5 Driving Laws You Don’t Obey

rfeftrEvery city has its own driving culture ― unwritten rules of the road that locals tacitly follow. For example, in New York City, complete stops are usually frowned upon. In Los Angeles, use of blinkers only makes it more dangerous and difficult to merge. In Seattle, honking is all but forbidden, and in Atlanta, the more expensive the car, the earlier it can go at a four-way stop.

Likely, your city has its own unwritten driving rules too, but many of them are actually breaking established driving laws and liable to get you into serious trouble with the police ― if they don’t get you in a wreck, first. Here are a few universal driving laws that almost no one obeys.

1. Yield Signs Aren’t for Stopping

It’s pretty obvious that those red octagons mean “stop;” after all, they tend to say so in large, capital letters right in the middle. However, the yellow diamonds ― few people know exactly what to do with those. Most cities have their own unwritten driving rules regarding yield signs. In San Antonio, for example, drivers tend to make a dead stop, while in Denver, drivers seem to speed up whenever a yield sign comes into view.

Legally speaking, the answer is somewhere in the middle: Drivers should slow down, check merging lanes for traffic, and proceed with caution. Stopping is an unnecessary interruption in traffic flow that could give you a beautifully bent fender ― or worse, necessitate an auto accident lawyer after a brutal accident ― and speeding up could cause similar interruptions and accidents. So, when you see yellow yield signs, you now know exactly what to do.

2. Signs Tell the Truth

While we’re on the topic of signs, it might be helpful to mention a few others you tend to ignore. Setting aside temporary signs or those vandalized by delinquent teens, messages posted by the road tell you important truths, and you would do best to obey them.

An excellent example is school zones. Across the country, speed is reduced dramatically in school zones. The reason for this is simple: There is no greater distress, no more painful regret, than knowing you injured or killed a child. Because schools are swarming with little ones, the chance of one darting across the road is high, and if you aren’t going slow enough to see them in time to stop, there will be a tragedy.

School zones, one-way streets, construction areas, and others deserve your attention, so you should start believing the signs.

3. Speed Limits Aren’t Suggestions

One final note on signs: Posted speed limits aren’t just decoration. In many cities, drivers have developed a culture of driving a certain speed over the limit; for example, in Phoenix, traffic on surface streets averages about 10 miles per hour over the limit, and on freeways, that increases to 15 to 20 miles per hour faster.

There is a widespread misconception that going faster will allow drivers to spend less time on the road, so breaking speed limits is actually more time-efficient (and perhaps more fuel-efficient, too). The truth is that speed limits are used to calculate traffic lights and other patterns around cities, so driving the proper speed will help drivers maintain forward momentum and arrive at destinations sooner. Plus, the faster you drive, the less time you have to respond to an unexpected event, like a driver swerving or stopping, so driving slower is safer, too.

4. Railroads Are Intersections, Too

Many drivers may not think about them often, but trains still run around the country. That means in cities and rural places, railroads crisscross regular roads, and drivers should be especially wary of these intersections. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, there are more than 2,000 vehicle-train collisions every year, resulting in around 800 injuries and nearly 300 deaths. Whenever you approach a railroad crossing, even if the lights aren’t flashing and the barrier is up, you should be wary of oncoming trains.

5. Drivers Must Share the Road

On one hand, the fact that cycling has become more popular in recent years is glorious: We should celebrate those willing to cut their dependence on oil and exercise their way to their destinations. On the other hand, the increase in cyclists has made many cities more confusing and more treacherous for everyone on the road. In most places, the law states that cyclists belong on the road, moving with the flow of traffic in the right-most lane. However, drivers are often loath to share their space ― or worse, unaware of slower-moving cyclists ― so accidents are becoming more common. When you see a bike lane, you must not drive into it for any reason.

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