete stop before entering the roadway or shoulder and the driver yields the right-of-way to any approaching vehicle on the roadway.
Nighttime Operation on Roads and Highways
Snowmobiles must be operated within the right-of-way of any primary highway between the hours of sunset and sunrise, on the right-hand side of such right-of-way, and in the same direction as the motor vehicular traffic on the nearest lane of traveled portion of such right-of-way (see illustration).
On secondary roads, travel may be in either direction in the right-of-way in compliance with other applicable laws.