U.S. Rules of the Road Quiz

Jonnathan Chadwick

Image: anucha sirivisansuwan / Moment / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Driving has become more and more complicated as technology has advanced. Back when people rode horses everywhere, there were no rules. There were no roads. You could ride your horse wherever you wanted. Park it wherever you wanted. Speed as fast as you wanted.

Then came the horse and buggy, which allowed people who didn't know how to ride a horse to travel via horse. There were still no paved roads, however, and still no rules. By the late 19th century, the gas-powered car was invented and introduced to America. The roads weren't paved, but they were packed with horses, buggies, wagons, cycles, people and more. To make matters worse, there were no rules. Some people drove on the left side of the road, in tradition of horseback. Some people drove on the right side of the road, in tradition of change. Some people zigzagged from sidewalk to sidewalk. Some people woke up one day and decided to enact traffic laws.

The first traffic light went up in Cleveland in 1914. Street signs as specific as "No Left Turn" began popping up across the country a few years later. The first road was paved in 1919 in Michigan. The rest is history. Today, if you don't know the rules of the road, you simply can't be on the road: walking, talking, driving or otherwise. 

What do you know about American traffic laws? See if you can pass this quiz about the U.S. rules of the road.

There's a foot of snow on top of your car. What should you do?

Whether you'll be fined for driving around with snow on top of your car depends on where you live, but it's dangerous in every state. You should never drive around with anything obscuring your windows or license plate, and riding around with a snow mattress on your roof is a violation.

What side of the road must you drive on in America?

Americans drive down the right side of the road, and the steering wheel is always situated on the left side of the car. Driving down the left side of the road is illegal and extremely dangerous. When crossing the street, cars will approach from your left side.

If you see a yellow sign that shows a small lane joining a large arrow, what does it mean?

If you see this sign, be wary of cars merging into your lane ahead. Traffic usually merges from the right side. If you're in the left lane, you won't need to worry about the merging cars, but you may need to worry about cars switching into your lane to get out of the way of merging cars.

Thousands of accidents every year are related to these signs. What do they represent?

You don't need to do anything special when you see this sign, but you should be wary that deer have frequently been spotted in the area. There are thousands of deer-related car crashes in the country each year.

Which of the following should you never do when the police pull you over?

The only time to ever exit your vehicle during a traffic stop is if the officer asks you to exit the vehicle. You should always shut the car off, roll down the windows, and place your hands on the steering wheel. You should probably turn the music down, too, if it's still playing.

When do you need to yield to pedestrians?

Pedestrians always have the right of way, not just at crosswalks. If you approach a busy crosswalk, especially in a school zone, you have to come to a complete stop. If you're driving down a back road and someone wants to cross the street, you still have to yield to them.

The person in your passenger seat just went into labor. Which of these traffic laws are you allowed to break?

You're never allowed to break traffic laws. In an emergency like this, it's safest to follow traffic laws. Blindly crossing stop signs and red lights can make the situation a lot more dangerous, and although it's up to officer discretion, you might still get ticketed.

When taking a left turn in a busy city, you should always check for oncoming traffic. Which of the following should you check for when taking a right turn in a busy city?

If you're in a city with bike lanes, you need to be aware that cyclists will be riding on the right side of your car, sometimes in a blind spot. Before taking a right turn, you need to check the bike lane to make sure you're not cutting off a cyclist. And always use your blinker.

In which of these situations are you allowed to use your cell phone while driving?

The laws on using a cell phone while driving are on a state-by-state basis, but for the most part, you should never text, talk or use your cell phone while driving. If it's not illegal in your state, it will be soon. You can use a cell phone for hands-free navigation if it is safely mounted in your car.

In which of these situations do you not need to come to a complete stop?

You don't need to come to a complete stop at a yield sign. You just have to give up the right of way to an opposing lane of traffic, but sometimes that might mean stopping. Never try to pass a stopped school bus, and you should only resume driving once the bus resumes driving.

What does this sign with an upside-down "U" tell drivers?

An easy way to lose control of your car is to underestimate an upcoming turn. If you see this sign, be ready for a sharp turn that you won't be able to speed around. If you see this sign, you're about to approach one of the sharpest turns on American roads.

In which of these situations are you allowed to overtake the vehicle in front of you?

The double yellow lines mark the center of the road and divide lanes of opposing traffic. Staying on your side of the yellow lines is one of the most important rules of driving, but when the solid line turns to a broken line on your side, you can cross it and overtake the car in front of you.

Until what age must you wear a seat belt if you're sitting in the front passenger seat of a car?

Every state except for New Hampshire, which is the "Live Free or Die State," requires adult passengers to wear a seat belt in the front seat. You can only be pulled over for the offense in a state where it is a primary offense. In other states, you need to be pulled over for something else before getting a seat belt fine.

If you're driving down a long country road, you might see this yellow sign depicting a guy on a tractor. What does it mean?

You probably won't see this sign in busy cities as they're mostly displayed in rural areas. If you've ever seen a tractor, you know they only go about 20 mph, so it's good to know when you may come across one on the road.

Do you know what this sign with a 270-degree loop means?

Get ready to enter what seems like a never-ending turn when you see this sign. It signifies a 270-degree turn and can even be more. You should be patient when in one of these turns. Don't attempt to speed up until you exit the turn.

What must you do if you approach this upside down triangle sign while driving?

A yield sign signifies that an opposing or converging lane of traffic has the right of way, so you have to yield to them. You shouldn't have to come to a complete stop, but may be forced to in some situations.

In what situation are you allowed to slowly roll through this octagonal sign?

You're required to come to a complete stop at all stop signs at all times. A multiway stop sign functions on a first-come, first-serve basis, so whatever car first stopped at the intersection has the first right to go.

What are you supposed to do at a blinking red light?

You have to come to a complete stop at a blinking red light. You can treat a blinking yellow light as a yield sign. If it's a multiway intersection, you follow the same rules as a multiway stop sign. Even if the light isn't at an intersection, you still have to stop.

If you're driving down the road and a cyclist in front of you extends their arm to the left, what are they about to do?

If you're driving a vehicle without blinker lights, you should use hand signals before making a turn. An extended arm to the left signals a left turn. An arm bent upwards signals a left turn, and an arm bent downwards signals a stop.

If you see this yellow sign with a big X and two R's, what should you do?

If you see this sign, a railroad track is just ahead, and if there is a train on the track, you will likely see flashing lights and/or a boom gate that prevents you from crossing. If there are no lights or gate, you should cautiously approach and be prepared to completely stop.

If you reverse out of a parking spot and accidentally swipe the car next to you, what should you do?

If you hit a parked car and leave, it is still considered a hit-and-run, and that can have some hefty penalties. It's a felony in some states. You're not expected to wait until the owner arrives, but you are expected to leave your name, license plate number and phone number.

What happens if you approach a toll booth with no cash, coins, credit card, debit card or auto-payment device?

In today's digital age, your vehicle is on camera at almost every tollbooth in the country. Different states have different laws, but you'll either just drive through and get a bill in the mail, or you can tell the tollbooth attendant (if they still exist) of your situation, and they will instruct you how to pay by mail or web.

What must you do if your car fails inspection?

Driving around in a car that didn't pass inspection is illegal and possibly dangerous. If you don't pass inspection, your mechanic will tell you what needs to be fixed, and you'll have 20 days to do so.

If you are in the left lane on the highway and somebody wants to pass you, what should you do?

The far left lane on the highway is for passing, so if someone wants to pass you, you have to move right one lane so they can pass. They shouldn't move right one lane to pass you. If you feel like cruising, stay in the highway's middle lane.

Let's say you're driving to the beach on a hot summer day. Can you drive in sandals?

You're allowed to drive with sandals and even barefoot if you want to. You should always do whatever makes you most comfortable when driving. Sandals can fall off and straps can get caught on pedals, making things dangerous, but it's not illegal.

You get in the car but your audio system is broken and there's nothing on the radio. Are you allowed to wear headphones while driving?

Most states allow drivers to drive with headphones, but it's illegal in some states. It can also fall under distracted driving in other states. Some states allow headphones for navigational or hearing aid purposes. Some states, like California, don't even allow cyclists to wear headphones. Check your state rules.

If a hearse operator is driving with a full casket in their car, are they allowed to drive in the carpool lane?

The carpool lane is designated for cars that have more than one passenger, and both passengers have to be alive. The carpool lane is also known as the HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lane, diamond lane or 2+ lane in most states across the country.

If the speed limit on the highway is 65 mph, how slow are you allowed to drive?

Just as dangerous as doing 100 mph in a 65 mph zone is doing 30 mph in a 65 mph zone. The minimum speed will usually be posted alongside the speed limit, and it's usually about 20 mph under the limit. You can and will be ticketed for driving under the minimum speed.

What is the recommended age before a child can sit in the front seat of a car?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that no child under the age of 13 should sit in the front seat, but it really comes down to height and weight. Airbags and seat belts are designed for adults. If you're under 5 feet and 150 pounds, airbags and seat belts can be dangerous.

If the speed limit on the highway is 65 mph, how fast can you go before an officer writes you a speeding ticket?

If the speed limit is 65 mph, you can get ticketed for doing 66 mph, but it's highly unlikely. The unofficial (keyword unofficial) rule is that you can go about 10% above the speed limit before getting ticketed. That means you can get away doing 71 mph in a 65 mph zone, but you can also get a speeding ticket.

Which of the following driving laws are mandated by federal law opposed to state law?

Federal law mandates every U.S. citizen needs an active driver's license in order to drive. Age requirements vary by state and so do speed limits. Every driver with a 0.08 BAC is legally intoxicated, but different states enact "zero policy" and "enhanced penalty" BAC levels.

In which of these situations do you not have to use your blinker lights?

Drivers are required to use blinker lights 100 feet before making a turn. You should use your blinkers as soon as you want to switch lanes, and always use them when pulling out of a parallel parking spot.

If a police car flashes its lights and sounds its siren behind you, what should you do?

It's really dangerous to pull over and stop on the left side of the road, so unless it's a dire emergency or your car stops running, you should always pull over to the right side of the road. You should never stop in the middle of the road.

You're allowed to drive at age 14 in South Carolina but need to be 15 in North Carolina. Can a 14-year-old from South Carolina drive to his friend's house in North Carolina?

At 14 you can only have a learner's permit, and a learner's permit usually requires you to drive with an adult, so as long as you're following all the rules of your learner's permit, you can drive all over the country, even in states where you are too young to drive.

Everybody arrives at a four-way stop sign at the same exact second. Who goes first?

When you first learn to drive, you learn to stop at stop signs. Once you get better at driving, you'll learn how to time your stop at a stop sign to ensure this never happens. If four cars somehow land at the stop sign at the same exact time, there is no rule as to who goes first. One person just has to go. It's best to make eye contact and cautiously proceed.

Where is the cruising lane on the highway?

The right lane on the highway is reserved for entering and exiting the highway. The middle lane is for cruising and the left lane is for passing. If you're cruising in the left lane, you are technically just passing everyone in the middle lane. You shouldn't be going slower than people in the middle lane.

What is the fine for unnecessarily honking your horn in New York City?

Your car's horn was built for emergencies and warnings. If you're trapped in your car, you can beep for help. If a car is pulling out of a blind driveway, you can beep to warn them you're coming. In NYC, you can be fined $350 for beeping your horn for no reason.

Solid yellow lines signify opposing lanes of traffic. What do solid white lines signify?

It might be illegal to cross a solid white line depending on what state you live in, but for the most case it isn't. Solid white lines signify your travel lane. The phrase "stay in your lane" stems from driving within the solid white lines. You can switch lanes, but it's not encouraged. You can cross broken white lines.

You won't find this street junction in every city. What is it called?

A roundabout is an intersection where traffic never stops and is moving in the same direction. The intersection is circular and has exits. If you're in New England, roundabouts are commonly known as rotaries, and they take on new names across the country.

If you're turning left at an intersection and the opposing lane of cars is also turning left, what should you do?

If both lanes of cars commit to turning in front of one another, there will be no accidents. Both lanes can safely turn at the same time. That's what city planners are for. If you try to turn behind the opposing car, everything gets really complicated and accidents will happen.

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