Heading out on the road for a summer vacation? Make sure you know the rules of the road in the states you'll be visiting; or you could be in for a traffic ticket.
Most of us know the basics when it comes to driving: stop at red lights, obey the speed limit, pull over for emergency vehicles, and don't drink and drive. But more specific highway safety laws vary by state and are constantly evolving. Beyond the basics, you might not know all that you need to know to stay safe on the road?and avoid a fine for ignorance of state specific regulations.
Here are some of the most common differences you should familiarize yourself with:
• Cell Phones: Studies show that distracted driving causes accidents. To combat the problem, more states are passing laws that prohibit the use of handheld cell phones while driving. In most of these states an officer can cite you for using a handheld cell phone without any other traffic offense taking place. Also, over 30 states have banned text messaging for drivers. To stay safe?and avoid a ticket?don't use your cell phone in any capacity while driving.
• Seat Belts: Seat belt legislation was introduced in 1984 when New York passed the first seat belt law. Now, 49 states (all but New Hampshire) have seat belt laws. The laws differ by state on which passengers need to be belted (either front seats, rear seats, or all seats), and fines for seat belt violations range from $10 to $250. Make sure you and your passengersare wearing a seat belt at all times?no matter how short the trip.
• Aggressive Driving: To date, 12 states have passed aggressive driving laws. Aggressive driving is tough to define, but it may consist of any combination of the following: "tailgating," failure to yield the right of way, repeatedly flashing headlights, unnecessary sounding of the horn, or driving outside of marked lanes. Usually, a driver must have engaged in two or more of these behaviors for it to be considered aggressive driving.
• Drug Impaired Driving: While some states have "per se" laws that forbid the presence of illegal narcotics, others define "drugged driving" as driving when any drug "renders the driver incapable of driving safely" or "causes the driver to be impaired." Under these constraints, driving under the influence of many legally prescribed drugs (e.g., common medications used to treat illnesses like arthritis, asthma, diabetes, and high blood pressure) may be illegal. Always check with your doctor and carefully read the labels of all of your medications before driving.
• Child Passenger Safety: you often take your kids or grandkids on the road, you better know the state's child passenger safety laws. 50 states child safety seats for infants, and states booster seats or other devices for children who have outgrown their safety seats, but are still too small to use an adult seat belt safely. These laws vary by state depending on the child's age, height, and weight, so do some investigating before taking your grandkids on that road trip.
You can learn about Nevada and other states' laws on all of these topics and others by visiting the "State Laws and Funding" section of the Governor's Highway Safety Association at www.ghsa.org.
Refresh your knowledge of the about the rules of the road by taking a driver improvement course like the AARP Driver Safety Program?the nation's first and largest course for drivers age 50+. People of any age can take AARP's Driver Safety course . Those 55+ get a state-mandated insurance discount for taking traffic safety classes like AARP's. For more information on the program, visit: www.aarp.org/driving45 or call 1-888-227-7669.