It's fun to search for the wacky driving laws that that are imposed upon American drivers, though so many of them seem so common sense, it makes us wonder why they were ever introduced into legislation in the first place. We get it: It's certainly not safe to jump from cars at speeds faster than 65 mph or to wear a blindfold when driving -- but these actions are actually illegal in California and Alabama, respectively. That seems obvious enough, wonder why it needs a law to enforce it?
Mitt Romney may have gotten away with strapping his dog onto the roof of a family car for a family vacation in Massachusetts, but that behavior would get him a hefty fine in Alaska where it is illegal to strap a dog onto the roof of a car. Proper driving attire is a must in Alabama (where it is illegal to drive barefoot), in California (where it is illegal for women to drive in housecoats), and in Illinois (where it is illegal to change your clothes in a vehicle with the curtains drawn). Make note of that: in these states shoes and clothes must be worn in the car at all times...
Practical Safety Legislation
Are you aware whether any new driving laws were activated in your state with the New Year? There are plenty of laws that are more practical than weird, created to enforce legitimate safety for passengers and vehicle operators -- and knowing how these affect you is important. If you're not sure how the Motor Vehicle safety laws have changed in your state, Auto Club Association of America provides a comprehensive Digest of Motor Laws and Regulations for every state in the U.S. (and Canada, too) regarding safe driving, driver’s licenses, helmet laws, state speed limit laws, and much more. Check it out so you can be informed about changes that might directly affect you. The following are some more interesting highlights:
Smoking with minor children in the car is illegal in many states, including Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, and New Jersey, among others. Second-hand smoke has been proven dangerous, and smoke-free vehicles ensure that minor passengers can breathe healthful, clean air.
Motor vehicle safety legislation isn't just about protecting human passengers: It is illegal in many states to leave an animal alone in a parked car in a manner that endangers the animal's health or safety. Remember, even with the vehicle's windows left slightly open, an outside temperature of 85 degrees can increase a temperature inside to vehicle to more than 100 degrees within 10 minutes, and up to 120 degrees within 30 minutes. Dogs breathe differently from humans, so their central nervous systems can be overwhelmed in less than 15 minutes from excessive heat.
According to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), 9,878 people died in crashes caused by a drunk driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or greater in 2011. With that in mind, many states now require ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers; in 2013, Missouri joins Alaska, Connecticut, Kansas, Nebraska, and many others to become the 17th state to mandate the interlock devices -- even for first-time offenders. Other states also require ignition interlocks for repeat offenders or for those with high BAC levels.
Distracted driving laws are rolling out across the country: According to the Governors Highway Safety Association 37 states ban texting altogether, and 10 states have handheld cell-phone bans. Ironically, California now allows texting while driving -- but only as long as the text is sent using a voice-operated, hands-free texting system.
Transporting firearms in your car? A provision of the federal law called the Firearms Owners' Protection Act (FOPA) allows gun transportation across state lines on the interstate highway system with legally acquired firearms for lawful purposes. While handguns and assault weapons may have different regulations, NRA-ILA says that accoridng to FOPA, a gun can be transported in a vehicle as long as it is unloaded, cased, and locked in either the vehicle's trunk or in a locked, rear compartment where it cannot easily be accessed by the driver or passengers. Ammunition must also be locked and stored in the trunk or in a locked container somewhere other than the glove compartment or console. Keep in mind, once you reach your destination, state and local laws govern the possession, ownership, and transportation of the firearm. Laws for firearm transportation vary through through the states so caution is key for travelers; be sure you are familiar with the legislation in the states and counties through which you will be traveling.
Future Safety Legislation
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is currently fine-tuning legislation that will require backup cameras on all vehicles. While many new models -- especially SUVs -- are already offering rearview camera systems, the legislation will require all new vehicles to be equipped with a backup camera by 2014.
Also, according to Consumer Reports, in 2013, NHTSA will also assess the research, technology, and potential benefits of vehicle-to-vehicle communications to help drivers avoid crashes. NHTSA is also proposing a rule to require automakers to install event data recorders (think "Black Boxes" for cars) that would collect specific safety-related data in all light passenger vehicles beginning September 1, 2014. These proposals are still in development, so keep your eyes out for additional information in future reports.
Are You In The Market For A New Car?
Bluetooth connectivity can allow you to safely place calls, operate your music player, or send and receive texts using voice commands, and many manufacturers are implementing handsfree technology to help you interact more safely with your devices while behind the wheel of their cars. Before you buy, shop and compare safety technologies using Yahoo! Autos; discover some other wacky driving laws with this fun infographic provided by IDriveSafely.com: