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Quiz: Should I Be Driving?

Do you know when it is legal, or safe, for you to be behind the wheel of a car? If you have your drivers' license, you may think that you can always drive a car. But that is not the case, both from a legal perspective or sometimes from a common-sense perspective. Taking the following quiz may help you answer the question of whether you should be driving.

Q: Steve has a valid drivers' license, but 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 he should 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.

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: While Julie may feel, in her altered state, that she can operate a vehicle, if she has been drinking she should refrain from getting behind the wheel. She should have a sober friend drive her home, or she should take a taxi. If Julie tries to drive, and is arrested for drunk driving, she could be in significant legal trouble. Even worse, if Julie tries to drive she could be in an accident and seriously injure or kill herself or someone else.

Q: Mike has a drivers' license, but it has been revoked because of too many unpaid parking tickets. Can he drive a car?

A: No. Mike can not drive his own car (the one with all of the parking tickets on it), nor can he drive anyone else's car. Driving with a license that has been revoked for any reason is against the law.

Q: Kirk is fifteen years-old and has his driver's permit. He wants to go over to a friend's house, but his parents aren't home. Can he take the car and drive it there?

A: No, unless he can find a different adult who has 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, the least of which may be an inability to obtain his license as soon as he becomes old enough to qualify for full driving privileges. Kirk should take his bike to his friend's house, or have his friend come over to his house to hang out.

Note: In some communities, particularly in rural areas, children under sixteen may be able to obtain a special-use permit which allows them to drive themselves to and from school. However, the special-use permit is generally limited to that purpose. In other words, these children do not have the right to drive without an adult present, whenever and wherever they wish.

Q: Margaret is having friends over for dinner, and has forgotten to make a dessert. She wants to run to a local bakery to pick up a cake, but it is snowing very hard and there is a "travel advisory." Can she drive to the bakery?

A: Legally, Margaret can drive her car in bad weather. It is not against the law to drive when there is a travel advisory. Whether Margaret should drive her car is another question. Operating a motor vehicle can be dangerous even in perfect weather. If Margaret tries to drive in bad weather, she may place herself and others in danger.

Q: Barry is traveling in Europe and wants to rent a car to see the sights. He has a New Jersey drivers' license, but does that allow him to drive in a foreign country?

A: The answer to this question depends upon which countries Barry wants to drive in. A small handful of foreign countries accept U.S. drivers' 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. An IDP can be obtained from authorized vendors in the United States before foreign travel is undertaken. Barry should check with the U.S. Embassies in the countries he will be traveling to or with local tourist information organizations before trying to rent a car. The car rental agency will also likely be able to tell him whether he can legally drive a car.

Q: Katrina has a driver's license to operate her personal car, a station wagon. She has never been in an accident. She has just been asked by her employer, a manufacturing company, if she can help out 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 in order to make the trip. Can Katrina drive the truck?

A: No. Tractor-trailers are large and very dangerous vehicles. While Katrina may be capable of driving a station wagon, that does not mean she can safely drive a tractor-trailer. In fact, every state requires that individuals who operate tractor-trailers have commercial drivers' licenses which can only be obtained after special training and testing is successfully completed. Katrina has to turn down her employer's request until she has obtained a valid commercial drivers' license.

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