Frequently asked questions on traffic law

By: 
Joshua Waddles
Staff Writer

Assistant Chief Jim Bailey and Lieutenant Doye DelaCruz with the Malvern Police Department answered frequently asked questions.

Can you get a ticket for running a yellow light?

No. The yellow light is meant to warn people that the light is about to change. But drivers, for safety, should stop at a yellow light if they are safely able to stop.

What does the flashing yellow arrow mean?

The yellow arrow means that you may turn only if there is no traffic heading in your direction. For a green arrow signal, the light for oncoming traffic is red, but for a yellow arrow, the light for oncoming traffic is green. Yield on yellow.

Can I turn right on a red light?

Yes, after coming to a complete stop, if traffic is clear.

On opposite sides of a two-way stop, who has right of way?

The driver turning in the path of another driver must yield. In a situation where one driver is turning left and the driver on the opposite end is turning right, the driver turning left must yield.

Who has right of way at a four-way stop?

The driver to the right.

Who has right of way when merging onto a highway?

The driver on the highway. The person merging must yield.

Are U-turns legal?

  No

What is the speed limit for unmarked rural roads?

   30 miles per hour in the city, 40 mph in the county is the standard speed limit unless otherwise posted.

Is it illegal for someone to ride in the back of a pickup truck?
 
Yes. Passengers may only ride in a part of a vehicle which is designed for passengers.

Can I have tinted windows?

With restrictions. Windows for the passenger side and driver’s side can not be darker than 25% tinting. Windows in the back seat may be tinted darker as long as the car has side and rear-view mirrors.

Where is it legal to drive a vehicle like a four-wheeler on city or county roads?
 
Nowhere. Four-wheelers can’t be ridden on roads maintained by the city or county.

What are the cellphone rules?

Paul’s law makes it illegal to text while driving. It is illegal to talk on a cellphone, using one (or more) hands while driving, unless it is an emergency or the person is a law enforcement officer, EMT or firefighter using the phone for work. Cell phones are also prohibited in School Zones.

Hands-free devices are allowed while driving, but not in a highway work zone or for people under the age of 18.

Is it illegal to drive without wearing a seatbelt?

The driver and front passenger are required to wear a seatbelt by law. For passengers in the back seat, seat belts are only required if the passenger is age 15 or younger.

When am I required to have the headlights on?

Any time with low visibility, such as in fog or rain. Drivers often say that they can see just fine, but the rule about headlights is to make it easier for other drivers to see you.

What distance must I be from the vehicle ahead of me?

It varies depending on speed and size of the car, but the rule of thumb is 1 to 1 and a half car length for every 10 miles per hour that your vehicle is driving.

If I’m in an accident, do I move out of the street, or leave the vehicle where it is so the responding officer can tell what happened?

If there are no injuries, state law requires the drivers to move their vehicles out of the road, if possible. If there are injuries, parties should do whatever is prudent to protect the injured person.

The responding officer has other ways to determine fault in an accident: vehicle damage, debris on the road, and witnesses if there are any.

To report an accident, do I call 911, or the police/sheriff?

Always call 911.

What is the law on child car seats?

A child from Birth to one year of age must be in a car seat and rear facing. If the child is six years old or younger, and/or 60 pounds or under, the child must be in a car seat.

Do children under a certain age have to be in the back seat?

It’s not a law, it’s a federal guideline for safety. Airbag deployment hitting a child in the head can cause serious injury, so children should ride in the back seats whenever possible. If that is not possible, the seat should go as far back as possible. Passenger airbags should be turned off, if that is an option. If not, booster seats help a child sit more securely in a seat belt and help raise the child’s head above the airbag deployment area.

Is it legal for me to use my own vehicle to tow another vehicle?

Yes, but only with equipment specifically designed for towing, such as a tow bar or a vehicle trailer.

Can I be charged for having open alcohol container even if I’m not drunk?

Yes. The charge is called “drinking on the highway.”

Do I get charged if drugs are located in my vehicle?

It is possible for the driver and every passenger to be charged if drugs are discovered in a vehicle. Under “constructive possession,” anyone in the vehicle who has subject to dominion and control to the drugs may be charged. 

If a person in the vehicle voluntarily admits that the drugs are theirs, then only that person may be charged.

Can I get charged with DWI if I’m drunk on a bicycle?

The DWI law is for operating a motor-vehicle. A bicycle doesn’t qualify as a motor-vehicle. In that situation, it would probably be a charge of public intoxication.

If I see another driver who’s obviously drunk, can I report them?

You can call 911 to report any erratic driving, alcohol related or not.

If I turn at a green light and get hit by someone going forward, am I still responsible if the other driver was speeding?

Yes. The person who turns into oncoming traffic is responsible, even if the other driver is speeding.

Am I required to wear a helmet on a motorcycle?

If the operator is 21 or older, then helmets are not required. If the operator is under 21, then helmets are required. All operators are required to wear eye protection.
 

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