State by state driving laws across the nation

A Los Angeles carpool lane (Source: KCRW)

No matter how long you’ve been driving, it can be nice to know that the rules of the road are much like the ones you studied when you first got a driver’s license.

There’s no need to fully relearn them. It takes a lot of effort getting legislators to change vehicle laws. They mostly keep busy with other issues, like education, public health, or the state budget. As a result, the driving reforms that win legislative approval and get signed into law generally reflect the most urgent priorities.

In this post, we have rounded up the most important new driving laws from the past few years for every state in the US. This helps document national traffic safety trends.

For example, we found no fewer than a dozen new laws aimed at penalizing people who operate mobile phones and other handheld electronics while driving. We also came across several changes to move over laws, those that require clearance for emergency vehicles and other service workers who may be stopped on the public roads or close by.

State By State Driving Laws

We have also provided direct links to the page on each state government website where you can access the official driver’s manual, explaining all the traffic laws that drivers need to know. Though change comes slowly, it never hurts to refresh your knowledge. After all, each time you turn the ignition and leave the driveway, you’re expected to be an expert at safe driving.

 

 Alabama State Driving Laws

Alabama increased the penalties for teen drivers and parents of teen drivers who violate restricted license restrictions, such as driving after midnight or with too many passengers.

Download the driver license manual from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.

 Alaska State Driving Laws

Alaska no longer requires turn signals at roundabouts.

Download the driver manual from the Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles.

 Arizona State Driving Laws

Arizona banned minors from using a mobile device while driving for the first six months with a learner’s permit or driver’s license.

Download the driver license manual from the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division.

 Arkansas State Driving Laws

Arkansas imposed a $250 fine for texting while driving on a first offense. The state also prohibited open containers of alcohol in driver and passenger areas. It also authorized an increase in the maximum speed limit to 75 miles per hour.

Download the driver license test study guide from the Arkansas State Police.

 California State Driving Laws

California banned the use of electronic wireless communication devices unless mounted to windshield, dashboard, or center console. The state also made it illegal to occupy bus-only transit lanes.

Download the driver handbook from the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

 Colorado State Driving Laws

Colorado weakened a law against texting while driving so it applies only to “careless or imprudent” driving. However, the state increased penalties from $300 and four points on a driver’s license.

Download the driver license manual from the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles.

 Connecticut State Driving Laws

Connecticut required the installation of an ignition interlock device for people who’ve had a license suspended for operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Download the driver’s manual from the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles.

 Delaware State Driving Laws

Delaware transferred all misdemeanor DUI cases to the Court of Common Pleas. Previously, convictions in the Justice of the Peace Court could be retried in the Court of Common Pleas.

Download the driver manual from the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles.

 Florida State Driving Laws

Florida authorized driver’s license holders to operate autonomous vehicles on state roads and removed restrictions limiting usage to autonomous vehicle testing.

Download the driver’s handbook from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

 Georgia State Driving Laws

Georgia introduced the ignition interlock device as an alternative to driver’s license suspension for first-time DUI convictions.

Download the driver’s manual from the Georgia Department of Driver Services.

 Hawaii State Driving Laws

Hawaii required ignition interlock permit holders to keep the permit and state ID in their possession while driving or face penalties including imprisonment.

Download the driver’s manual from the Hawaii Motor Vehicle Safety Office.

 Idaho State Driving Laws

Idaho allowed drivers to exceed the speed limit by up to 15 miles per hour when passing on two-lane state roads where the limit is already 55 mph or higher.

Download the driver’s manual from the Idaho Division of Motor Vehicles.

 Illinois State Driving Laws

Illinois required drivers to slow down or change lanes when passing any vehicle on the side of the road with hazard lights flashing.

Download the rules of the road from the Illinois Secretary of State.

 Indiana State Driving Laws

Indiana ordered motorists in a roundabout to yield the right of way to semi-trailer trucks, buses, and other vehicles 40 feet in length or more that are also using the roundabout.

Download the driver’s manual from the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

 Iowa State Driving Laws

Iowa drivers are required to change lanes when possible to avoid stationary emergency vehicles, including utility trucks and garbage trucks with lights flashing. Drivers unable to safely change lanes are required to slow down. Additionally, amendments were made to laws regarding turning on a red light; drivers are now allowed to turn right into a right turn lane on a red light, or turn left into the left turn lane of a one-way street. Finally, straight trucks (those with all axles connected to one frame) can now be 45 feet long on Iowa roads, which is 4 feet longer than previously allowed.

Download the driver’s manual from the Iowa Department of Transportation.

 Kansas State Driving Laws

Kansas increased seat belt traffic fines from $10 to $30 for people 18 years of age and older.

Download the driver’s license handbook from the Kansas Division of Vehicles.

 Kentucky State Driving Laws

Kentucky says white lights are the only color of headlights legally allowed on private vehicles, not including emergency vehicles, to cut down on distracted driving.

Download the driver manual from the Kentucky Division of Driver Licensing.

 Louisiana State Driving Laws

Louisiana’s traffic speed cameras must be properly signposted, or the images can’t be used to ticket motorists. Also, drivers in training will receive instruction on how to interact with police officers during traffic stops.

Download the driver’s guide from the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles.

 Maine State Driving Laws

Maine legislators approved a distracted driving law that would have banned the use of handheld devices while driving, but Gov. Paul LePage vetoed the legislation, calling it a form of “social engineering.”

Download the motorist handbook and study guide from the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

 Maryland State Driving Laws

Maryland drivers may pass on the right shoulder if the vehicle in front of them is making a left-hand turn and does not leave the pavement. Secondly, objects obstructing the driver’s view through the windshield may not be hung or attached to the rearview mirror.

Download the driver’s manual from the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration.

 Massachusetts State Driving Laws

Massachusetts created an autonomous vehicle working group to consider legal reforms that would promote the spread of self-driving cars. Existing state law neither allows nor prohibits the testing of highly automated vehicles on public roadways.

Download the driver’s manual from the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles.

 Michigan State Driving Laws

Michigan authorized the operation of autonomous vehicles on public roads where before only manufacturer testing was allowed.

Download the publication What Every Driver Must Know from the Michigan Secretary of State.

 Minnesota State Driving Laws

Minnesota owners of electric vehicles will pay an annual $75 tax, because they don’t have to pay the usual state gas tax.

Download the driver’s manual from Minnesota Driver and Vehicle Services.

 Mississippi State Driving Laws

Mississippi required all individuals riding in a vehicle to wear a seatbelt. Drivers will be held responsible for passengers who remain unbuckled, including those riding in the back of a truck bed. Drivers can be fined $25 per unbuckled passenger. Additionally, the move over law has been expanded to include rural mail carriers and other official vehicles with flashing lights on the side of the road.

Download the driver’s license manual from the Mississippi Department of Public Safety.

 Missouri State Driving Laws

Missouri’s move over law has been expanded to include all vehicles on the side of the road with emergency flashers or hazard lights on. Additionally, fines and jail time sentences have been increased for drivers who speed through a work or school zone.

Download the driver guide from the Missouri Department of Revenue.

 Montana State Driving Laws

Montana raised the speed limit on Interstate 90 and I-15 from 75 miles per hour to 80 mph. The new limit will be strictly enforced. The highway areas around Billings will retain the 75-mph limit. Fines will increase from $20 to $40 for 10 mph over the speed limit. Exceeding the limit by 31 mph or more will result in a $200 fine.

Download the driver manual from the Missouri Motor Vehicle Division.

 Nebraska State Driving Laws

Nebraska cyclists are now treated as pedestrians in crosswalks, giving them legal right of way in crosswalks. Additionally, the mandatory side path rule, which required cyclists to use a side path if one was available and not the street, has been repealed to allow for increased cyclist safety.

Download the driver’s manual from the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles.

 Nevada State Driving Laws

Nevada laws will be rewritten to refer to a car accident as a crash, calling attention to the fact that many crashes could be prevented by drivers being safe on the roads.

Download the driver handbook from the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.

 New Hampshire State Driving Laws

New Hampshire drivers who pass a stopped school bus face increased penalties, including a $500 fine and a 30-day license suspension for the first offense. Fines have also increased for drivers who fail to yield to emergency vehicles.

Download the driver’s manual from the New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles.

 New Jersey State Driving Laws

New Jersey introduced a hotline for people to report drivers who are texting while on the road. Drivers who are caught by law enforcement texting and driving will be fined.

Download the driver manual from the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.

 New Mexico State Driving Laws

New Mexico imposed heavier criminal sentencing on drivers with eight or more driving-while-intoxicated convictions.

Download the driver’s manual from the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division.

 New York State Driving Laws

New York authorized inspections and fines for cars with tinted windows darker than 30 percent. Additionally, emergency vehicles and law enforcement vehicles will be required to slow down and change lines, just like other traffic, when passing emergency or law enforcement vehicles that are stopped on the side of the road.

Download the driver’s manual from the New York Department of Motor Vehicles.

 North Carolina State Driving Laws

North Carolina drivers can pass bicyclists and mopeds in no passing zones if there is a four-foot buffer. The law previously allowed a two-foot buffer. Drivers who endanger a bicyclist or cause a crash will face increased penalties, including possible loss of license and fines.

Download the driver’s handbook from the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles.

  North Dakota State Driving Laws

North Dakota’s distracted driving laws have been expanded to include any activity that results in a failure to maintain control of the vehicle. Drivers could be fined $100 for driving distracted.

Download the drivers license manual from the North Dakota Department of Transportation.

 Ohio State Driving Laws

Ohio drivers can legally drive through a red light if they believe it is malfunctioning. Drivers must come to a full stop, and then can proceed through the light. However, the burden of proof lies with the driver if the light is working properly and an accident is caused.

Download the digest of motor vehicle laws from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

 Oklahoma State Driving Laws

Oklahoma drivers may use the left lane on a divided highway if they are not impeding traffic. Drivers are reminded by new signs erected along the highways to move over to the right lane if they are slower than the pace of other cars.

Download the driver’s manual from the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety.

 Oregon State Driving Laws

Oregon expanded existing laws that prevent the use of a mobile device to include any mobile electronic device that is not in hands-free mode.

Download the driver manual from the Oregon Department of Transportation.

 Pennsylvania State Driving Laws

Pennsylvania drivers can now proceed through a red light if they believe the light to be malfunctioning. Drivers must come to a full stop, and can proceed through the light if the situation is safe.

Download the driver’s manual from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

 Rhode Island State Driving Laws

Rhode Island drivers caught without a license won’t face criminal charges for a first or second offense; these are now treated as civil violations. Drivers may still be fined. A third offense constitutes a misdemeanor charge.

Download the driver’s manual from the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles.

 South Carolina State Driving Laws

South Carolina required moped drivers to register with the Department of Motor Vehicles starting in 2018. Drivers under the age of 21 are required to wear a helmet. Drunk driving laws will also be enforced against moped drivers.

Download the driver’s manual from the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles.

 South Dakota State Driving Laws

South Dakota drivers of all ages are not allowed to text and drive, while drivers under the age of 18 aren’t allowed to use a handheld electronic device at all while driving. Various cities in South Dakota have enacted their own specific distracted driving laws.

Download the driving manual from the South Dakota Department of Public Safety.

 Tennessee State Driving Laws

Tennessee made it a misdemeanor to block public highways and streets in an area that restricts access for emergency vehicles. Violations are punishable by a fine of $200.

Download the driver license manual from Tennessee’s Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

 Texas State Driving Laws

Texas made texting and driving illegal, punishable by a fine of $25 to $99. Devices used for mapping and stereo system control do not count as driving distracted.

Download the driver handbook from the Texas Department of Public Safety.

 Utah State Driving Laws

Utah lowered the blood alcohol limit for drivers to .05 percent. The previous limit was .08 percent. This is now the strictest blood alcohol limit in the country.

Download the driver handbook from the Utah Department of Public Safety.

 Vermont State Driving Laws

Vermont provides at least four feet of clearance for cyclists, pedestrians, and other vulnerable roadway users, like horse-drawn buggies. Drivers entering a highway from a private road must yield to these vulnerable highway users, entering the highway only when it is safe to do so.

Download the driver’s manual from the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles.

 Virginia State Driving Laws

Virginia drivers with learner’s permits may not use mobile phones or other electronic devices, even if they are in hands-free mode. Additionally, drivers with learner’s permits may have only one passenger under the age of 21 in the car with them, not including household members or family members. Finally, opening a motor vehicle door when it is not safe to do so (‘dooring’) will be assessed a $50 fine.

Download the driver’s manual from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

 Washington State Driving Laws

Washington’s Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act prohibited interacting with electronic devices while driving. Texting, holding a cell phone, watching videos, and taking pictures are all illegal while driving.

Download the driver guide from the Washington State Department of Licensing.

 West Virginia State Driving Laws

West Virginia drivers who speed past school bus stop signs will be ticketed, even when school isn’t in session. Law enforcement officials hope this raises awareness of school buses and school zones throughout the year.

Download the driver’s licensing handbook from the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles.

 Wisconsin State Driving Laws

Wisconsin prohibited using a mobile phone or other wireless device while in a construction or utility work zone. Violators will be fined $20 to $40 for a first offense and $50 to $100 for a second offense.

Download the motorist’s handbook from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

 Wyoming State Driving Laws

Wyoming lowered fines for people caught speeding on 80-mile per hour highways. Additionally, owners of electric vehicles will pay a $50 tax equivalent to the gas tax levied on other drivers.

Download the driver license manual from the Wyoming Department of Transportation.

Andy Gillin received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his law degree from the University of Chicago. He is the managing partner of GJEL Accident Attorneys and has written and lectured in the field of plaintiffs’ personal injury law for numerous organizations. Andy is a highly recognized wrongful death lawyer in California.