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Quiz: Should I Be Driving?

You may think you can always drive if you have a driver's license. That isn't the case from both a legal and common-sense perspective.

Your driving abilities and legal permission to drive can change based on the situation. The law might not allow you to drive, even if you follow basic rules like wearing a seat belt and ignoring your cell phone.

State laws determine when you can drive safely and legally. The following driving test questions may help show whether you're ready to get behind the steering wheel.

Safe Driving and Health Conditions

States can prohibit driving if you have certain medical conditions or temporary injuries. Check your medication for safety warnings. Do not drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) because they can change your judgment and reaction time.

If you have a permanent condition that affects your driving habits, you might be unable to drive. Older drivers may be susceptible to losing their license if they can no longer drive safely, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Vehicle accessibility modifications sometimes allow drivers with certain conditions to keep their driving privileges.

Vision Impairment

Q: Steve has a valid driver's license, but he just had his eyes dilated at his doctor's office as part of an eye examination and is having trouble seeing. Can he drive?

A: Steve should not drive if he is having difficulty seeing. He should arrange for someone to pick him up from the doctor's office or wait until his vision returns to normal. If he were to drive in his impaired state and get into an automobile accident, he could face serious penalties.

Neck Injury

Q: Deonte's neck is swollen and stiff after a car accident. He can't turn it far enough to check his blind spots. Is it legal for Deonte to drive?

A: No, Deonte can't drive if he can't perform essential driving tasks. He would not be able to check whether he could safely change lanes on the highway. His injury also prevents him from checking behind the car when backing out of a parking space or driveway. Deonte must wait until his neck recovers before he can drive.

Drunk Driving

Q: Julie is out celebrating a new job with her friends and is drinking a lot of wine. Can she drive her car home?

A: Julie may feel, in her altered state, that she can operate a vehicle. She should refrain from getting behind the wheel if she has been drinking. She should have a sober friend drive her home or take a taxi.

If Julie tries to drive and faces arrest for drunk driving, she could be in significant legal trouble. Even worse, if Julie tries to drive, she could cause a car crash and seriously injure or kill herself or someone else.

Road Conditions and Traffic Law

Be aware of how driving rules change based on the weather, time, or location. Even if you consider yourself a safe driver, no amount of driving skills can prevent a traffic ticket from breaking the law.

Weather Conditions

Q: Margaret has friends over for dinner and forgot to make a dessert. She wants to run to a local bakery to pick up a cake, but there is a travel advisory due to heavy snow. Can she drive to the bakery?

A: Legally, Margaret can drive her car in bad weather. Driving when there is a travel advisory is not against the law. However, drivers must usually move slower than the posted speed limit and leave a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of them.

Whether Margaret should drive her car is another question. Operating a motor vehicle can be dangerous, even in mild rain and snow. If Margaret tries to go in bad weather, she may endanger herself and others.

Driver's License Problems

valid driver's license is one of the most basic driving requirements on public roadways. However, your license might not always be valid in all circumstances.

Suspension and Revocation

Q: Mike has a revoked driver's license due to too many unpaid parking tickets. Can he drive his spouse's car?

A: No. Mike can not drive his own car, the one with all the parking tickets, nor can he drive anyone else's car. Driving with a revoked or suspended license for any reason is against the law.

Learner's Permit Rules

Q: Kirk is fifteen years old and recently completed his defensive driving courses and road safety test. He has his driver's permit and wants to go to a friend's house, but his parents are away. Can he take the car and drive it there alone as a new driver?

A: No, he must find a different adult with permission to ride in the car with him and observe his driving. If Kirk is driving with a permit without an adult present, he could face legal problems, such as a delay in getting full driving privileges. Kirk could take his bike to his friend's house or have his friend come over to his house instead.

In some communities, particularly rural areas, children under sixteen may obtain a special-use permit to drive to and from school. However, the special-use permit is generally limited to that purpose. These teen drivers do not have the right to go anywhere else without an adult present.

Special Driver's License Rules

Some vehicles and locations require unique driver's licenses. You can generally drive in other states in America, but you might need a different license type based on your vehicle. For other countries, the U.S. Department of State recommends studying local traffic laws and driving safety tips before you visit.

Foreign Travel

Q: Barry is traveling Europe and wants to rent a car to see the sights. Does his California driver's license allow him to drive in a foreign country?

A: The answer to this question depends upon which countries Barry wants to drive in. A few foreign countries accept U.S. driver's licenses as valid.

However, the majority of countries do not. Of these countries, many accept what is known as an IDP, or international driving permit. You can apply for an IDP with authorized vendors in the United States before foreign travel.

Before renting a car, Barry should check with U.S. Embassies or local tourist information organizations in his destination countries. His car rental agency will also likely be able to tell him whether he can legally drive a car.

Large and Commercial Vehicles

Q: Katrina has a driver's license to operate her personal car, a station wagon. Her employer, a manufacturing company, asked if she could help with the holiday rush and drive a truckload of merchandise to another state's distributing facility. She will have to operate an 18-wheeled tractor-trailer to make the trip. Can Katrina drive the truck?

A: No. Tractor-trailers are large and hazardous vehicles. While Katrina may be capable of driving a station wagon, that does not mean she can safely operate a tractor-trailer.

Every state requires that individuals who operate tractor-trailers have commercial driver's licenses (CDL). Drivers can only earn a CDL after completing special training and testing. Katrina must decline her employer's request unless she obtains a valid commercial driver's license.

Get Defense for Your Driving Privileges

The best way to avoid a ticket is to follow safe driving tips and know the law. Driving when it's not safe or legal can risk your license.

If the police pull you over for unsafe driving, you could get a traffic ticket. The costs could be more complex than a simple fine and higher insurance premium. You might even face criminal penalties.

Driver safety is vital, and so are your rights. Discuss your case with a traffic law attorney to understand your options after a ticket.

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