Fact or fiction: Crazy car laws debunked


Robyn Parets

Robyn Parets

Blog author Robyn Parets

Robyn Parets is a personal finance and business writer based in Boston. A former writer for Investor's Business Daily (IBD) and NerdWallet, Robyn is also the founder and owner of Pretzel Kids, a children's fitness brand and online training course. You can find her on Twitter @RobynParets.

Published March 23, 2016|4 min read

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Did you know that it’s illegal to drive blindfolded in Alabama? Or that it’s against the law to drive in Alaska with a dog tied to the roof of your car? These car laws may sound crazy and some accounts say they’re true. Yet, with so much information circulating, it’s hard to know which car laws are real and which are merely Internet lore or old wive’s tales.To help weed out the fact from the fiction, we’ve debunked 7 ludicrous car laws.

1. Fact: In Oregon, it’s illegal to drive with a child on the hood or fender of your car. It’s also probably not very wise. Take note, however, that it’s ok to drive with an unrestrained minor in the open bed of your pickup truck if you are driving between hunting sites during deer season. The one caveat: That child has to have a hunting license, according to Oregon state legislation.2. Fiction: If you’re a woman in California you might want to look fashion-forward or at least put on street clothes before hopping in your car to drive. Over the years, you may have read the outlandish stories stating that it’s illegal for women to drive while wearing housecoats. Yet, we couldn’t find an actual law; the website Dumb Laws lists it, but can't come up with the full text of the law like it can with others, so we chalk this up to urban legend.3. Fact: In New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, you’ve got to remove snow from your car roof before driving. If caught driving with your car roof covered with snow, you could be looking at a $75 to $500 ticket, depending on which state you’re in. This is no small matter in Connecticut and Pennsylvania. If you’re driving in Connecticut and snow or ice comes loose from your car, causing injury or property damage, you could be fined $200 to $1,250. In Pennsylvania, that same offense can cost you $200 to $1,000.

4. Fiction: In Missouri it’s illegal to drive with an uncaged bear. Despite many stories floating around the Internet, we found no such law on the books. And considering how easy it is to find laws surrounding bear wrestling in Missouri, you'd think it would be just as simple to find this law if it were true. Generally speaking, however, it’s a wise idea to keep bears caged if you plan to drive them around town. Otherwise, you could be in for a dangerous road trip.5. Fact: In Massachusetts, you’ve got to turn your headlights on while driving in the rain and fog. This new law, passed in April 2015, could result in a meager $5 ticket if you’re pulled over. Yet, even a minor ticket like this could cause your insurance premiums to rise for several years. Also, Massachusetts drivers may want to be aware that the new law states that, in poor visibility, they have to turn on their headlights from half an hour after sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise.6. Fiction: Speaking of Massachusetts, it’s illegal to drive with a gorilla in your backseat in the Bay State. This one is as silly as Missouri’s uncaged bear urban legend. The official blog of the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries admits that this isn't true, but it might have stemmed from a real-life law about the general transport of animals. So while technically true, there's no such gorilla-specific law on the books.7. Fact: In New Jersey, here’s a pet law you might want to know about: You need to buckle up your pets while you’re driving. Unrestrained pets can result in a $250 to $1,000 ticket. In fact, police can issue a citation if you’re caught driving with a pet in the front seat, on your lap, in the back of your pickup truck or even partially hanging out a window.And, just for trivia night fun, here’s one more real car law that sounds more like folklore. In Derby, Kansas, you might want to think twice about peeling out of a parking spot. That’s because screeching tires could result in a $500 fine or send you to jail for 30 days, according to the city’s municipal code of ordinances. Yikes.

Image: Thomas Hawk