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Common driving myths that could get you in trouble on the road

How many of these driving myths did you believe?

Updated

Fact checked

Misleading articles, hoaxes and myths pervade the Internet, flood social media and mislead millions of readers. Even worse, myths about driving could lead to fines or even jail.

To make sure that doesn’t happen, see if you’ve heard these 11 common myths that we clear up for you. For some, you’ll need to check your state laws to find out if these laws apply to you.

1. Are police ticket quotas illegal?

Not necessarily. Some states and cities do forbid officers from stacking up citations like it’s a competition, but ticket quotas aren’t banned nationwide. And in places where it’s illegal, it still happens, albeit somewhat unofficially.

For example, while Massachusetts has deemed ticket quotas unconstitutional, in March of 2019, multiple newspapers reported that a state police unit had been assigning ticket quotas anyways.

2. Is the construction speed limit only if there are workers present?

It depends on the sign. If it specifies a speed limit “when workers present,” you can usually drive the regular speed when there are no workers. But be aware, there could be workers that you don’t see.

And regulatory speed signs in construction zones need to be followed regardless of whether workers are present. It’s safest to drive as if there are construction workers, because the fines can be steep if a cop catches you speeding.

3. Can I get in trouble if my dog is unrestrained in the car?

The short answer: you might. Keeping your pet in your car or letting your dog roam around the car and stick his head out the window sounds cute, but some states consider it a hazard.

For example, Nevada drivers can let their dogs roam free no problem. But if you live in Rhode Island, that could land you in the dog house with local police.

In many states, the rules are murky and depend on whether the police think your dog is in danger of getting hurt or distracting you.

4. Do I have to yield to a funeral procession?

It’s always a good idea to yield to a funeral procession, both for courtesy and to prevent an accident. But whether or not you’re legally required to depends on where you live.

For example, it’s illegal in Alaska to drive between cars in a funeral procession anywhere other than an intersection. However, Birmingham is the only place in Alabama that prohibits it.

5. Is it illegal to flash my lights to warn drivers of police ahead?

Once again, this depends on where you live and may even differ case-by-case. For example, a judge in Oregon determined that flashing warning headlights is a protected form of free speech. But Maryland’s policy on the matter has been known to ticket drivers for obstructing police investigation.

6. Can I park an unregistered car on the street?

Not usually. Depending on where you live, counties and cities have laws against keeping unregistered cars on public roads. Some locations let you keep the car on owned property such as your yard or driveway. Others might stipulate storing unregistered cars inside an enclosed space like your garage.

For example, the Georgia DMV states that even owning an unregistered car on public roads is considered a criminal offense. Your best bet is to check with local officials about keeping an unregistered car.

7. Can passengers drink alcohol in a car?

For most states, drivers and passengers can’t have an open alcohol container in a car, but this gets into more of a gray area than you’d expect. While officials probably don’t condone the mix of alcohol and passenger joyriding, some states don’t have explicit laws either.

For example, Texas prohibits passenger drinking, and those who do could be fined up to $500. On the flipside, Tennessee’s DUI and open container laws only apply to drivers, meaning passengers won’t get fined if they’re found with alcoholic beverages in hand.

8. Is it legal to honk your car horn?

Yes, you can toot your car’s horn to warn other drivers and pedestrians about danger. But we all know frequent beepers who use it for other purposes, like telling off a driver who cut in line or reminding someone the traffic light turned green.

These nonemergency honks could stir up trouble with the law in many states. You could err on the side of caution here or see what fun and interesting responses you get by asking local police.

For example, Florida police can ticket a driver for impolitely honking the horn and even drive a $100+ fine. Interestingly, New York City has similar laws against improper honking too. But it doesn’t seem to have cut down on the traffic noise in this city.

9. Are horses considered cars on the road?

Not exactly. Many states allow horseback riders on public roads, but that doesn’t mean all the same driving laws apply.

For instance, horses and riders are considered traffic under Michigan law, meaning that riders must obey traffic signs and signal turns. However, riders can’t go on most freeways or toll roads where signs indicate animals aren’t allowed.

10. Is it illegal to tint my car windows?

Like most aftermarket car modifications, it’s not illegal in most states, but you might have to jump through a few hoops to get those windows tinted. State laws on applying tints and glazes vary and often have highly specific requirements. Some states require medical permission, while others require your windows to have a minimum percentage of transparency.

As an example, New Mexico doesn’t allow window tinting to go past the top five inches of the windshield, while Rhode Island requires you to display a label with the tinting service’s name and transparency on it.

11. Is it illegal to drive barefoot?

Surprisingly, this one’s legal in every US state. But several states like Ohio and Virginia explicitly discourage barefoot driving anyway. Your foot could slip off the gas or brake pedals and cause an accident.

12. Can I wear headphones while driving?

It’s only illegal in a few states, including Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland and Rhode Island. But even if you don’t live in one of these states, it’s still dangerous. With headphones in, you won’t be able to hear the sounds coming from the road, such as a driver honking a warning to you. And if a cop thinks your headphones could be causing distracted driving, you could still get a ticket.

13. Is it legal to sleep in your car?

Yes, for the most part, it’s fine to sleep in your car if it’s parked in a legal spot. For example, you could probably take a car nap in a campground or a Walmart parking lot that allows

What happens if I get a ticket for doing these things?

If a cop pulls you over for breaking the road rules in your state, you can politely try to plead ignorance, though it won’t always get you off the hook. Regardless of why you were pulled over, you can always fight the ticket and try to get it appealed. Otherwise you risk having the ticket raise your car insurance rates.

Bottom line

Before you stand firm behind a driving myth, check to see if it’s true in your state or city. Like many laws, states regulate their own driving laws.

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