While traffic may seem like a terrible chore to anyone who commutes to work, the fact that things go right so much of the time on the road borders on the semi-miraculous. After all, Murphy's Law (anything that can go wrong will go wrong) applies to cooking, getting dressed, putting on shoes, and making coffee in the morning, but almost all of us get to work without any serious problems.
Car accidents happen all over the globe just about all the time, but it's a credit to humanity that they don't happen more often. Some of that credit, though, goes to the officials who have enacted a set of rules to help guide drivers day in and day out. But while some rules seem to be little more than common sense—like don't drive the wrong way up a freeway onramp—some required a little more thought to perfect.
The automobile has only been attainable by the masses for around a century, yet our road rules are remarkably efficient. Only when traveling to other countries does it become clear just how much we've all internalized the safe, efficient, accepted way to drive a car down the road in our own homes. But still, the automobile has been around for more than a century, and the world has changed significantly over that period.
Those in charge always struggle to keep up with the times and often the codes that bind us become outdated. Traffic rules are no exception; in fact, they may be some of the least-frequently changed of all. Keep scrolling for 15 strange driving rules that are still on the books in the US, and 10 that are somehow still around in Canada.
25 Car Lanterns - Alabama
Today's automobiles come with an amazing range of headlight technologies: xenon, LED, lights that turn, and automatically dimming brights. The safety of cars has improved alongside these features, but it all comes down to the fact that humans just don't see very well at night. That's always been true, and the state of Alabama even recognized it way back before cars were even developed.
In fact, according to The Schafer Law Office, they still have a rule on their books that states a car can legally drive the wrong way on a one-way street—just so long as it has a lantern attached!
24 No Running Out Of Gas - Youngstown Ohio
Every driver lives in constant fear of running out of gas. After all, what happens if the fuel gauge is faulty, or if there isn't a gas station close enough on a long road trip? As scary as the prospect of asking hill folk for a tow may sound, the repercussions for running out of gas are even worse in Youngstown, Ohio, where a rule is still on the books that it is against the rules to run out of gas. Of course, the dangers of running out of gas, not to mention the traffic that a stopped car can cause, make this one almost sound necessary, but really, isn't running out of gas alone punishment enough?
23 Don't Honk At That Sandwich - Little Rock, Arkansas
It's hard to imagine what actually may have led to this strange rule in Little Rock, Arkansas, but it's fun to think of a member of some governing body sitting outside a sandwich shop, munching down or sipping a cold beverage, only to make a mess when they get surprised by a truck honking its loud horn.
The rule in itself, Sec. 18-54, states that "...no person shall sound the horn on a vehicle at any place where cold drinks or sandwiches are served after 9 p.m." (This one's not quite as funny as the fact that it's illegal to mispronounce "Arkansas" in Arkansas.)
22 Only Truck Drivers Can Spit - Marietta, Georgia
So many rules are remnants of older times that they serve as a reminder of how life used to be. One such restriction, in Marietta, Georgia, limits what kind of vehicle a person must be traveling in if they want to legally spit. Now, this may hearken back to an era when everyone chewed tobacco on a regular basis, but it still seems weird that today, as Nationwide Insurance is happy to point out, it's not ok to spit from a car or bus, but spitting from a truck is just fine. No doubt, a truckers union had to fight hard to keep this one on the books.
21 Georgia State Assembly Members Can Speed All They Want
This may seem like yet another case of corruption, but in reality, a rule in Georgia that prevents officers from ticketing members of the state assembly while the assembly is in session actually is intended to prevent corruption. This is explicit in Georgia but is often enforced regardless of how exactly a state constitution delineates the practice. It goes back to dark days in England when officials would try to prevent members of rival parties from reaching the official seats of their power by having them arrested. Although most drivers would probably say that maybe the 15-day grace period in Georgia is only there to allow assemblymen a little bit of fun.
20 Can Only Hunt A Whale From A Car - Tennessee
It seems logical to keep people from hunting from their moving cars. After all, it's not a stretch to think that a little speed bump could lead to a very serious situation. But one rule on the books of Tennessee, according to Nationwide Insurance, covers one of the unlikeliest things that could possibly happen while hunting from a moving vehicle. Apparently, in Tennessee—which is an entirely landlocked state—the only animal that can be legally shot from a moving vehicle is a whale.
19 No Ice Cream Trucks - Indianola, Iowa
During the hot summer months when the kids are out of school, every child dreams of that moment when they are the first to hear the twinkling of the neighborhood ice cream truck making its rounds. Unfortunately for the kids of Indianola, Iowa, though, that moment will never happen, at least not legally.
According to KCCI news, the town has outlawed all ice cream trucks, ostensibly as an effort to prevent larger businesses from nearby towns from encroaching on the turf of Indianola's local ice cream shops.
18 No Trash In Cars - Hilton Head, South Carolina
Everyone has that one friend whose car is essentially a gigantic trash can. For most drivers, keeping a car at least even mostly clean is something that takes a few minutes a week, at most. But for the hoarders and the lazy car owners out there, even that tiny effort is simply not worth having a clean car. The problem can get so bad that every time they open their door, a few pieces of rubbish fall out, so one town in South Carolina made it a crime to keep trash in a car.
According to Nationwide Insurance, Hilton Head passed a rule that might make their town a bit of a road-tripper's nightmare. Presumably, there are roadside trashcans right before the city limits to help out.
17 No Women In Robes - California
Most people will pause before leaving their house in a robe, although for people who have a garage, wearing a robe to hop in the car and then head to a drive-through might seem perfectly normal. But for all the females in California, that could be a ticketable offense, because CNN reports that a strange rule is still on the books in that state which forbids women from driving while wearing a 'housecoat' or as it's known in the parlance of our times, a robe.
16 Don't Drive By Three Times - Westminster, CO
In the Denver suburb of Westminster, CO, drivers looking for a parking spot need to be careful they aren't caught by an eagle-eyed cop. Car and Driver report that a rule still exists in Westminster that makes it not ok to drive past the same traffic point more than three times in three hours. Now, this one might make sense in a Robert De Niro heist film, when the bad guys are casing a joint, but in real life, it seems unlikely to prevent anything serious from occurring. After all, anyone could just swap cars or switch drivers to avoid an infraction.
15 No Driving Without A Steering Wheel - Decatur, Illinois
The steering wheel may seem like an integral part of every automobile that's ever been made, but that didn't stop one town from making it not ok to drive without one. The Decatur Herald & Review has reported that it is not ok to drive a car without a steering wheel in their city. Exactly what a driver might be using instead of a steering wheel is left unclear, though presumably, things like joysticks and VR headsets weren't what the rule's authors had in mind.
14 No Parking Within 25 Feet Of Dunkin' Donuts - South Berwick, Maine
In South Berwick, Maine, a strangely worded rule has led to plenty of hilarity on the internet. Article III, Section 15 of South Berwick's Town Ordinances makes it prohibited to park within 25 feet of a specific Dunkin' Donuts. While that may seem inconvenient for Dunkin' Donuts connoisseurs, it's even stranger to create a rule based on the location of a commercial breakfast establishment. Is Dunkin' Donuts the town's most enduring landmark? Is there zero chance that it might move, and that the street address might one day be occupied by something else? Is there any chance that using said street address may have been more accurate than describing a location as Dunkin' Donuts?
13 No Vanity Plates For 10 Years After A DUI - New Jersey
Vanity plates are increasingly popular all over the place, as modern drivers seem to turn more and more to personalization of their vehicles. But in the state of New Jersey, there are special restrictions on exactly who can apply to have a personalized license plate on their car.
Specifically, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission's Personalized License Plate Application form prohibits anyone who has either been convicted of "driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs [sic]" or driving while otherwise "impaired" or even has refused a Breathalyzer test in the last ten years from getting a vanity plate. Those drivers guilty of vehicular homicide, meanwhile, can never get one.
12 Nothing Hanging From The Rearview Mirror - Decatur, Illinois
Another strange rule reported by the Decatur Herald and Review makes it frowned upon for drivers to hang fuzzy dice from their rearview mirror. The rule is more vague, obviously, and instead says that no "obstructions" can hang from the rearview mirror, but there's obviously some serious fuzzy dice hating going on in Decatur. Things like air fresheners, GPS units, and prayer beads are also relegated to any other area of the car that won't obstruct a driver's view of the road.
11 No Reading Comic Books While Driving - Oklahoma
It may seem obvious to most drivers that reading while driving is a dangerous habit to take up. Just like using a cell phone or applying makeup, reading takes most of a driver's focus away from the road. But exactly why Oklahoma felt the need to specifically ban reading comic books while driving remains a mystery. Nonetheless, Nationwide reports that comic books have received the kibosh. Perhaps this is just another strange rule trying to prevent kids from getting into accidents.
10 No Commercial Whistling - Petrolia, Ontario
Many sources online cite a strange rule in Petrolia, Ontario, banning the all-too-common practice of whistling. In reality, the ban was truly in effect from 1990 to 2009, though it has since become obsolete—at least, for most people. The Observer (a publication from Canada) quotes a 2009 bylaw, which rescinded Petrolia's ban on whistling for normal citizens. However, the new bylaw maintains that it is still not ok to whistle, yell, or shout with commercial intent, described as "for the purposes of selling or advertising."
9 Two Bells On Each Sleigh - Ontario
The Ontario Highway Traffic act has specific rules for safety when it comes to sleigh rides. Sure, here down in the USA there are regions that see plenty of snow, but average citizens typically don't resort to sleighs outside of holiday joy rides. But in Ontario, sleighs must be a little more common, as this one reads that “Every person traveling on a highway with a sleigh or sled drawn by a horse or other animal shall have at least two bells attached to the harness or to the sleigh or sled in such a manner as to give ample warning sound.”
8 Honk To Pass - Prince Edward Island & New Brunswick
Passing slower vehicles, especially semi-trucks, on the highway can be a bit of a nerve-racking proposition even in the most ideal circumstances. Trying to pass an old grandma in her jalopy during a white-out blizzard in certain areas of our neighbor to the north, however, sounds downright dangerous. For this reason, in New Brunswick and on Prince Edward Island, it's required that drivers toot their horn when they begin to make a passing maneuver.
The Globe and Mail report that this is rarely enforced, but honking is still recommended for safety.
7 No Tint Allowed - Five Provinces
Plenty of car owners in the United States use window tint to reduce glare on bright days, to beat the heat in the desert sun, and of course, to get that celebrity limousine look going in the hopes of seeming important. But window tinting can also lead to dangerously low levels of visibility, and fully five provinces in Canada have outlawed the practice entirely. British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island have outlawed window tint on driver and passenger windshields, citing the fact that the glass has been tempered specifically to break into small cubes, rather than dangerous shards, as the reason behind the ban.
6 No Lanesplitting By Motorcycles - All Of Canada
In California, a state with serious traffic problems, motorcyclists are allowed to lane split or drive between lanes of traffic. This makes motorcycles seriously appealing for people who suffer through eternal commutes in Los Angeles traffic, but the dangers of the practice are readily apparent. In Canada, lane splitting is not ok. There are many potential reasons why, including the fact that traffic jams are less frequent, that snow often piles up between lanes of traffic in inclement weather, and possibly most importantly, that drivers simply aren't used to looking for motorcycles as they do so.
5 No Driving With A Cast On The Leg - Ontario
In the unfortunate circumstances when drivers break a bone in their foot and require a cast to speed up the healing process, driving can become a serious hassle. Many drivers in both the United States and Canada would probably wonder if it is, in fact, even legal to drive with a cast or boot on the foot. The Globe and Mail pointed out that while the Ontario Highway Traffic Act doesn't specifically outlaw driving while wearing a cast, in the case of an accident, the driver can be additionally charged with "careless driving" that led to the incident.
4 No Left Foot Driving - Ontario
Similar to driving with a cast on the right foot, many drivers who have experienced extremely long time periods at the wheel may have occasionally given their right foot a break by driving with only the left foot. Of course, with a manual transmission-equipped car, this is almost impossible (almost, but not quite), but for drivers who own a car with an automatic gearbox, left-footed driving can be a welcome respite.
Unfortunately, like driving with a cast, if it is discovered after an accident that a driver was using only their left foot, they can similarly be charged with careless driving.
3 No 'Heavy Snow' On The Car - Manitoba
Snow is a major source of struggles for drivers in the Northern United States and Canada, where weather can turn foul at a moment's notice. And no one enjoys going out to the car, only to have to turn on the defroster, warm up the engine, scrape the windshield, and brush off the accumulated snow before getting to any actual driving. In Manitoba, one man was clearly in a big rush and didn't brush the snow off the top of his car before starting out for the day. He received a ticket for driving with an unsecured load—sure, the snow itself wasn't frowned upon, but the potential dangers to other drivers inspired a cop to get creative.
2 U-Turns Sometimes Not Ok In Canada
In most parts of the world, traffic flow is predictable enough and U-turns have become so common that anywhere a U-turn is prohibited typically receives a sign delineating the restriction. Not so in Canada, however, where some places put up signs, some outlaw U-turns entirely, and some even have varying rules depending on location. In Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, and PEI, U-turns are fine unless a sign is up saying otherwise. In British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, U-turns are completely outlawed at intersections with traffic lights. Vancouver, meanwhile, has their own set of bylaws making U-turns just about resoundingly unacceptable.
1 Not Ok To Flash Brights (Even If Another Driver Has Their Lights Off) In Canada
No one likes that guy who drives around in the dark of night with his high beams on, blinding all the other drivers around him. But equally as bad, and perhaps more annoying, are those drivers who are so out of it that they don't even notice that their headlights are completely off. Well, in Canada, it's technically not ok to do both, and it's even technically prohibited to flash your brights at a driver who is doing either, although Calgary Police Staff-Seargent Paul Stacey has pointed out that "if somebody is trying to warn another driver, we wouldn't give them a ticket."
Sources: US Insurance Agents, Car and Driver, The Observer, and The Globe and Mail.