Driving is an indispensable part of our lives. There’s almost no part of the globe without a vehicle rolling around, so naturally, it’s regulated. Yet, sometimes, things just go too far, bringing us all some wonderfully weird driving laws. We all know that our lovely US of A is a fertile ground for (sometimes completely) non-sensical legislation, but there are shining examples in other parts, too. So, buckle up, and let’s go on a quick tour.
You know that in great Washington State, sexual intercourse with a virgin is against the law, right? And after that, anything can be given the benefit of the doubt in terms of rationality. Or close enough.
USA – Land of the Free and Home of the Strange Laws
Local legislation in many places can seem completely absurd to anyone outside of the city or even state limits. But that’s among many charms of the United States. It may be perfectly fine to disable GPS tracking on your brand-new import car in Arkansas, but it’s kinda against the law to mispronounce the name of the Natural State (it’s “Arkansaw,” if you wondered).
Or the Californian city of Blythe, which bans wearing cowboy boots unless the wearer is the owner of at least two cows. Or that the person who knowingly gives a false weather report is breaking federal law and can even end up in jail for a couple of weeks. You know, such things.
But, since I’m here to talk about traffic, let’s make a round and see the dos and don’ts in different corners of the country.
- If ever driving in Rockville, MD, know that swearing while behind the wheel is forbidden. This misdemeanor might cost you a few dozen bucks or a month and a half in prison.
- Pennsylvania requires drivers on rural roads to stop at every mile. Why? To use flares or other kinds of warning to alert any livestock to your arrival, of course, so it may take ten minutes to leave the road. It may at least light up your mood while driving at night.
- Even more special, New Jersey bans people from owning a personalized license plate if they have a DUI conviction. And it also bans cars from passing carriages in the streets. Yes, horse-drawn carriages.
- Connecticut prohibits hunting from a vehicle. Also, in Hartford, crossing the street on your hands is against the law.
- In the charming town of South Berwick, ME, you can’t park your car within 25 feet of Dunkin’ Donuts.
- In Rhode Island, drivers must honk every time they pass another vehicle or risk a fine.
- Virginia still preserves a law that bans women from driving unless their husbands walk in front of the cars with red flags.
- Back to Connecticut. The speed limit for a firetruck is 25 mph. Heading to a burning area is no excuse for breaking it.
Fun fact: In NYC, jaywalking becomes illegal only when you cross the street diagonally.
- Despite its history with these animals, Nevada banned camels from public highways.
- Oregon has a law that makes it illegal for a vehicle door to be open for an “excessive amount of time.” If it doesn’t sound precise, it’s because it isn’t.
- Alaska prohibits drivers from driving their dogs tied to the car roofs. It doesn’t say anything about cats, though.
- San Francisco took regulations one step further when it made it illegal for anyone to wash their car with their underwear.
- California bans shooting animals from vehicles in motion. The only exception to the rule is shooting a whale.
- Still in the Golden State, the city of Glendale isn’t an ideal place for people seeking a stuntman career. If a car is going faster than 65 mph, it’s against the law to jump from it.
- Washington made a great effort to curb crime by making it compulsory for any driver entering the Evergreen State’s cities with criminal intentions to phone the chief of local police and announce themselves.
- Back to Cali, women who wish to drive in their bathrobes should think again. Yup, illegal.
- Denver prohibits driving black cars on Sundays.
- When on a highway in Utah and you meet a bird, know that it has the right of way.
- To get a driving license in South Dakota, one has to be only 14 years old.
- In Oregon, if you’re driving on the sidewalk, you’re obliged to let pedestrians pass. Unbelievable, right?
Fun fact: Not related to cars, but Washington has a law that harassing Sasquatch, Bigfoot, or any other similar creature is punishable with up to 10 years behind bars and a $100k fine.
- Driving a vehicle without a steering wheel is illegal in Illinois. It remains to be seen what that would mean for driverless cars.
- Ohio hits our list with two regulations. First comes from Youngstown, where it’s against the law to run out of gas, while second is the work of Fairview Park, which banned “excessive” honking. If rumors are true, one senior citizen was fined for greeting her neighbor with two honks.
- If you ride a bicycle in Wisconsin and let go of the handlebars, you’re breaking the law.
- In a strange twist, the city of Fort Thomas, KY, prohibits the molestation of vehicles by pets.
- You can be fined if you drive a dirty truck in Minnetonka, MN. It seems that leaving mud in your trail isn’t the way.
- If you drive over a mountain in Nebraska, you need to be cautious and keep to the right side of the road. Not so strange? There aren’t any real mountains in Nebraska.
Fun fact: In Michigan, you are explicitly not allowed to read a newspaper while sitting in the middle of the road.
- Cab drivers in Albuquerque are absolutely not allowed to pull people from the street into the cars. No, Jason Bourne shenanigans in Duke City.
- Remember the Californian law about shooting animals from moving vehicles? Well, Tennessee has the exact same law. Yes, including the whale exception. Why? Good question for a landlocked state.
- In Texas, you are obliged to have windshield wipers on your car. On the other hand, you are not obliged to have a windshield.
- Alabama decided to formally ban driving while blindfolded. To counteract such an attack on civil liberties, Yellowhammer State allows wrong-way driving in one-way streets, as long as you have a lantern on the car’s hood.
- When it comes to good manners, Georgia decided to take it a step forward. Once in the Peach State, you should under no circumstance spit from either a car or a bus, as it’s illegal. However, if you spit from a truck, you’re in the clear.
- Hilton Head, SC, made it unlawful to keep trash in the vehicle.
- Oklahoma specifically banned reading comic books while behind the wheel.
- Sunshine State is famous for many Internet sensations but also for a law that states that if you tie a goat, an alligator, or an elephant to a parking meter, you must pay the parking fee.
- Oxford, MS, banned honking. Reason? Not to scare horses that might be nearby.
- Missouri considers honking the horn of a car that isn’t yours bad.
Fun fact: The gold medal for thinking about safety goes to Texarkana, TX. If you want to ride a horse at night in Texarkana, the animal must have tail lights.
The Old World isn’t immune to the weird legislation, either. Here are some of the most strange rules concerning cars and driving in European countries:
- Cyprus prohibits eating and drinking behind the wheel. Yes, even water,
- Driving a dirty vehicle on the streets of Moscow may get you a fine,
- Denmark requires that every driver checks whether there are children beneath their car before entering it,
- Citizens of Switzerland are not allowed to wash their cars on Sundays,
- Traditionally polite UK banned splashing of pedestrians,
- Efficient Germans ruled it unlawful to stop anywhere on the famous autobahn (yes, that includes running out of gas or the engine breakdown)
- The French love their wine, and therefore, it’s only natural that the law states that every driver must carry a personal breathalyzer,
- Back in Germany – you can sit in the car and drive naked, but you have to have clothes on when leaving it.
Fun fact: The UK prohibits public urination. Still, if in a great hurry, standing behind your vehicle and touching it with one hand while relieving yourself will get you off the hook.
Now let’s check how the rest of the world regulates its traffic in not-so-usual ways.
Beware of the Shotgun Seat
Driving under the influence is prohibited in most (I would like to think all) places on Earth, and such a driver would be, at best for him, fined. As often, Japan took that thing one step further. If the driver is drunk and you are completely sober, you’re looking at a fine. No catching a ride with intoxicated drivers!
Be Mindful of the License Plate
In order to reduce the non-stop traffic jams, the Philippines introduced a measure to reduce the number of vehicles on the roads and streets – a number measure. So, if the private vehicle’s license plate number ends with a 1 or 2, the owner’s not allowed to drive on Mondays. Tuesdays are off limits for 3s and 4s, and so on, finishing with 9s and 0s on Fridays. There are exceptions, of course – ambulances and firetrucks among them.
Pedestrians? Who Cares About Them!
China and its capital city of Beijing may be good for many things, but not for pedestrians. If you’re living there and decided that living without a car and walking around is a more healthy option, be prepared! Drivers are prohibited from stopping to let pedestrians cross the street. Yes, you heard it well.
Always Have Your Shirt On
For many, Thailand is a vacation spot par excellence. Still, besides the very strict (and very enforced) lese-majeste law, Thailand prohibits shirtless driving. Yes, for men too. And yes, it doesn’t matter how hot it is. By the way, the king’s name is Vajiralongkorn, or Rama X.
Main regulations concerning driving are mostly similar in every country – you can obtain a license once you become an adult and you can’t drive while intoxicated. Still, one country defies both of those. In Niger, one can’t drive until 23.
On the other hand, there is no limit for alcohol in the blood while behind the wheel. In short, it’s perfectly legal to drive drunk. How that reflects on the local insurance for young drivers, I’m not exactly sure, but it may be a point worthy of a second thought.
If you end up driving on the roads of South Africa, get ready for a good one. No matter whether you are behind the wheel of a classic or modern vehicle, if wild animals are ahead and want to cross the road, you stop and let them. Or face a not insubstantial fine. So, keep calm, throw a glance at the board to see whether you need to add brake fluid, and wait.
With car prices as high as they are, it’s not good to test the performances of your off-road vehicle in a race with an angry herd of elephants. Or a rhino. If you believe you know road rage, savannah may show you the next level and leave you with a car with a salvage title.
Finally, Some That Have Been Repealed
Probably the most backward traffic law in the world was to be found in Saudi Arabia. Until 2018, women were prohibited from operating a motor vehicle, and the kingdom was the last place on Earth with such legislation. Fortunately, at least that Saudi law was changed.
On a somewhat less serious note, in 2021, Western Australia overturned the legislation that had been in place since 1946. It concerned nothing less than potatoes. Before the repeal, if you wished to have more than 50 kilograms of potatoes in your trunk, you were breaking the law. That privilege was reserved for members of the Potato Marketing Corporation of Western Australia (PMC). That government body had managed the supply of fresh potatoes in the state and provided licenses for growers. PMC was finally abolished, so now Australians (and you in the Land Down Under) can drive as many taters as you like.
And last but not least, Russia and Belarus used to legally bar women from being international truck drivers. Apparently, the job was deemed “too complex” for females. Such attitude was changed in 2018, so now, besides being able to drive the best cars for women, ladies from these countries can fix windshield wipers and (hopefully rarely) change flat tires of their trucks on highways of all nations.
So yes, things sometimes go too far, like in the worst car movies or perhaps some of the best racing games. However, what might be good food for thought while on the famous US routes is that somebody, once upon a time, probably did tie an elephant to a parking meter.