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These Weird Driving Laws Could Cost You Money, Boost Your Car Insurance Rates

July 1, 2015
Auto Insurance, Insurance
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Don’t get caught driving without headlights in the rain in Massachusetts, and don’t leave your car door open while parked on the side of the road in Oregon. These are just two little-known, weird driving laws that are punishable by a ticket — and possibly higher car insurance quotes.

In April 2015, Bay State legislators passed a law requiring drivers to use headlights in the rain. The penalty is only a $5 ticket, but a ticket can spike your insurance premiums for years. Massachusetts drivers are also required to use headlights in foggy conditions and between half an hour after sunset and half an hour before sunrise.

In Oregon, it’s illegal to dawdle on the roadside with your door open. Drivers and passengers should only open doors to let people in and out of the car. You could be issued a $90 ticket for this offense.

These aren’t the only unusual traffic laws you’ll find throughout the U.S. Here are some others that are on the books:

  • Tire screeching is not just loud, but illegal, in Derby, Kansas. Peeling out of your driveway can carry a $500 fine or send you to jail for 30 days.
  • Love those air fresheners dangling from the rearview mirror? Make sure they don’t interfere with your vision if you’re a New Jersey driver. Distractions on your dashboard or in front of the windshield can lead to a $54 fine in the state.
  • In Oregon, it’s illegal to drive on the highway with minors on the hood or fender of your car — always good advice. But if you’re traveling between hunting sites during deer season with an unrestrained minor in the open bed of your pickup truck, it’s perfectly OK as long as the child has a hunting license, according to Oregon state legislation.
  • People aren’t the only ones who need to buckle up in New Jersey. So do pets. Police can issue a citation if you’re caught driving with a pet on your lap, in the front seat, in the back of a pickup truck or partially hanging out a window. Unrestrained pets can cost you from $250 to $1,000.

Learn your local driving laws to avoid costly tickets and higher insurance premiums.

Animals on the go

Speaking of animals, here are some other states with strange laws involving pets, and even livestock:

  • In New Hampshire, it’s against the law to drive with a dog in the back of a pickup truck unless the area is enclosed or the dog is secured. Similarly, Oregon forbids driving with pets on any exterior part of your car, including the hood, fender or running board.
  • Thinking of leaving New Mexico with your horse, cow, or goat — dead or alive? It’s illegal unless the animal is first inspected by the New Mexico livestock board and issued an official certificate.
  • Think again before attempting to drive through or around a herd of cattle in Wisconsin or Connecticut. Cows have the right of way on roads and highways.

No business like snow business

Dealing with snowstorms is no fun. Here’s another chore to add to the list: Removing snow from your car roof in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, or Massachusetts. Driving with a snow-covered roof can cost you from $75 to $500, depending on the state.

If ice or snow breaks free from a moving car in Connecticut and causes injury or property damage, motorists can be fined $200 to $1,250. In Pennsylvania, the citation can cost $200 to $1,000.

Urban legends about driving laws

While there are plenty of weird driving laws on the books, the Internet is also filled with urban legends about traffic regulations with no apparent basis in reality.

Here are some of the frequently repeated tall tales:

  • Supposedly, it’s illegal to drive with a gorilla in your backseat in Massachusetts. In fact, there is no specific law on the books regarding gorillas and cars, although presumably this would fall under the category of reckless driving.
  • Similarly, there are many reports that it’s illegal to drive with an uncaged bear in Missouri. Again, while there is no specific law against it, drivers would be well-advised to cage their ursine passengers at all times.
  • Finally, we could find no evidence of a law forbidding women from driving while wearing a housecoat.

Robyn Parets is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @RobynParets

Image via iStock.