Years back, during my first visit to Colorado, a friend greeted me at the airport and handed me a beer, opening another for himself as he slipped behind the wheel. There was a time when it was legal to drink while driving in a number of states. Most have since banned the practice as part of the broader crackdown on drunk driving — but not all.
Six states, including West Virginia and Missouri, still allow drinking while driving. And Louisiana has what’s known as the “daiquiri exemption.” You can have one in your hand as long as the lid remains in place and there’s no straw visible.
There are plenty of strange – and often ignored – laws on the books across the country, and some even stranger ones abroad. While some probably made sense when they were passed — at least to some legislative sponsor — it’s hard to imagine who might have decided it was necessary to ban driving blindfolded, or thought it a good idea to punish drivers who stop at pedestrian crossings.
Drinking is something more and more countries have been cracking down on. You can barely finish a typical German beer without going over the limit there. In Costa Rica, meanwhile, you’ll land in jail with a maximum blood alcohol level set at 0.75%, slightly stiffer than most parts of the U.S. – but you’re still allowed to sip a beer while driving there.
Oh, and in France, authorities don’t want you to guess whether you’re over the limit. You’re technically required to have a portable Breathalyzer in your car at all times.
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And it’s not only alcohol that will get you in trouble – even sipping water in Cyprus can earn you a fine. In England, meanwhile, motorists are occasionally pulled over for sipping soft drinks, and have been fined for such dangerous behaviors as eating an apple or a candy bar, though the law is seldom enforced and up to the officer’s discretion.
It’s a good thing former presidential candidate Mitt Romney didn’t take that oft-discussed family vacation in Alaska, for example. It’s illegal to drive there with a dog on your roof. Tennessee, meanwhile, bans motorists from shooting at any animal except a whale. Considering the distance to the nearest ocean, or even the Gulf of Mexico, it seems hard to believe many drivers have taken advantage of that exemption.
Russians are apparently more fastidious than you might have realized. There, police can pull you over and fine you as much as 2,000 rubles – about $57 – simply for having a dirty car. However, in Japan, you’re in equally big trouble if you splash a pedestrian with muddy water.
Have a notation on your license requiring you to wear glasses or some other corrective device? Spain goes so far as to require motorists to also bring along a spare pair.
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A number of states have enacted rules requiring motorists to turn on headlights, usually in areas with high accident rates. Others require lights on whenever you use your windshield wipers – though it’s unclear if that also means anytime you simply want to clean your windshield. In Sweden, the police will stop you at any time, any place, for driving without headlights, even in July above the Arctic Circle, when the sun never sets.
Admit it. There have been at least a few times when you’ve made a quick gesture at the other driver who just cut you off. Taking your hand off the wheel unnecessarily is a ticketable offense in Cyprus.
Technically, it’s not illegal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia. But it can cause big problems when a female does get behind the wheel. There’ve been several protests in recent years but conservative religious authorities continue to fight the idea, one last year arguing that driving a motor vehicle can make it difficult for a women to get pregnant.
A number of places set rules on what motorists must carry in their vehicles. In some cases, motorists must bring chains in case they get caught in places like California’s treacherous Donner Pass. And residents of Manila must be wearing a shirt when behind the wheel. But why taxi drivers in England are still officially required to bring a bale of hay and a bag of oats along isn’t quite clear these days. Serbian motorists must carry a tow bar and a three-meter rope.
Actually, some laws date back a century or more. Though Britain long ago repealed a rule requiring a flagman to proceed every motor vehicle, Memphis and New Orleans never repealed laws that mandate a man walk ahead of any car driven by a woman waving a warning flag. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania still technically requires motorists on county roads to fire off warning rockets every mile to scare off livestock that might be on their path.
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There must have been a reason why lawmakers decided to pass these rules. But it’s truly a challenge to come up with an explanation why you can’t blow your horn in Arkansas after 9 PM in any area where ice cold beverages or sandwiches are being served. Or why Denver officially outlaws driving a black car on Sundays while it’s red cars that are banned from Lake Street in Minneapolis.
Curiously, while animals have the legal right of way in South Africa, Chinese motorists are not supposed to stop at pedestrian crossings – which may explain the huge number of pedestrian fatalities in that country. (According to the World Health Organization, a total of 275,000 people were killed in all forms of motor vehicle accidents in 2012, about four times the official death toll.)
It’s easy to understand the need for some safety rules, including those limiting drinking while driving, but legislators in Alabama may have codified the obvious, finally, by making it illegal to drive while blindfolded.
One response to “The World’s Oddest Driving Laws”
Banning people from driving blindfolded was a proactive measure because safety warnings are mandated on everything now days. Soon your water tap will have a legal notice that drinking too much water can kill you – because it can.