5 Driving Habits People Think Are Illegal But Aren't

As you head down the road, you’re constantly reminding yourself about all the laws you learned years ago when you first took your driving test. In the mix of that, there are also other rules that people have led you to believe. After all these years, it’s difficult to remember what is actually a law and what’s a suggestion.

It might surprise you to find out that these five things aren’t illegal. How many of them do you do?

1. Riding in the Back of a Pickup Truck

Many people assume that because a truck bed doesn’t have seat belts that it’s illegal to ride in one. Actually, many U.S. states have no law regarding this form of transportation.

You’ll want to check your local rules as nineteen states currently have no laws regarding this action. Others have some limitations in place even though it’s technically legal. There are a few that have some restrictions requiring that it’s an enclosed bed while others only leave provisions for workers or employees.

Others require riders to be a certain age or remain seated while the ride is in motion. If you live in an area with rural roads, this is another area that many states allow travel in the pickup bed. For example, in Ohio, the law states that you can ride in the bed while on rural roads, but not on interstate or state highways. It’s also permitted for farming purposes and during parades as long as speeds remain under 25 mph.

While it might sound like a lot of fun, this is actually quite dangerous. Just imagine what might happen to you if that truck flips over. In fact, four people were killed back in 2013 when a pickup carrying more than ten kids flipped in Alabama.

Illegal? No. Safe? Also no.

2. Driving Barefoot

Sometimes you are in a hurry and simply don’t have the time to grab your shoes. Maybe you even consciously choose not to wear shoes while driving because it’s more comfortable. Either way, driving barefoot is completely legal in every state.

Some states do have laws regarding riding on a motorcycle without shoes, but none mention a passenger vehicle. Some states have even recommended driving barefoot instead of wearing flip-flops, high heels or any heavy footwear that might alter the pressure on your pedals.

Just because you can drive barefoot doesn’t mean you should. In fact, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles stated back in 2012 that driving barefoot might compromise your vehicle control. They feel that driving without shoes or socks is dangerous because your feet might slip off the pedals, but again, it’s not illegal.

Furthermore, driving without footwear can’t lead to a ticket, but we aren’t sure what would happen in the event of an accident. Even though driving barefoot isn’t illegal, you could get a citation for reckless or negligent driving if you’re found at fault in an accident.

Driving Naked

While we are talking about driving au naturel, let’s briefly touch on being naked. Public nudity laws aside, it’s completely legal to drive your car naked. This is helpful if you have a panoramic sunroof and you’re working on a full-body tan.

Just make sure you check your local laws regarding public nudity. The trouble is that getting into your car and back out of it might lead to trouble with the law. If anyone sees you, you might end up with a public lewdness charge.

Each state also specifies different guidelines as to what nudity is. For example, in New York, Hawaii, Maine, Ohio, and Texas, women are allowed to be topless anywhere a man is.

3. Warning Others of a Speed Trap

Did you know that it’s your First Amendment right to flash your headlights at other drivers to warn them of a speed trap? That’s what a Federal Judge ruled in 2014. Prior to that, you faced a ticket because cops claimed you were interfering with an investigation.

Headlight flashing refers to the act of switching on and off your headlights or engaging the high beams for a moment. It’s often called the “optical horn” because you draw attention from other drivers.

Of course, you’ll see this tactic used for multiple other reasons like warning drivers of a road hazard. It’s also a form of aggressive driving, which would be illegal.

Radar Detectors

While we are on the subject of speed traps, let’s touch on the radar detector. Many people believe these are illegal, but they aren’t unless you drive in Virginia or the District of Columbia. It’s important to note, you can’t use them in a commercial vehicle or on a military base either.

4. Swearing at a Cop

You know that you’ve muttered some choice words at a cop before, but what if you said it out loud? Would that land you in jail? Referring to your First Amendment rights once again, it’s not illegal to swear at a police officer. You have protection over what you speak.

This doesn’t give you the right to be careless. You still need to be careful. Swearing in public is illegal in some states like Virginia. In addition, you could be cited for disorderly conduct if the officer feels you’re inciting violence with your words.

I’m not really sure it’s worth taking the chance on. The last thing you really want to do when you’re pulled over is piss off the cop any more.

Flipping the Bird

Which leads us into giving a cop the finger. Just like cursing, we can’t recommend this as a good option. However, this won’t lead you to jail either.

5. Turning Right on a Red Light

Contrary to popular belief, right turns on red are permitted almost everywhere in the United States unless otherwise specified. A full stop is usually required prior to proceeding. These laws date back to the 1970s when the government was helping conserve fuel during the shortages.

The exception to this includes anywhere that has signage banning the practice. It’s also prohibited in New York City. Some states such as Nebraska, Virginia, New York, North Carolina and California will utilize a red arrow on the traffic light when you aren’t allowed to make a turn.


As far as U-turns are concerned, these are also permitted at many intersections from the left turning lane. When planning a U-turn, you also need to watch for signs prohibiting this practice.

Does This Change The Way You Will Drive?

Knowing that these guidelines aren’t actually laws, are you planning to change the way you drive at all? Maybe you’ve been dreaming of heading down that back road in your truck bed. If you’re more adventurous, you’ve thought about commuting to work without clothes or shoes on. For the tame, even driving through a red light to make a turn might feel like you’re breaking some sort of law – but you aren’t unless signs are stating otherwise.

Let us know about any driving rules you thought were laws – maybe we will do a part 2 in the future!

We are not attorneys. This article is not legal advice.

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