Before you head out on your road trip, consider your itinerary. Traffic laws and enforcement in states that you visit may differ from the state where you live.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers a website with a map detailing state distracted driving laws. Click on the state to see restrictions on cell phone and texting use by age, in school zones or construction zones.
The Governors Highway Safety Association also offers a convenient map describing many traffic-related laws. Click on the state for a list of laws and restrictions connected to seatbelts, speeds, older or younger drivers, motorcycle helmet use, child safety seats, impaired or aggressive driving and driving in work zones. Another source for state traffic regulations is the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Your automobile or travel club may also be able to provide information specific to the states you plan to visit.
Here’s a summary of some common traffic-related laws:
Speed limits for passenger cars vary from 55 to 75 mph on interstate highways, and limits can change between urban and rural areas.
Cell phone restrictions vary widely. In 11 states and the District of Columbia, all drivers are prohibited from using handheld cell phones. Several other states ban all cell phone use – handheld or hands-free – for young drivers.
Texting while driving is a bad idea no matter who or where you are, but the penalties you may face for breaking the law could vary. In 41 states and the District of Columbia, text messaging is banned for all drivers. Some states put additional restrictions on young drivers.
Seat belt enforcement may be either primary or secondary. For a primary offense, a law enforcement officer can cite you directly for not using your seat belt. In states where enforcement is secondary, you would be cited only in conjunction with another traffic infraction.
Child safety seats are required in all 50 states for children who meet certain requirements, and all states except Florida and South Dakota also require booster seats for older children. Check the chart for weight limits and fines in each state.
Young drivers in some states are limited in the number of passengers they may carry, and passengers may be limited to immediate family members only.
Headlights may be required even during the day in some states if weather conditions require you to use windshield wipers or when visibility is restricted by fog. Look for a sign at the state line.
Stop light and speed cameras may be in use in some communities. Most states do not have laws restricting these enforcement measures, so don’t be surprised if you drive through a municipality that uses them. In most cases, the use of enforcement cameras is posted on signs at city limits.