Driving across state lines brings changing scenery, changing perspectives, and changing laws. To ensure that your road trip is colored only with five-star memories, educate yourself on the driving laws of the specific states you’ll be visiting.
Driving Laws to Learn
Regardless of how honest your explanation after getting stopped, pleading, “I didn’t know” generally does not sit well with citing law enforcement officials.
To prevent this, be aware of the following laws:
- Cell Phones: Many states ban the use the hand-held cell phones while driving. Most states do, however, allow mobile phones with headsets. Check the cell phone and texting laws of the state you’ll be visiting.
- Texting: The majority of states now ban texting while behind the wheel, regardless of age.
- Seat Belts: Mandatory seat belt laws vary by state and sometimes by municipalities, and the differences don’t stop there. Some states treat seat belts as a primary offense, others as a secondary offense. A primary offense means you can be stopped specifically for not buckling up. Whereas a secondary offense means you can only be flagged for not wearing a seat belt if initially pulled over for a different reason.
- Motorcycle Helmets: Helmet laws vary by state and age. Currently, 19 states have laws covering all riders, 28 states have laws covering some riders, and three states (Illinois, Iowa, New Hampshire) have no helmet laws of any kind.
- Driver Permits: Some states do not recognize drivers with learner permits. This applies even if you drive with a licensed adult in the front seat.
- Child Safety Seats: All states enforce child restraint laws. States generally differ with the age at which seat belts can be used in place of child restraint seats.
- Pick-up Truck Cargo Areas: Not every state has a law against riding in these areas. Those that do, generally place restrictions on younger riders. Virginia, for example, bans all riders younger than 16.
- Automated Enforcement: This applies to the use of cameras to enforce traffic laws. California, for example, uses cameras at red lights and railroad crossings with fines as high as $100 if caught running either one. Notification arrives in the mail usually within two to four weeks after getting captured on camera.
How to Learn About Individual State Traffic Laws
The best way to learn about a specific state law is to directly call the state’s Highway Patrol. You’re not going to find a better authority on driving laws than the state police.
Or, you could check the state’s Department of Motor Vehicle’s (DMV) website. Many states detail driving laws in their respective drivers license manuals, which are all available online.