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Top 7 Rules of the Road for Beginners


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The Rules of the Road help to keep every driver, motorcyclist, bicyclist, and pedestrian safer. 

This page will cover the basics and provide you with a strong foundation to practice every time you get in your car. 

By following the rules of the road and practicing the golden rule while driving, you can:

  • Reach your destination safely.
  • Avoid being involved in car accidents. 
  • Avoid getting traffic tickets. 
  • Enjoy lower car insurance rates. 

Continue reading to find out how you can become a safer, more knowledgeable driver by understanding and practicing the rules of the road. 

What is the Golden Rule of Driving?

The golden rule teaches us to treat others the way we want to be treated ourselves.

In driving, the golden rule definitely applies. 

The golden rule of driving means to not only treat other drivers the way we want to be treated, but also to drive in a manner in which we expect other people to drive. This includes:

  • Being safe and respectful. 
  • Obeying traffic laws, road signs, lane markings, and traffic lights. 
  • Respecting right-of-way rules. 
  • Avoiding unnecessary risks. 

The “Rules of the Road” are in place to help us all practice the golden rules of driving every time we get behind the wheel.

What are the Rules of the Road?

The Rules of the Road describes the traffic laws and driving norms that govern the flow of traffic on public roads. 

In the United States, the rules of the road for each state are covered in detail in the official driver handbook. 

Becoming familiar with the Rules of the Road for your state is the first step in getting your driver’s license

The DMV written test, which you’ll need to take when applying for your learner’s permit or driver’s license, is based on information found in your driver handbook and will test your knowledge on some of the most important rules of the road. 

Whenever you drive on public roads with other vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians, it is your responsibility to understand and follow these rules

Failing to do so can result in traffic tickets, penalties, and accidents. 

These are things that every driver must obey. 

We’ll cover some of the most important ones below.

While traffic laws differ from state to state, there are some universal rules of the road that must be followed anywhere you drive.

You can get familiar with the Rules of the Road in your state by studying the driver’s handbook

1. Speed Limits and Basic Speed Rules

One of the first rules of the road to know is speed limits and basic speed laws

First, speed limit signs as well as “prima facie” speed limits must be obeyed at all times. 

Speed limit signs dictate the maximum speed you can drive under good driving conditions. 

Prima facie speed limits describe general speed limits you must follow even if no signs are posted. These will typically depend on the type of road and area you are driving in (e.g. business districts, residential areas, rural areas, highways.)

On top of all this are Basic Speed Laws.

These state that you must never drive any faster than what is safe for current conditions, which may very well be below the posted speed limit.

2. Drive on the Right Side of the Road and Obey Lane Markings

In the United States, cars drive on the right side of the road and on the right side of the center lane divider. 

Following this basic rule of the road is imperative to maintaining a safe flow of traffic and avoiding collisions. 

Additionally, drivers must recognize and obey lane markings painted on the road. 

Arrows painted in certain lanes indicate which directions the driver may travel. 

The color of the lane marking will tell you which way traffic is moving. 

Yellow lines divide traffic moving in opposite directions.

White lines divide lanes of traffic moving in the same direction.

Furthermore, whether a lane marking is solid, broken, or double indicates whether or not it can be crossed.

Generally, solid lines must not be crossed and broken lines can be crossed over to pass or change lanes when safe to do so.

3. Communicate with Other Drivers

Next, it is important to communicate your intentions with other drivers. 

The main way to do this is by using your turn signals. 

Before turning or changing lanes, you should use your turn signal for at least 100 feet. 

This gives other drivers enough time to recognize your signal and make any necessary adjustments to their speed or lane position. 

Failing to do so can increase the risk of a collision and create unnecessary hazards. 

Along with turn signal communication, you’ll also need to respect and follow the Right of Way Rules at intersections. 

First, always yield to cars already in the intersection and any pedestrians crossing or beginning to cross the street. 

Next, obey all traffic lights and road signs that control the intersection. 

The car to arrive at the intersection first should be the first to go. 

If two cars arrive at the intersection at the same time, the car on the left should yield to the car on the right. 

4. Obey all Road Signs and Traffic Lights

Road signs come in a variety of different shapes and colors to communicate different things. 

White, black, and red signs are regulatory signs that communicate traffic laws that must be followed. 

Yellow and black warning signs communicate potential hazards and changes in the road that you’ll need to pay attention to and adjust your driving for. 

Traffic lights control intersections and crosswalks, and also must be obeyed at all times. 

By recognizing and obeying traffic lights and road signs at all times, you’ll help make the roads a safer place. 

Failing to do so can result in traffic tickets or causing an accident. 

Use our study guide to learn about the road signs for the DMV written test.

5. Keep a Safe Following Distance

Next up is maintaining a safe following distance and avoiding driving behind the vehicle in front of you too closely. 

Under normal, good driving conditions a 3-second following distance is often recommended.

This is known as the 3-second rule. 

The ideal following distance will vary with speed, road conditions, traffic, and other variables. 

Your following distance should be increased under poor driving conditions, bad weather, when driving behind a motorcycle, when driving behind a large truck, and when driving near a bicyclist. 

6. Share the Road

Everyone is responsible for sharing the road with other drivers, trucks, motorcyclists, bicycles, and pedestrians. 

It is your responsibility to pay attention to what other road users are doing and respond accordingly while following the rules of the road, obeying traffic laws, and being respectful and safe. 

Sharing the road takes a number of different forms under different driving scenarios, including:

  • Allowing other vehicles to change lanes, return to the roadway, or turn when they signal their intentions to do so. 
  • Staying out of other driver’s blind spots and staying out of the No Zones near large trucks.
  • Respecting the right of way at intersections. 
  • Yielding to pedestrians. 
  • Keeping a safe distance around bicyclists. 
  • Allowing motorcycles to use the full lane. 

7. Always Drive Safely and Responsibly

Finally, a key rule of the road is to always be safe and responsible when you get behind the wheel. 

Safety and responsibility take different forms, including rules governed by laws. This includes:

  • Not driving distracted. 
  • Not texting and driving or using your cellphone.. 
  • Never driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 
  • Pull off the road to rest if you are too tired. 
  • Making sure you and your passengers are wearing seat belts.
  • Making sure children are in the appropriate child seat. 
  • Using your headlights when visibility is reduced. 

If you do all of these things, you are well on your way to becoming a safe and responsible driver. 

You’ll avoid traffic tickets, avoid driving record points, reduce your chances of being involved in a crash, and you’ll probably earn some lower rates and discounts on your car insurance along the way.  

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