Next in our Unique Rules of the Road series: New York! Remember, while most driving regulations are consistent from state to state, there ARE differences. Read on to learn more about driving in the Empire State.
The state of New
York has quite a few of these unique rules of the road. New York ranks 30th
among the 50 states in land area (47,224 square miles), but it has the fourth
largest population (around 20 million people). It also boasts a vehicle fleet of
more than 10 million motor vehicles, all registered to operate on its roads in
2017, the most recent year for which this information is available.
New York is home
to two completely different driving environments. There is the
densely-populated New York City metropolitan area, which is extremely
congested, with terrible traffic and millions of people crammed tightly
together. Then there is sparsely-populated upstate New York, with lots of
forests and farmland, plenty of room on its roads, and a few medium-sized
cities that are spread across the countryside.
Let’s take a look the unique rules of the road in New York, the Empire State:
Cell phone usage in the car: New York has made it illegal to use a cell
phone inside the car without a hands-free device, unless you are activating,
beginning, or ending a call. It is also illegal to send or receive text
messages or e-mails while driving. Calls made for emergency situations are
Seatbelt use: It is illegal to drive without using a
seatbelt yourself, or without all occupants being belted in or in a proper
child seat/restraint device. A police officer can pull you over and issue a
ticket if you or a passenger is not wearing a seatbelt. Taxis, livery vehicles,
emergency vehicles, and non-school buses are exempt.
Passing on the right: This is legal, when it is safe, when the
car ahead makes a left turn, when there is a lane or enough road width where
you can do so and see clearly, when upcoming intersections are clear, and when
it is not prohibited.
Helmets for motorcycle riders: Motorcyclists must wear approved helmets,
as well as goggles or a face shield for eye protection.
Use of headlights: Your headlights should be turned on 30
minutes after sunset, and also used until 30 minutes prior to the sunrise. If
you are using your wipers because of the weather, your low beams should also be
on. You are required to use your headlights if it’s foggy, to help other cars
see you. Daytime running lights do not qualify as headlights in New York.
Making turns on red: You may turn right at a red light after
stopping and checking for other vehicles and pedestrians, unless it is
prohibited. It is prohibited in cities with a population of over one million
unless a sign permits it (this includes New York City).
Left turns on a red
light can be made only from a one-way street and onto a one-way street, after a
full stop has been made, and right-of-way has been yielded to oncoming traffic
U-turns: U-turns can only be made from the left part of the lane that
is closest to the centerline of the road, if you have a green left-turn arrow,
yield to other traffic, and a U-turn is not prohibited by signage. U-turns are
never allowed in these situations:
a hilltop, a curve or anywhere other drivers can’t see your vehicle from 500
feet away in both directions
New York City business districts
a limited access expressway
a school zone
prohibited by signage
Pedestrians: Pedestrians (and skateboarders) who are legally
crossing the road or street at marked or unmarked crossings, like intersections,
always have the right-of-way. You must slow down or stop and let them cross.
Driving under the influence of alcohol: It’s not worth it! New York has very
severe penalties, and they are enforced! A blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05%
is legal evidence that you
are impaired, a BAC of 0.08% or more is evidence of intoxication, and a BAC of 0.18
percent or higher is evidence of aggravated driving while intoxicated. Any
driver under 21 found with any measurable BAC will face a license suspension
and civil fines.
Smoking marijuana: In New York State, you can be arrested for
driving while ability impaired by a drug, as well as driving under the combined
influence of alcohol and drugs. Don’t do it!
Bicycles: The rules of the road apply to bicyclists. You must yield the right-of-way to them just as you would to another vehicle. Bicyclists must also obey the rules of the road just as motor vehicle drivers are required to.
Smoking in a car: In Rockland, Schenectady, and Erie
Counties, if any children are with you (aged less than 18), it is illegal to
smoke inside the car.
Minimum following distance: There must be at least two seconds of
space between you and the car ahead, whatever legal speed you are going.
Speed limits: There are some general rules for speed
limits in the state of New York. These will apply, unless posted signage
indicates a different limit:
School zone 20
to 30 mph, as posted
State speed limit 55
mph unless otherwise posted
mph where permitted
Trucks on I-95 50 mph
New York City 25
mph unless otherwise posted
Some crazy New
York driving regulations
Let’s wrap up with
some wacky rules that the state and specific New York localities have put on
the books. Some might be based in past experience and may be practical, but
others just leave you scratching your head:
State of New York: You may not ride a horse on a road at
Sag Harbor: It is illegal to get undressed in your
State of New York: You may not sell ice cream from a moving
ice cream truck.
State of New York: You are not allowed to warm up your car
unless you are in it.
Drive safely in New York!
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