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11 Bizarre American Driving Laws

Car Culture / 65 Comments

You could be breaking some laws without even realizing.

There are still some obscure laws on the books in many states across America. A good example is a law from Massachusetts that you'll often see repeated as making it illegal to transport a gorilla in the back of your car. The law actually reads:

"No person shall transport an animal in the back of a motor vehicle in a space intended for a load on the vehicle on a public way unless such space is enclosed…"

However, someone, somewhere, had a clickbait article to fill and decided Gorilla was funnier and now that 'fact' shows up everywhere. So, taking that into account, we've done our best to separate law from lore and bring up a list of actual weird driving regulations from around these United States. If you want to read about weird driving laws from around the world, we have a feature on that too.

Nevada: It is illegal to drive a camel on the highway

Don't worry Camel fans, you can ride your even-toed ungulate perfectly legally on a city street and through Nevadan residential areas. This law actually comes from the 1800s when camels were introduced to the desert state and put to use as work camels. They also became a form of personal transportation, hence the law.

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Alaska: Don’t attach your dog to the roof of your car

We can only assume at some point enough people were doing this for it to be legislated against. The full text of the law also states you can't secure your dog to the bed of a pickup truck either. We assume Mitt Romney has never road tripped through Alaska.

Arkansas: Don’t honk your horn at a sandwich shop

Apparently, the city of Little Rock in Arkansas is remarkably protective of its sandwich shops. The actual code states: "no person shall sound the horn on a vehicle at any place where cold drinks or sandwiches are served after 9:00 p.m."

We're not sure why this law exists, but there's certainly zero ambiguity there.

Minnesota: Clean your tires

Both the city of Minnetonka and Delano in Minnesota appear to have truly OCD lawmakers, or maybe the street cleaners got tired of people driving over their freshly washed roads after getting stuck in the mud. Either way, driving a truck with dirty tires is considered a public nuisance. The law forbids: "a truck or other vehicle whose wheels or tires deposit mud, dirt, sticky substances, litter or other material on any street or highway."

California: If your windshield wipers are on then your headlights should be too

This may surprise people outside California as well as many inside. It is written into the California vehicle code and states in the Department of Motor Vehicles' California Driver Handbook that, "You must turn on your headlights if snow, rain, fog, dust, or low visibility (1,000 feet or less) requires the use of windshield wipers." As you can imagine, the law is not followed much because people are too busy wondering what that stuff falling out of the sky is.

If that's not weird enough for you, it can also end in a steep fine for a woman to drive around wearing a bathrobe.

14 States won’t allow you to buy a car on Sunday

In 2015, that number was 18 but at last count, it was 14. For some states where they can open on a Sunday, their hours of business are restricted. In some states, like Illinois, Texas, and New Jersey, lawmakers have tried to relax the laws. However, some car dealerships have actually pushed back on the basis that the banks being closed makes it hard to do business and it makes hiring and retaining quality employees difficult, and neither of those factors is good for customers.

New Jersey: Make sure your pets buckle up

Well, they can wear a seat belt or be confined to a carrier. New Jersey law requires pet owners to restrain their pets as they are considered a distraction. A representative of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission cited people that drive with a cat or dog in their lap as one of the reasons the law passed.

South Dakota: 14-year-olds can drive on the road

South Dakota has the lowest age restriction on driving. Once they've completed a state-approved driver education program, they can apply for a restricted minor's permit. With that, and having passed the vision, knowledge and driving tests, teens can drive unaccompanied between 6 am and 10 pm with the permission of a parent or guardian.

Alabama: You can legally drive the wrong way down a one-way street

This is an old law that still exists. All you have to do is have a lantern attached to the front of your car. Conversely, in Alabama, they feel it needs to be written into law that a driver cannot be blindfolded while operating a vehicle, and that windshield wipers are a legal requirement.

Ohio: It’s a misdemeanor offense to run out of gas

Specifically, this is in Youngstown, Ohio. You can actually find yourself being down on your luck, and then being ticketed and fined for it. Just how many tickets have been issued we don't know, but it would take a particularly hard-ass cop to actually do that to someone.

New Jersey: You can't pump your own gas

Until recently, New Jersey wasn't the only state that wouldn't allow drivers to pump their own gas, but now it's the only holdout state. The law reads like this:

"Because of the fire hazards directly associated with dispensing fuel, it is in the public interest that gasoline station operators have the control needed over that activity to ensure compliance with appropriate safety procedures, including turning off vehicle engines and refraining from smoking while fuel is dispensed."

In 2015, New Jersey General Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon introduced a bill to rescind the legislation, saying: "I am offended by people that argue that New Jerseyans are mentally incapable of pumping their own gas without setting themselves on fire." Enough politicians didn't agree or had their own interests to protect and the law remains.

Oregon was the other previous holdout, and when they made it legal to pump their own gas in some places, there were some weird claims.

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