A Beginner’s Guide To Understanding How Traffic Laws Work


Have you ever wondered just what some of the traffic laws are that you see posted around on some highways? Or maybe while driving, you got pulled over by a police officer for doing something against the law, but you had no idea it was illegal, to begin with? If so, read on to discover what traffic laws are and how they work.

What Is A Traffic Law?

A traffic law, also known as a motor vehicle code or traffic code, is a collection of rules governing the operation of vehicles and other conveyances. These laws may govern regional matters such as allowing vehicles on certain streets at certain times, making special arrangements for how one must yield to emergency vehicles while they are working. Legislation may further standardize the age a person can start driving, maximum blood alcohol content while operating a vehicle on public roads, speed limits in different areas of town, types of lights required on vehicles using public roads and more. Traffic Laws vary from state to state within the U.S.A.

The Categories

Each State has its own set of traffic laws. What is legal in one state may be illegal in another, hence the importance of reading up on your State’s specific traffic laws to avoid committing what is known as “Moving violations”. This is why different States have different license exams and a learner permit practice test in NY will be different from one in LA. For example, in Washington, D.C., it is illegal to make a right turn at a red light, unless you are at an intersection where the road you want to turn onto has two or fewer lanes of travel in each direction.

In California, on the other hand, one can legally make a right-hand turn at a red light after coming to a full stop and yielding to pedestrians and cross-traffic that have the right-of-way. In Pennsylvania, drivers may pass vehicles only if the vehicle being passed is going less than half of the posted speed limit and also not on hills or curves.

Who Sets These Traffic Laws?

The US Constitution empowers States with the right to set traffic laws. There are a number of factors that influence the passing of traffic laws in any locality, such as the population density and the degree of pollution in an area. The majority of US cities have their own traffic codes which they enact to cover issues related to driving in their city limits alone.

How Do These Traffic Rules Make Sure People Drive Safely?

Most states use a system called “traffic violation point counts” to track drivers licenses for infractions on roads and highways that violate specific State laws or local ordinances. These points bring penalties when a driver gets too many over a certain period, depending on the severity and frequency of violations committed by a particular driver. Once a driver accumulates too many penalty points within 2 years’ time, they will most likely incur license suspension for at least 30 days.

How Are These Laws Expected To Be Followed?

Traffic Laws are enforced with the use of Traffic Police Officers who patrol highways and roads looking out for traffic offenders, using radar guns or LIDAR speed detectors to clock vehicles that violate traffic rules by speeding or driving dangerously. Other violations like not wearing a safety belt also come under the purview of law enforcement agencies, as do infractions like running red lights and making improper turns without yielding to oncoming traffic. Now, here are the most common laws and how they work.

Seat Belt Law

Seat Belt Law

This is the most common traffic law you’ll see violated on roads. The driver’s seat belt must always be worn at all times when the car is moving, no matter how short the journey may be.

Cell Phone Usage Laws

Cell phones can only be used while driving if they are mounted on windshields with proper mounts or mounted to the dashboard with a car kit. Mobile phones should not be used if they are held in the hand while driving, and mobiles must always be powered off when you’re behind the wheel. States that have passed laws against mobile phone usage by drivers typically allow use only when the vehicle is stationary or when using hands-free devices such as Bluetooth headsets or headphones that need to be plugged into phones.

State Radar Detectors Laws

Radar detectors can only legally be mounted on windshields of vehicles in 21 states, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada & Washington. In all other states where radar detectors are legal for drivers’ use, they can be mounted on dashboards or windshields.

Illegal Turns

Making an illegal turn includes making a left turn at a red light where it is not permitted, turning right at a red light from the wrong lane and without stopping, not yielding to oncoming traffic while doing so, and making improper U-turns at intersections that are meant only for left turns.

Speeding Penalties

Speeding up to 15 mph over the speed limit brings with it 3 penalty points on your license; speeding between 16 and 29 mph above the speed limit means 5 penalty points; driving 30 mph over the posted speed limit results in 8 penalty points; driving 40 mph or more above the speed limit comes with 12 penalty points.

Parking Violations

Parking in spaces reserved for the physically disabled, parking at a bus stop marked exclusively for buses and other vehicles providing public transportation, parking too close to intersections, crosswalks or stop signs where visibility is compromised, and parking on roads within a certain distance of a railroad crossing are examples of infractions covered under this law.

Vehicle Equipment Law

This law covers requirements for windshields, headlights, brake lights and loud horns to be installed in all vehicles so they can be used while driving. Vehicles must also have their lights turned on during nighttime hours while being driven anywhere outside city limits. Drivers should also keep their windows rolled down while stopped at traffic signals so that law enforcement officers can easily see inside the car.

Red-Light Running Law

Running red lights is considered one of the most dangerous driving violations on the list since it contributes significantly to road accidents that cause injury or death every year. While it is up to each state’s discretion whether to treat red-light running as a criminal violation or impose civil fines only, the majority of states do use automated cameras at intersections to track motorists who run red lights. A few states operate manned police posts at intersections so that officers can issue tickets for this infraction instead.

To summarize, traffic laws are important because they form the basis for every aspect of road safety and prevent accidents from happening on highways or roads throughout the country. By knowing how to adhere to these laws and always having them in the back of your mind when you drive, you can better protect yourself from harm or death that may come as a result of others’ negligence.

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