Motor-vehicle laws are intended to keep everyone safe, without unnecessarily hindering or restricting. At least in the purest intent, that's how they're supposed to work.
But as you've probably found, there are plenty of driving-related laws that can push drivers to fits—whether it's for the inconsistent enforcement, their variability on a local basis, or simply because it's a restriction with no obvious public or safety benefit. Other than, perhaps, income-generation.
That said—and keeping to the general sense—here are ten laws that could drive you crazy:
1) No right on red. The vast majority of the time (in the U.S., that is), you're allowed to turn right on red, after a full stop, and if you don't interrupt traffic flow or place others in danger. But that's not always the case, and some municipalities post signs banning it all the time or during certain hours of the day. The one exception is that in New York City, a right turn is allowed only where a special sign allowing them is displayed. Keep in mind that in some, but not all, places you see a right arrow signal, it's illegal to turn right until the arrow signal is green. So you really do need to know your state law. And beware, because a ticket is typically as severe as one for running a red light.
2) Inconsistent U-turn rules. Is it okay to turn around at an intersection? In some places, definitely; yet in others, it could mean a very costly fine and ticket. For instance, in Oregon a U-turn at an intersection is normally legal, but it's illegal if you're within any city limits. But in neighboring California, a U-turn is typically allowed at an intersection. In many other states, they're also legal if you don't interrupt traffic flow and if there's no sign prohibiting them—and provided the local municipality doesn't have a separate law prohibiting them (which, by the way, might only be posted once, at city limits).
3) Keep right unless passing. Here it's actually heedlessness and lack of enforcement that drive us nuts. Keeping right is what we're taught is the law on our freeways and most divided highways, and signs even remind us of it on many of them. Yet American motorists in many states (especially the West Coast states, we find) pay no heed to it. And the total lack of enforcement in many places sure doesn't help.
4) Big rigs allowed in the far left lane. Drivers of semis and tractor trailers (and in many states, anything over 10,000 pounds) are instructed to keep right; but it seems like they move left far too often, to pass vehicles that might be going only 1 or 2 mph slower than they want to go. The price can be miles of backed-up traffic that could be moving past faster—plus lots of frustration. The truth is that if the highway has three of more lanes in your direction, it's the law; most states have rules that completely ban them from the left lane—provided they're not moving to take a left exit.
5) No smoking in your car if there are children aboard. This is one that frankly, we're happy to see on the books; but we bet it's going to drive some nicotine-hooked moms and dads crazy. Keep it outside, bring some of that gum for the drive, and save it for your own lungs, not those of your kids.
6) Carpool lane exceptions. They're inconsistent, and that's enough to drive some gridlocked commuters nuts. The High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV)—or carpool—lanes provide an extra travel lane or two for those who ride-share. But in California (and some other places), it also grants those who drive particular vehicles a pass to use them even if only the driver is aboard. For example, a vehicle that might only run all-electric a small part of its time, like a Prius Plug-In, can get a White Clean Air Vehicle Sticker allowing single-occupant HOV lane use, while a high-mileage diesel model with two aboard isn't given this privilege.
7) Unrealistic speed limits. 35 mph on a limited-access divided highway? 20 mph in an open industrial area, because there might be slow-moving semis around? We've seen them both, and you've probably seen other examples, where there's no clear explanation or reason you'd be placing others in harm by going faster. And they're the sort of situation that'll drive us all nuts.
8) Motorcyclist helmet laws. Helmet laws are one of the most polarizing issues pertaining to vehicles and safety. Many cyclists see it as a personal choice, of freedom and enjoying their bikes. On other other hand, opponents see it as a costly public liability that can drive hospital and health care costs up. And in some helmet-optional states with No Fault insurance laws, like Michigan, it may drive all motorists' rates up.
9) Tailgating and distracted driving. Ever looked in the rearview mirror and seen someone inches away from your bumper, maybe also eating, texting, or applying makeup? Following at a safe distance is one of the rules of the road—and everywhere it's on the books as a law in various forms. So are laws about cellphone use, and perhaps in less defined terms, of distraction. Yet they're very seldom enforced—except after it leads to an accident.
10) Burning rubber is illegal. Burnouts aren't okay if you keep under the speed limit? What is this world coming to? C'mon, who doesn't like a little smoked tire for dessert?
This story originally appeared at The Car Connection
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