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Strange driving laws around the world – Avoid doing this!

You might think that the law is always created to deal with important problems, and that all laws around the world are carefully thought through, sensible ones. Not so! There are some very strange driving laws around, and we thought you'd find them amusing.

On the serious side, if you fall foul of any of them while driving abroad you'll be in trouble. The moral of the story? Always check the local driving laws if you are going to be driving in another country. Never assume they're the same as the laws in your home country. And don't expect overseas driving laws to make logical sense!

17 weird driving laws to watch out for

On Prince Edward Island:

This strange rule appears in the province's Driver's Handbook: "Remember, when passing, the law requires that you signal your intention and sound your horn." On the other hand the island's Registrar of Motor Vehicles says the law hasn't actually been enforced for many years.

In Denmark:

One has to assume that several sleeping children have been run over by unsuspecting drivers in Denmark, otherwise this strange law wouldn't have been created. Wherever you are setting off to, whatever time of day or night, you must check under your car just in case. If you're spotted by the police you will be told off for not checking. We can't find the origins of this weird law, they must be lost in the mists of time.

In Finland

If you are a musician and make your living through royalties, you'll like what they've done in Finland. The country's Supreme Court says taxi drivers must pay a small royalty fee if they want to play music in the car while they have a passenger, whether it's a CD or the radio. The chairman of the Helsinki Taxi Driver Association, however, insists that the rule won't stop taxi drivers from playing their radios anyway, and the law is probably very difficult to enforce. 

In Mexico:

Cyclists' international right to use roads has been enshrined in international law since 1968 thanks to the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic. It says bicycles have the same legal status as motor vehicles, and cyclists have the same legal status as drivers. More than 150 countries are bound by the treaty, including the USA, Mexico, New Zealand, Japan and China. As for keeping both feet on the pedals, it's simply the safest way to ride, particularly important in a country where many people drive like lunatics!

In Florida:

This is an old law and, as far as we can tell, no longer officially applies. John Ringling owned the Ringling Brothers Circus. He used elephants to help build a causeway to St. Armand's Circle, these days a popular tourist destination. At roughly the same time, parking meters started arriving in the USA. According to the Orlando Police Department in Florida, a search of the past 5 years' Florida Statute law books reveals no such state law today, although it may have existed in the past.

In Costa Rica:

You can legally drink alcohol and drive in Costa Rica, which means drink driving is the norm. But it isn't actually that simple. If you have been driving for less than 3 years you are considered a novice driver, which means you are allowed a lower legal level of alcohol in your blood than experienced drivers. A novice driver gets a penalty if they are found to have more than 0.50 grams of alcohol in their body, and 0.20 to 0.50 grams leads to a larger fine. The more you drink, the less experienced you are, bigger the fine.

In Ecuador:

The speed limits in Ecuador depend on the type of vehicle and the road. When you drive within the speed limit, all is well. If you exceed the limit 'moderately' you're fined 30% of the country's basic salary and lose 6 points off your driving license. If you exceed the speed limit by a lot, you can be fined the basic monthly salary, lose 10 points off your license, or even spend three days in prison without a trial. Ouch.

In Brazil:

Road traffic accidents cost Brazil around US$32 billion every year. The country's Lei Seca or Dry Law means it is an offence to drive with more than 6 decigrams of alcohol per litre of blood but the police can fine or ban anyone with more than 2 decigrams per litre of blood, figures that come very close to zero tolerance. The laws have wide public support and these days when Brazilians want to go out for a drink, they take public transport.

In Italy:

Italian Law requires that all cars are fitted with either snow tyres or snow chains on most major roads, and that includes motorways. You must keep snow chains in the car if it starts to snow, and hire firms have to provide car hire customers with the right cold weather equipment if it snows. It's actually a sensible law since snow can be deadly on the roads and safety matters.

In Germany:

The German rules for the road, the Straßenverkehrsordnung, say it's totally illegal to stop on the highway. When you run out of fuel it's a matter of human error, all your own fault, so you're punished. Many rural sections of the country's brilliant autobahns don't have a formal speed limit, and stopped cars cluttering the road can be very dangerous when everyone's driving so fast. It's your job to ensure you have enough fuel or prepare for a fine.

In South Africa:

South Africa's remarkable wildlife deserves protection. It's wild... so the creatures roam freely and often cross the roads. It's your job to give them the space they need, for their own safety as well as your safety – they can be dangerous when scared, particularly when they are young. Avoid driving at dawn or dusk, when most animals are feeding. Don't drive at night. And stay inside your vehicle unless you come across an official rest stop – that's the best way to avoid fines.

In Botswana:
It makes perfect sense to fine people if they carry animals on their motorbikes, when the animals restrict your view of the road. In a country where people regularly carry livestock, everything from hens to pigs and goats, on their motorbikes, the roads are often very poor quality, and driving skills poor, it's sensible to take great care. No wonder safety has been enshrined in the law.

In Beijing:

China's traffic laws are not very well enforced and there are a lot of accidents. Some say as many as 260,000 people are killed in road accidents in China every year, mostly pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists. To help save lives, officials decided to get children in some provinces to salute passing cars. Doing so gets the children into the habit of stopping safely for traffic, and also gets drivers into the habit of spotting children by the roadside and driving more safely.

In Thailand:

The so-called Thai Underwear Law says you can't drive without a top in Thailand, whether you're a man or a woman, either in cars or on motorbikes. If the police spot you, you'll either get told off or be given an on-the-spot fine. It makes a lot of sense. Fall off a motorbike without protective clothing and you will hurt yourself, potentially quite badly. It's worth remembering that female toplessness is generally frowned upon in Thailand, even on the beaches, because it's considered disrespectful.

In Japan:

The Japanese are famously courteous, and splashing pedestrians with mud or water as you pass by in your car is very rude indeed. The Japanese call it mudding, and the same goes in Canada and Britain – you'll be fined if you splash someone because it is considered discourteous or reckless driving, and also signals you might be driving dangerously, not paying enough attention.

In Manila:

In Manila there's a special coding system to limit the number of cars on the road, in the face of terrible traffic jams and congestion. There's one day a week when you can't legally drive your car, determined by the last digit of your license plate. If your plate number ends in 1 and 2, you cannot take your car out on Monday. If it ends in 3 or 4, you cannot take your car out on Tuesday. If your plate number ends in 5 and 6, you cannot take your car out on Wednesdays. If it ends in 7 and 8, you cannot take your car out on Thursday, and if it's a 9 or 10 you're prevented from driving on Fridays.

In Western Australia:

Why potatoes? Why just 50kg? Western Australia is the only Australian state with a potato regulator. The Potato Marketing Corporation of Western Australia manages supplies of fresh potatoes in the region and dictates the potato market. The potato law lets the Corporation stop and search any vehicle they suspect of carrying more than 50kg of the vegetable. The law in this case is less about common sense, more about commerce.