There are a lot of strange driving laws on the books, many that are outdated and some that just seem so obvious that you can’t imagine anyone breaking them. Others are definitely weird, but could still result in a ticket for the uninformed.
Whether you are going on a road trip, or flying somewhere and renting a car, travelers are most at risk for breaking obscure yet enforced driving laws. No one wants to get a ticket while they’re on vacation or on a business trip, so it’s a good idea to check the driving laws in any state you will be driving through before you hit the road. Just to get your research started, however, here are a few of the weirdest laws you might find yourself in danger of breaking.
- Got the munchies? Tough luck! In Bloomfield, Connecticut, it is actually illegal to eat while driving your car. Eat your breakfast before you head to that conference or business event, and if you’re on a road trip, stash the trail mix before driving through this town! Talking on a handheld cell phone is also banned throughout the state, by the way. Connecticut is declaring war on distracted driving, and they really mean business!
- Get dressed before you hit the road! California makes it illegal to drive in a housecoat. This particular law conjures up images of women dropping their kids off at school while wearing 1950s housecoats and rollers in their hair. I guess Cali really wanted to make sure women were presentable before they got into the car to go anywhere!
- Hunters: No playing African Safari! Some states, such as Connecticut and California, make it illegal to shoot wild animals from a moving vehicle. This is useful information if you are going on a cross-country hunting trip. Maybe it’s all in the spirit of fairness: Chasing animals in a moving vehicle gives the hunters an unfair advantage!
- Beware of drinking and driving laws. Alcohol and driving don’t mix, but it’s always good to know the specific laws in whatever state or town you are in. For instance, Scituate, Rhode Island has made it illegal to drive with unopened (or opened) beer in the car. In contrast, some states allow you to drive with opened alcoholic beverages in the car, just as long as you keep them in the trunk.
- Take out the trash! If you are visiting Hilton Head, South Carolina, make sure you don’t leave any trash in your car, as this is illegal and can earn you a ticket! As bizarre as it sounds, the concern is that food trash in cars encourages rats to make themselves at home. We all have those friends who leave tons of fast food wrappers and paper sacks in their cars, so much so that their vehicles perpetually smell like the driver’s favorite taco or hamburger joint, so most of us can probably understand how this law came into being.
- A new definition of litering: Minnetonka, Minnesota makes it illegal for a car to spread trash OR dirt and mud on the road. So if you’ve just come down from the hills, stop and clean off the muck before you get into town, or you may be fined for dirtying up roads!
- Shut the door! Don’t you hate it when someone parallel parks on the side of the road and leaves their car door open, hanging out into traffic, for what seems like forever? In Oregon this is actually illegal: You can be ticketed for leaving your door open for longer than absolutely necessary. Good to know if you’re in town!
Whether it’s for parking or speeding, it’s disappointing to get a ticket when you’re traveling, but it’s even worse when it’s for some silly law that you didn’t even know existed. These are a few of the most bizarre driving rules around the country, but of course there are many other laws that could catch you up. In general, you should always be on your best behavior when driving in another state: Don’t talk on a handheld cell phone, don’t text, and definitely don’t drink and drive. However, it’s also a good idea to do a little research before you roll into town, just to make sure there aren’t any bizarre laws like these that you should be aware of.
A freelance writer since 2005, Katharine Swan specializes in writing about travel-related subjects, such as destination guides and tips on finding good deals on hotels and car rentals. Her favorite travel destinations, however, are in her home state of Colorado.