How Different Cities May Vary On Traffic Laws

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A Brief History

In 1923, The Highway Traffic Act (HTA) (the Act), which regulates the licensing of vehicles, classification of traffic offences, administration of loads, classification of vehicles, and other transport related issues, was first introduced in Ontario, Canada to deal with increasing accidents during the early years of motoring.  It goes without saying, that different countries have different traffic rules and regulations. It may, therefore, be a challenge for newcomers and visitors of certain destinations, especially major cities when trying to adapt to new traffic rules. In addition to this, familiarizing yourself with different traffic rules will also help in avoiding traffic violations, hefty fines, and a possible jail term.

Some cities have strict traffic laws that, if violated, could cost you more than monetary penalties. Understanding traffic laws is also important and can help you protect yourself from car accidents, in addition to making your drive more interesting and stress-free. Needless to mention, getting involved in a car accident in a different city can be overly frustrating and in most cases, you’d require the best legal help you can get to defend your rights, especially if you weren’t the one at fault. You can find more information here from experts at Preszler Law about how a car accident attorney can help you in case you’re involved in an accident overseas, but failing to learn the various applicable traffic laws in the city you’re traveling to is not an option. So, if you’ve been looking for a brief guide on traffic laws applicable in major cities, you are in the right place. Here’s how different cities may vary on traffic laws.

Digging Deeper

London, United Kingdom (UK)

An unusual road at London Heathrow Airport, England. Traffic is held at the barrier while a British Airways Boeing 777-236ER is towed across the road on its way to the maintenance hangars. This picture is now of historic interest. In approx 2007, the road was rerouted and aircraft are no longer held up waiting for the crossing to open. Photographed by Adrian Pingstone (Arpingstone) in April 2005 and released to the public domain.

Even though it’s majorly a busy city when it comes to traffic, driving in London is somewhat fun, especially if you hail from the United States of America, it can be a bit of a challenge. This is because, first, you’ll have to adapt to right-hand driving. For some people, it might take more than a day before they get used to RHD. Traveling by car in London is perhaps the best way of experiencing the city while appreciating nature; however, you may also want to get prepared to deal with something else… bureaucracy and strict traffic laws. Let’s take a look at some of the most common traffic rules in London;

  • Seatbelts must be worn at all times by the driver and the passengers on board- children under the age of 14 are the driver’s responsibility in ensuring that they’re buckled up. For those under the age of 12, the driver has to ensure that they’re provided with a child seat, failure to do this may incur you some hefty fines.
  • It’s illegal to operate mobile devices such as smartphones while driving. However, hands-free options will be tolerated.
  • Speeding in London is deemed illegal. While driving within the city, one is required to keep their speed limit below 48km/h and maintain a speed of 96km/h while on single lane carriageways. On dual lane carriageways, you are allowed to maintain a speed of 112km/h.
  • If you must park in the city, ensure that it’s the right designated parking areas or otherwise, you’ll find your car towed or clamped.

Los Angeles (LA)

Well, most of us know it from the movies, with much of its popularity comes from the fact that it is home for Hollywood, the dream of every creative arts enthusiast. The other thing that is fascinating about the Angel city is that driving in LA is full of fun. This is especially the case if you’re driving on major highways such as the Pacific Coast, Alameda Street, Venice Boulevard, the Decker Canyon Road, and Santa Monica Boulevard, just to name a few. Most traffic rules in LA are basically a translation of the United States traffic rules. This is because, while in the United States, you are required to drive on the right side unless overtaking. Known worldwide for the car culture, Los Angeles is also famously known as the City of Angels. Here are some of the rules that make up the basic traffic laws in Los Angeles, CA.

  • Keep right unless overtaking
  • The minimum age for driving in LA is 16 years; however, one is expected to possess a valid U.S license or a valid international driver’s license
  • All private vehicles must be fitted with seatbelts and the driver must ensure that everyone on board is buckled up.
  • While at intersections, you are required to give way to pedestrians. Most crosswalks are painted, but a majority of them are regulated with traffic lights.
  • California has strict drunk driving laws prohibiting anyone from driving under the influence. In addition to this, the minimum required drinking age in California is 21.
  • Failure to stick to these traffic rules could earn your tickets, fines, and a possible jail term.

Moscow, Russia

According to the Russian traffic rules, a police officer is allowed to stop you for no good reason and at any given time. While the traffic officer is inspecting the vehicle, you are not allowed to exit the vehicle unless under the instructions of the officer. It’s imperative that you provide all the required documents, including passport/visa, migration card, car registration papers, insurance policy, and a certificate of annual inspection. In addition to this, it’s a requirement to carry important items such as an emergency triangle, a reflective vest (preferably neon), and a first aid kit. Let’s take a look at the other traffic laws in Moscow;

  • You are required to drive on the right side of the road
  • The Russian minimum age to drive is 18yrs
  • It’s a mandatory requirement for the occupants of a moving vehicle to wear seat belts at all times as long as the vehicle is in motion.
  • It’s illegal to drive a dirty car, especially if the license plates are covered in dirt.
  • It’s illegal to cross a double white line in Moscow.

As you can see, if you are planning to visit any major city in the world, it’s important to research the traffic rules and regulations applicable there. This will allow you to drive safely while ensuring that you stay on the good side of the law.

Question for students (and subscribers): Are there any traffic laws that you think are unreasonable?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Romer, Carrol.  The Law Traffic Manual: Road, River Law Air to in London and Elsewhere (Classic Reprint).  Forgotten Books, 2012.

Seo, Sarah A.  Policing the Open Road: How Cars Transformed American Freedom.  Harvard University Press, 2019.

The featured image in this article, a photograph by Arthur Goss of a gas station at 376 Dupont Street, Toronto on October 31, 1923, is in the public domain in Canada, because its copyright has expired due to one of the following:

1. it was subject to Crown copyright and was first published more than 50 years ago, or

it was not subject to Crown copyright, and

2. it is a photograph that was created prior to January 1, 1949, or
3. the creator died more than 50 years ago.

This image is available from the City of Toronto Archives, listed under the archival citation Series 372, Subseries 58, Item 1059.

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About Author

Abdul Alhazred

“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked. "Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad." "How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice. "You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn’t have come here.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland