10 Lesser Known Driving Rules
Follow the Rules of the Road
I am a senior citizen now and I have been driving since my high school days. I consider myself a safe driver. In all of my years of driving I have received one ticket to my name. It is a speeding ticket that I received while rushing to pick up my children from school. I was running late from work that day and didn't want to leave my children hanging around the school yard by themselves, so I drove a little faster than normal. I was pulled over by a highway patrol officer who had no compassion as he deterred me even further while writing up a ticket with a hefty fine. I was driving fairly fast. I knew I was speeding, but on that day and at that moment, the only thing on my mind was, 'Must... get... children...' This all happened during the days before everyone had cell phones, so I couldn't call anyone to let them know that I would be late. I would have made it on time had the highway patrol officer not stopped me. It took the officer twenty minutes to write up the ticket and I was already ten minutes away from the school yard. Needless to say, my children were left waiting for about 20 minutes for me to pick them up from school.
I learned a couple of good lessons that day. First, I learned that my children were more important than my job and second, I learned to obey the speeding laws.
Everyone is familiar with common laws, such as the maximum speed limit and to stop at all railroad crossings. But, there are some rules of the road that some people seem not to be aware of, like it is not only socially uncool to point obscene gestures at people while driving, but it is against the rules as laid out by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
I wonder if people even read the vehicle codes established by the DMV. I have identified ten road rule infractions that I have reliable stories of or personally witnessed while driving.
Things You Must Not Do
Here is a list of 10 Lesser Known Driving Rules that drivers apparently are not aware of.
1. Do not honk your horn unless it is a safety warning to avoid a collision.
You don’t need to honk your horn because you see your BFF (Best Friend Forever) sitting in the car next to you and you just want to say hello. Also, please don't honk your horn when you want the driver in front of you to drive faster or to let the other driver know that they have made a mistake, or because you are angry or upset. Remember, the horn sounds loudly outside your vehicle and may startle and confuse other drivers, causing them to make a mistake.
In August 2011, the Marysville, California Police Department handed out three $233 tickets to drivers for the improper use of the horn. The drivers were honking in support of a union demonstration in front of a Marysville business.
No Dumping or Abandoning Animals
2. Do not dump or abandon animals on a highway.
I had some friends who, when they were fed up with their family dog, they took the dog and abandoned him almost 20 miles from home. They just drove him to a spot on the side of the freeway, pushed him out of the car and left him to wander on his own. They said he was a survivor and that they were sure someone else would find him and give him a good home. What kind of thinking is that? Anyway, a couple of weeks later, the dog showed up on their front porch. Yeah! Apparently, dogs have some kind of emotional GPS that helps them find their way back home for a distance of some unknown number of miles. The parents decided to keep the dog. They saw it as some kind of sign that the dog was destined to be with them since he was able to make his way back home.
This story could have had a very sad ending. The dog could have ended up like so many animals that we see lying in the road after being struck by a car. For people like this, some rules just have to be written in words.
Dumping or abandoning animals on a highway is illegal. It is a crime that is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, six months in jail, or both.
No Smoking or Carrying Alcohol While Driving
Always Drive Safely
3. Do not smoke at any time when a minor is in the vehicle.
California is taking a stand to protect children from secondhand smoke.
If you are caught smoking in your car with a minor as a passenger, you could be fined up to $100.
4. Do not carry a container of liquor, beer, or wine inside the vehicle.
If you do carry a container of liquor, beer, or wine inside your vehicle, the container must be full, sealed, and unopened. Otherwise, it must be kept in the trunk of your vehicle or in a place where passengers do not sit. Keeping an opened alcoholic drink in the glove compartment is specifically against the law.
The fine for this offense can be $280 plus there are additional penalties the court can add for miscellaneous things such as a court penalty fee, a surcharge fee for a misdemeanor, an infraction and court fee, a court security fee, and a whole slew of other fees. I want to mention that you would also be hit with a point against you by your insurance carrier.
5. Do not enter the intersection if you cannot get completely across before the light turns red.
Most of us call this “running a red light” because if you are stuck in the intersection when the light changes, virtually, you have just run a red light.
If you block the intersection, you can be cited. The ticket for running a red light varies by city, but the average ticket is about $450 plus or minus.
There are exceptions, however if you are convicted of reckless driving you may be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for not less than five days nor more than 90 days or by a fine of not less than $145 nor more than $1,000, or by both that fine and imprisonment.
Share the Lane
6. Do not try to pass a motorcycle in the same lane you are sharing with the motorcycle.
Motorcyclists deal with hazards in the road, such as potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces, pavement seams, railroad crossings, and a multitude of other conditions that a driver in a car may not readily see. Because of this, motorcyclists may need to speed up or slow down in order to maneuver through traffic. If you try to pass the motorcyclist while driving in the same lane, you may get in the way of the motorcyclist and inhibit the motorcyclist from completing a safety maneuver. If you try to pass a motorcyclist who is sharing your lane it is considered reckless driving and you could be fined.
Refer to Item #5 to see the fine for Reckless Driving.
7. Do not try to squeeze into a gap that is too small.
Don’t expect freeway traffic to slow down just so you can enter traffic. Freeway traffic has the right-of-way. Drivers on the freeway were on the road first. So, if you are merging onto the freeway, it is your obligation to make sure there is enough room to merge. It is your responsibility to gauge the speed of traffic and leave enough room in front of and behind your vehicle to merge.
If you are pulled over and cited for not merging safely you could be cited for reckless driving. Refer to Item #5 to see the fine for Reckless Driving.
Watch Out for Pedestrians and Things
8. Do not pass a vehicle that has stopped at a crosswalk.
A pedestrian you cannot see may be crossing the street. Stop, then proceed when all pedestrians have crossed the street and when you are sure the crosswalk is clear.
I once thought I was going to have a heart attack when I saw an obviously impatient driver maneuver around a vehicle that had stopped at an intersection. There was no stop sign, but two youngsters were crossing the street in front of the stopped vehicle. The impatient driver quickly swerved in an effort to go around the stopped vehicle. Surprise! The impatient driver was forced to quickly brake in order to avoid hitting the children who were rightfully crossing the road.
Passing on the wrong side and not being cautious at crosswalks is considered reckless driving and if you are pulled over, you could be cited with a hefty fee. Refer to Item #5 to see the fine for Reckless Driving.
Don't Be an Angry Driver
9. Do not make gestures or eye contact with angry drivers.
When you pull up alongside a driver just so you can make eye contact, or worse, make gestures toward the other driver, it is intimidating and could possibly distract the driver. At the same time, you are also distracted and not paying attention to the dangers of the road. This is considered reckless driving.
Refer to Item #5 to see the fine for Reckless Driving.
10. Do not interfere with the driver of a vehicle.
Distracting the driver is a dangerous activity. The driver must concentrate on the act of driving safely. When you distract the driver by turning the music up loud, singing out of tune, clapping your hand, bouncing around, tickling the driver, or basically just trying to get attention from the driver, you are putting everyone in the car at risk, not to mention putting other drivers and passengers at risk. Allow the driver to concentrate on what he or she is doing in order to get you to your destination safely.
The fine for distracting the driver is $154 and one point against your driving record.
Be Aware of the Rules of the Road
All of the above rules can be found in the California DMV's Driver's Handbook. Some infractions carry a heavy fine, including possible jail time and points added against your driving record.
After years of driving, some people may have a tendency to forget the rules of the road. While I don't see people leaving their pets on the side of the road every day, I do see a good portion of the above activities on a frequent basis. It kind of makes me wonder where these folks obtained their driver's license.
Be aware of the rules of the road and drive safely, my friends.