26 November 2015

Eyebrow-raising driving laws from around the world

Anyone who thinks that the Highway Code governing driving in England, Scotland and Wales is pretty strict may well reconsider their view after taking in some driving laws from around the world. Some are unusual but undeniably sensible, whilst some could be considered downright wacky. Okay, a few of them only still exist because rule makers haven’t bothered removing or ‘repealing’ them from antiquated acts of parliament or state bills passed hundreds of years ago, or other similar reasons, but they’re nevertheless worthy of a chuckle.

If you sometimes cling onto your duvet longer than you should in a morning and end up eating a sneaky slice of toast whilst driving, make sure you don’t do anything like this on holiday in Cyprus, where eating and/or drinking behind the wheel is illegal.

Driving rules - eating or drinking in Cyprus

Naked driving in Germany is reported to be okay, but driving barefoot is not and can result in losing one’s car insurance cover and could see a driver being fined. Barefoot driving is said to be prohibited in France too and also Spain, where motorists shouldn’t wear high heels, backless or open-toed shoes, either.

Still on the subject of clothes, if anyone visits Thailand, they need to ensure they wear a shirt or similar, otherwise they could risk falling foul of the country’s driving laws, blokes included.

Driving rules - wear a shirt in Thailand

When driving in Japan, a land known for its cleanliness, humility and decency, splashing a pedestrian could land you a fine roughly equating to £45. If a police officer in the UK spots a motorist seemingly splashing a pedestrian on purpose, such a driver could end up with penalty points as well, so don’t be tempted.

Driving in Russia requires keeping your car clean, and anyone short sighted like me who drives a car in Spain needs to ensure they take a spare pair of glasses with them. In France, drivers are required by the law to carry a breathalyser in the car, so this is something that needs including in the car kit any UK tourists assemble before visiting the country, along with a fluorescent jacket and warning triangle. Talking of alcohol, it’s legal to drink whilst driving in Costa Rica, providing you don’t get drunk and exceed certain limits.

Animals also still technically feature in some countries’ driving laws, pets in Italy required to wear the equivalent of seatbelts, and priority or ‘right of way’ is given to animals on the road in South Africa and also in the UAE (United Arab Emirates) where camels are a common sight. The Massachusetts state law some say hasn’t been repealed, stating that a gorilla may travel in the passenger seat but not the back of a car, is sadly an urban myth, but might still make you smile.

Driving rules - dirty cars in Russia

Good ol’ American state laws are enough to make even the most stern of people giggle, from California road regulations stating at some point back in history that someone can’t jump from a car if they’re travelling over 65mph, and Florida’s historic motoring laws requiring people to pay the usual parking fee for an elephant, to an outdated law in San Francisco preventing the buffing of car bodywork using used underwear, and a deeply buried Oklahoma law prohibiting reading a comic whilst driving.

On a serious note, though, some genuine road laws from the Highway Code are worthy of reminders. For starters, car horns can only be sounded if the vehicle is moving and mustn’t be parped between 23:30 and 07:00. However cool they look, fog lights must only be used when fog’s actually around or visibility is drastically impaired for some other reason. It’s against the Highway Code to throw a cigarette butt or apple out of the window, for example, and parking by the roadside in the opposite direction to traffic flow could land a driver in a spot of bother.

If you’ve got the travel bug and like the idea of going somewhere really different this year or next, it’s always worth checking out safety and practicality tips for travellers like these.

Get in touch with us on Twitter or Facebook if you or your parents have ever been stopped whilst driving abroad, or if you have any other stories, questions or comments to share on driving rules.

Oliver Hammond

Written by Oliver Hammond

Oliver is an established freelance motoring writer, published journalist and automotive copywriter based in Manchester. He regularly reviews cars and covers events and launches as editor of petroleumvitae.com and his articles appear in various magazines each month. No relation to Richard from Top Gear, he’s got a weakness for luxo-barges, proper 4x4s and oddball cars.