Where do quirky-sounding traffic laws come from? It’s impossible to say in every case. City and state traffic codes are full of laws and ordinances that don’t always make sense at first glance.
“Constituents can go to their legislators and request new laws,” says Duane Kokesch, director of the National Traffic Law Center. “If it matters only to a few constituents, legislators may pass the law without any opposition.” Other laws have become outmoded, Kokesch explains, and removing them from the books may not be seen as worth the trouble.
But other times, there’s no way to define the law without it sounding a little funny. Here are a few ways to drive safely that you never imagined:
The Law: No Cursing While Driving
Where: Rockville, Md.
Why: If a pedestrian hears a driver using profanity, it’s a misdemeanor. According to the law, a person “may not profanely curse and swear or use obscene language upon or near any street, sidewalk or highway within the hearing of persons passing by, upon or along such street, sidewalk or highway.”
The Law: No Screeching Tires
Where: Derby, Kan.
Why: Drag racing is a dicey proposition in Derby, where “it is unlawful for any person or persons, while operating a motor vehicle on the streets or highways of the city, to accelerate or speed the vehicle in such a manner or to turn a corner in such a manner as to cause the tires to screech.”
The Law: No Minors On Outside Of Vehicle
Why: When traveling through this state, it’s best to use the luggage rack for suitcases, not your kids: “A person commits the offense of carrying a minor on an external part of a motor vehicle if the person carries any person under 18 years of age upon the hood, fender, running board or other external part of any motor vehicle that is upon the highway.” Think of it as a post-graduation privilege.
The Law: No Glasses With Thick Frames While Driving
Why: Restricting your vision with bulky shades in California can harm your financial health. Vehicle Code Section 23120 states, “No person shall operate a motor vehicle while wearing glasses having a temple width of one-half inch or more if any part of such temple extends below the horizontal center of the lens so as to interfere with lateral vision.”
The Law: No Dirty Tires On Trucks
Where: Minnetonka, Minn.
Why: Here, “a truck or other vehicle whose wheels or tires deposit mud, dirt, sticky substances, litter or other material on any street or highway” is a public nuisance.
The Law: No Playing In Traffic
Where: Dunn, N.C.
Why: It is unlawful to “play any games of any description upon the streets or sidewalks of the city, and no person shall throw stones or other missiles of any kind upon such streets or sidewalks. No person shall skate upon the sidewalks within the fire district of the city.” We assume that goes for all the streets too.
On the other hand, there are laws you probably thought had already been passed, but haven’t quite yet:
The Law: No Holding A Cell Phone While Driving
Where: 14 states have bans on hand-held cell phones that affect all drivers
Why not 50?: Some states have specific restrictions for minors, bus drivers and learner permit carriers. But not every state has an all-driver ban.
The Law: No Texting—For Bus Drivers
Why: Well, that’s obvious. But unless you’re in Missoula or a few other cities, texting and driving is still OK for other drivers. “In western states, you have a lot of open roads that are long and straight,” Kokesch says. But no matter how clear the roads appear, it’s still never safe to check your phone while driving.
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By Matthew Perry