Distinguished Harvard and UCLA legal scholar Roscoe Pound has said quite a few formidable things in his 93-year lifespan. However, what he specifically said in the early 1900s is what truly resonates with law and order in today’s world: “Law is experience developed by reason and applied continually to further experience.”
Unfortunately for Pound, while our understanding of life and its surroundings have changed over the decades, reason and rationale have not quite kept pace. One of the areas this can be seen, that we will explore today is around road rules. Like most things in the US, road rules can be unique depending on where you are in this vast country. Similarly, several cities across the remaining 193 countries on the planet have their own regulations, that often also differ vastly from other cities.
In the United States, there are however several laws that are more federally-mandated and are set forth by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), which is in itself a part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, which is headquartered in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, the federal laws have little or no jurisdiction to veto or change some of the decades-old and frankly irrelevant laws within each state that still exists today. The only people who can make those changes are the States themselves, so we encourage you to speak to your local representative if these laws simply make no sense.
So without further delay, here are 25 bizarre road rules that really don't make sense in this day and age.
24 Texas: Wipers mandatory, windshield optional
This one probably wasn’t proofread by lawmakers or paralegals. It is against the law to drive without windshield wipers in Texas. Kidding, that law in itself makes total sense even though Texas doesn’t get much rain, it’s still a safety issue when it does, as you are unable to clear your windshield.
However, what is extremely bizarre is that you don’t need to have a windshield on your motor vehicle when it goes into registration. I mean there’s a long list of what each vehicle needs, and while wipers are on the list, a windshield is not. That’s either an inadvertent omission or just a dumb rule of law.
23 Washington: Criminals must call the cops first
Here’s one that is sure to make you laugh. In a bid to reduce crime, a law states that “it is mandatory for a motorist with criminal intentions to stop at the city limits and telephone the chief of police as he is entering the town”.
Even according to the website Skeptics, because of the sheer stupidity of the law, it is needless to say that it has done nothing to improve crime in the area. Another bizarre thing about this law is that it references “city limits” but is found in the state legislature, which tells me it was perhaps originally intended for one of the many cities that make up the State but was never fully reviewed before entering the State’s law books.
22 Austria: Radars with your naked eye
Austria, the relatively small country most famous for its castles, palaces, and other architectural works has a little secret which many people are not aware of. They are notorious for catching speeding cars and if that wasn’t scary enough, their police officers don’t even need a speed radar to pull you over.
Even the slightest hint that someone is driving above the speed limit can elicit a pull-over from their famous grey cars with blue and red stripes running along the side fenders. If you happen to be pulled over and are fairly confident you did not speed, good luck fighting that stance with the authorities if there were no radars around.
21 Montreal, Canada: Driveway
According to the Service de Police de la Ville de Montreal (SPVM), it is stated in a section under the “Badly parked vehicle” statute that it is illegal to park a vehicle which is blocking a property entrance, including a property that is owned by the vehicle owner.
That is indeed a strange rule considering you are only inconveniencing yourself by blocking your own driveway. We’ve wracked our brains to think of any other rationale that would disallow an owner to block their own driveway but cannot find any. It’s unfortunate because many homeowners have more than one vehicle but only enough space on their driveway to fit one car.
20 Kansas: No screeching
According to the Wichita Eagle newspaper, the Kansas House approved a ban on wheel spinning and tire squealing. There was an 82-40 vote against these acts when brought forward during a committee hearing.
Lawmakers in the state mention that their police officers have long recognized what an exhibition of acceleration is, and in their minds, it starts with wheel spin. That is a rather bizarre explanation considering that many modern vehicles today are very good at suppressing spinning wheels through improving all-wheel-drive systems and other torque management technology. It’s also a shame because sometimes car wheels screech for reasons unrelated to speeding and this rule unfairly punishes those who have done nothing wrong.
19 Missouri: Don’t honk my horn
University City is one of the oldest suburbs in the St. Louis area with a population under 40,000 residents. Population statistics indicate that people are leaving this suburb, with numbers dropping by about 6% in the past 10 years.
Perhaps this bizarre law has something to do with it. Specifically, and only in University City is it absolutely and unequivocally illegal to honk someone else’s car horn. This strange rule of law applies both to stationary and moving vehicles. While the law does not prohibit a driver from honking their own horn, it baffles us as to how it would be enforced when law enforcement cannot easily prove it was someone else in the car who honked.
18 New Jersey: Pumping your own gas
As of January 2018, the State of New Jersey is officially the last of all these great States to prohibit drivers from pumping their own gasoline. Turn the clocks back over 40 years and Oregon was the second to last from dropping out this strange prohibition.
This rule of law came into effect in New Jersey back in 1949, under the Retail Gasoline Dispensing Safety Act. So, don’t be surprised the next time you are in New Jersey and all you see is full-service gas stations because nobody was successful in advocating for self-service stations. Even a prominent local Republican assemblyman tried this, but the bill was stalled.
17 Maryland: Cursing
We are strong advocates of public decency but this law in the city of Rockville, Maryland perhaps strips away one’s right to free speech. Simply put, it is a misdemeanor to curse while on or near any of the city’s roadways.
Specifically under Section 13-53, titled “Profanity; violation of section declared misdemeanor” a person may not profanely curse, swear, use obscene language near any street, sidewalk or highway with hearers nearby. I guess you are left to mutter obscenities under your breath at this point. Fortunately, this rule does not extend beyond the city limits, so it is only applicable to the 61,000 residents and any passer-by, so please beware.
16 Saudi Arabia: Driving without a male chaperone
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been the home to many rules of law that most people outside the Middle East and even many within it fail to comprehend. Whatever the case may be, we are not here to judge on behalf of that entire nation.
However, one rule of law that is specific to driving baffles us, even after a recent legislation change. Recently the Kingdom allowed women to finally be able to drive in the country. That said, another law still prohibits women from leaving their homes without the company of a male chaperone. So, while women are now free to drive, they are still unable to drive without a male present.
15 Minnesota: Keeping it clean
There is a statute in the Minnesota law books that provides clear responsibilities of car drivers with respect to dirt, gravel and even snow cleaning. For snow, you are required to have the windshield and all side windows clear from any obstruction.
While that law makes sense, one that baffles us is around the requirement of mud flaps on both front and rear wheels. This flap is to prevent dirt, gravel and even mud from flying backward while the vehicle is in motion. Failure to have flaps or to kick back dirt onto vehicles on both sides or the rear is a violation of the law.
14 Italy: Permits to drive by historic sites
The next time you are in Italy, whether it might be to visit the world-famous Leaning Tower of Pisa, or the famous architectural designs in Rome and Milan, be aware of one important fact if you are driving yourself around, permits.
This specifically applies if you are driving into what the locals call a ZTL, short for Zona Traffico Limitato, or a Limited Traffic Zone. In order to reduce congestion in high traffic areas, the country’s officials require proper authorization before driving into and around these zones. Only some local drivers are granted these permits in addition to those who apply and meet the requirements. The fines for violating this rule is otherwise very steep.
13 Arkansas: No honking near restaurants
Believe it or not, it is illegal to honk your car horn, rev your engine or speed up at a drive-in restaurant in the city of Fort Smith. However, this isn’t the only city in the State that has this type of law. In Little Rock and according to Section 18-54 of their traffic code, "no person shall sound the horn on a vehicle at any place where cold drinks or sandwiches are served after 9 p.m.".
At first, we were surprised at the specificity of this rule and the time frame mentioned, but then realized we shouldn’t be all that surprised. This is the same state that also apparently passed a bill making it illegal to mispronounce the state’s name, with many people accidentally calling it Arkansas (“Arkansaw”).
12 Denver: No black-colored cars on Sundays
Another strange law comes to us from Denver. The law claims that it is illegal to drive a black-colored car on Sundays. This should not come as too much of a surprise since there are many moral laws from earlier days, called “blue laws” in the State.
The news around this law was first reported on Denver 7 news channel and covered by their journalists but can also be found on several websites both related to and unrelated to official State offices. I guess if there was one law to change from this list, this may be the lowest-hanging fruit for politicians to tackle as it makes absolutely no sense.
11 Connecticut: Fire engines cannot speed
If you live in Connecticut, you better pray that you don’t ever have to deal with a fire in your home, business, school or frankly anywhere else. While this prayer should hold true for anyone, in Connecticut you have real cause for concern at fire safety personnel getting to you in time.
The reason for this is because fire trucks have their own speeding limit, and surprisingly it’s just 25 mph. This applies both to fire trucks responding to a call (alarms blazing) or not. This law specifically applies to the city of New Britain, Connecticut which is home to about 75,000 residents.
10 Finland: License to play music
We all know that downloading pirated music is wrong, but this law in the country of Finland takes things rather too far in our opinion. The Finnish Supreme Court ruled that taxi drivers must pay royalty fees of $20 per year if they are to play music in their cars with customers seated.
It is because of this ruling that you will find most if not all taxi drivers having switched off their radios during passenger commute to avoid having to pay this royalty fee. The chairman of the Helsinki Taxi Drivers’ Association has accepted the ruling on behalf of his drivers.
9 Delaware: Cannot change clothes in the car
When we think about someone changing their clothes in the car, our minds immediately race to the moving images of Mr. Bean getting dressed in his car because he is running very late for what we recall as a dentist appointment.
While Rowan Atkinson, who plays the hilariously awkward character takes things to another level, even so much as removing a sweater or replacing a t-shirt after a sweaty gym workout in a parked vehicle can be seen to break decency laws in Delaware, so please beware of Section 198-15 of the rule book. It could end up costing you!
8 Hawaii: No hazard lights for moving vehicles
According to the Digest of Motor Laws, use of emergency lights, also known as hazard lights are not permitted for use under several unique circumstances. Some of these make sense. For example, in Arizona hazard lights cannot be used unless there is an emergency situation. A similar rule applies to Arkansas where hazard light use is not permitted while driving except to indicate a traffic hazard. This also makes perfect sense.
However, in Hawaii it is against the law to use hazard lights under any circumstance of a vehicle in motion, even to notify surrounding drivers of an imminent hazard. So, the next time you feel you need to warn vehicles behind you of a hazard, resist the urge to hit those hazard lights.
7 Cyprus: Both hands on the wheel
Both in practice and in theory this rule makes perfect sense. Drivers should always have both hands on the wheel at all times. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that doing so results in a far safer operation of a motor vehicle, with the added benefit that the rule prevents drivers from multi-tasking say either on their phones, the radio or the infotainment system.
However, there must be some allowances made in the law to cater to making a few minor adjustments to their surroundings. For example, turning up the radio to hear of important traffic announcements or even in the event that the sun visor needs adjusting because of a dangerous glare hitting your eyes.
6 Maine: Cannot sell cars on a Sunday
There were several “blue laws” which are essentially moral codes rather than laws which were voted down across several states, including Maine. However, one law remains and that is the prevention of selling motor vehicles on Sundays.
That’s right folks, it is against the law for dealerships of any kind to sell a vehicle on a Sunday in Maine. Back in the 1960s when this law came into effect, people were actually jailed even for first-time infractions. The sad thing here is there are another 13 other States with similar bans. It was attempted to fight this ban in 2005 on behalf of working people who couldn’t find time to shop for a car during weekdays, but this was actually opposed by the Auto Dealers Association.
5 New Jersey: Frowning at cops is prohibited
According to New Jersey’s own local news website, one of the worst laws in the state are that it’s against the law to frown at a police officer. Yes, you read this right. If you thought that wasn’t weird enough, it’s illegal to frown at anyone, anywhere at all in Bernards Township, which is part of Somerset County in the same state.
The notion that a government can mandate whether or not someone is happy, or heck even quizzical or bemused by something they see, hear or feel, even to an officer of the law makes us scratch our heads.
4 Ohio: Illegal to run out of gas
My wife might like this one. It is illegal to run out of gas in the city of Youngstown, Ohio. I have quite a bad habit of running the gas tank of my car down to bare-bones. Call it a cheap thrill, call it living dangerously, or heck even call it downright silly but having it outlawed is something altogether.
While nobody would intentionally run out of gas, I’m sure, it is considered a misdemeanor offense and if running out of gas and having to get a tow wasn’t bad enough, you have added insult to injury because you’ll need to pay a fine too.
3 Manila, Philippines: Restricted driving days
There’s no denying that the city of Manila in the Philippines has a major traffic problem. There are just far too many cars relative to supporting infrastructure. As such, officials came up with a solution to the problem. Ubiquitously named, Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program, or UVVRP for short (yes, short), the system aims to reduce traffic congestion by limited vehicles that can drive on public roads based on their license plates.
The challenge is in policing this law, which applies during a 5-hour period from 10 AM to 3 PM because the city lacks the technology to scan license plates to determine violators and hence punish them for breaking the rule. In short, don’t make rules you cannot effectively police or enforce.
2 Japan: Splashing pedestrians
Pedestrians will love this one. It is against the law for the driver of a vehicle to splash water on a passing pedestrian. Now this law makes sense if it’s intentionally done, but if you know anything about Japan laws, it is that they seldom say something unless they mean it unequivocally and in general application rather than specifics.
So, the next time you’re in Japan, especially in the month of June, which is known for typhoon season, be aware of your surroundings. In fact, if at all possible don’t drive because the probability of splashing someone is just too high and not worth the risk.
1 Pennsylvania: Livestock warning
In a story verified by an automotive website, The News Wheel, the State of Pennsylvania is home to a number of strange motoring laws. As one of the nation’s oldest States, we might be able to forgive them for failing to update many of these.
Of all their bizarre rules, this one, however, takes the cake. We must preface this by stating our love for animals and livestock. It is required by drivers who are cruising on country roads at night, that they must stop every single mile in order to set off a flare (or some other type of warning) before waiting 10 minutes before they can move forward. Those 10 minutes are apparently required to allow any livestock, visible or not, to clear out the roads!
Sources: The News Wheel, Virtual Drive of Texas, Howards Group, Skeptics, Carmudi, John Tumelty Criminals, New Jersey News, Press Herald, AJC, AAA Driving Laws & Delaware Widener