Among a myriad of driving rules and traffic laws that exist worldwide, there are strange and irrational ones. Some of them only circulate as an internet myth, while a handful of others are real and seem to exist only to put a smile on our face.
Various traffic laws that exist for your safety may not be applicable in your home country. For instance, you are more likely to see a warning sign about wild moose in Canada than in Egypt – and that’s understandable. However, sometimes the origin of those non-location-specific rules remains mysterious. Here are a few examples.
No food and drinks
It’s important to be focused behind the wheel no matter where you are. Normally, if you get involved in an accident, your insurance claim will be severely impacted if you were not 100% concentrated on driving when it happened.
But Cyprus got serious about it and banned consuming any food and drinks behind the wheel (including water) as it is considered very dangerous.
Traffic laws in many countries require a routine visual inspection of the car in general before any drive. In Denmark, drivers are specifically obliged by law to check under their car before they start to make sure that there is nobody underneath.
This, in theory, is still about making sure that everything is fine with your vehicle.
Did you know you could get a fine for running out of fuel? The motorways of Germany are not only very busy but also famous for having no speed limit (except in a few places). This might be why it’s prohibited to stop for “unnecessary reasons”. As you can find petrol stations every 30km, running out of petrol would indeed be a negligence – but mind it will get you a hefty fine.
As you probably know, your registration plate should be readable at all times to allow the vehicle to be identified. In Moscow, however, driving a dirty car is an offense although it’s not very clear what is defined as dirty.
In 18 European countries (Scandinavia and most of Central Europe), drivers must have their lights on at all times. It is believed to improve the visibility of cars and to help reduce the number of accidents. So remember to switch the lights on even in the middle of the day when there’s full sun.
Animals in (or on) the car
In many countries you would get arrested for animal cruelty if you did this. In Anchorage (Alaska), tying a dog to your car roof is illegal too but as a driving offense.
While it may seem to be just a matter of common courtesy, in some countries such as Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom (and more), splashing pedestrians while driving can lead to a fine. In the British Isles for example, this can cost you up to 5,000 GBP and three points on your driving license.
The price may look scary but it should motivate drivers to look around and mind other road users. Even if this law doesn’t apply to your region, ask yourself if you would intentionally splash a pedestrian with a policeman in sight. Hopefully you wouldn’t, ever!
Manila (Philippines) is one of the cities with way too many cars, insufficient public transport and missing cycling lanes. Therefore, the MMDA implemented permanent traffic restrictions. Based on registration plates, a coding scheme dictates that cars with certain numbers on their plates can’t be on the street during certain days.
Singapore is a very dense city, too. Yet it is illegal to drive within 50 metres of a pedestrian at any time. So if you happen to get behind the wheel there, be sure to give pedestrian crossings plenty of space.
In the US, too, many strange state traffic laws result from court cases. So unless your plans involve having a gorilla as a passenger or riding a camel on the motorway (both are prohibited, in Massachusetts and Nevada respectively), just remember to use your common sense.
Chasing or escaping a villain by jumping from your car shouldn’t happen in real life in California. The rule is that it’s illegal to jump from a running vehicle that’s moving at more than 65mph. The truth is that it already feels dangerous enough at much lower speeds.
Additionally, as California is a hotspot for research on autonomous cars, the law has already been passed to limit the speed of unoccupied self-driving cars to 60mph.
Naughty car wash
In San Francisco itself, it is illegal to buff or clean your car with dirty underwear but, apparently, clean underwear is OK. It’s unclear why the police would want to check that, of all things. Could it be because it was used as a secret signal for illegal activities at some point?
The majority of the essential traffic laws are similar across the world, and abstaining from drinking, following the speed limit and not using your phone are a few basics. A few exceptions remain and it’s worth being aware of when you travel abroad.