We’re all used to following certain rules when we get behind the wheel of our cars but in other parts of the world, the driving laws are very different – and some of them can seem quite strange to us.
For example, in Japan, it’s considered rude to honk your horn, while in Sweden, it’s illegal to wash your car on a Sunday.
And in China, drivers must give way to pedestrians – even if they’re jaywalking.
But why do these different countries have such different driving laws? Well, often it’s because they’re trying to promote a certain behaviour on their roads.
For instance, by making it illegal to honk your horn, Japan is encouraging its drivers to be more considerate and patient.
So next time you’re planning a road trip abroad, make sure you brush up on the local driving laws – or you could end up with a hefty fine!
Japan – no honking allowed!
In Japan, it is considered very rude to honk your horn while driving. This is because honking is only meant to be used in emergencies. If you honk unnecessarily, you’re not only breaking the law, but you’re also causing a disturbance for other drivers and pedestrians.
This means that if you’re driving in Japan and you find yourself getting frustrated with the flow of traffic, resist the urge to honk your horn. You’ll avoid a potential fine, and you’ll also be showing respect for those around you.
Sweden – no car washing on Sundays!
In Sweden, it’s illegal to wash your car on a Sunday. This rule is in place to conserve water and reduce pollution. This rule exists to help reduce water usage and pollution on a day when many people are typically at home and not using their cars. By not washing their car on a Sunday, drivers can save water and help the environment.
Also in Switzerland, drivers cannot wash their car on a Sunday morning and in Portugal, it is illegal to wash your car on the street.
China – give way to pedestrians!
In China, drivers must give way to pedestrians – even if they’re jaywalking. That means even if pedestrians are crossing the road where there is no designated crossing, the driver must still stop their vehicle. This rule is in place to promote safety on the roads – and prevent accidents and collisions.
Thailand – it is illegal to drive without a shirt
In Thailand, it’s illegal to drive without wearing a shirt. This rule is in place to promote modesty and prevent public nudity. Shirtless driving is punishable by a fine of up to 1,000 baht (approximately £12). It is also illegal to drive without a shirt in Malaysia, Ecuador, Honduras and Guatemala.
Germany – it is illegal to run out of fuel on the Autobahn
In Germany, it is illegal to run out of fuel on the Autobahn. This rule is in place to promote safety on the roads and if you do, then you could be fined up to £60. This rule helps to ensure the safety of all drivers because running out of fuel can be extremely dangerous, not only for the driver but for other motorists as well.
It is also illegal to run out of fuel in Japan and Portugal – where you cannot carry a fuel can in the boot either.
France – it is illegal to drive in flip flops
In France, it is illegal to drive in flip flops. This rule is in place to promote road safety. Driving in flip flops can be distracting and dangerous, plus they are not the best footwear for driving, as they can easily slip off and get caught under the pedals.
It is also illegal to drive in flip flops in Germany too.
USA – You can turn right at a red light
In the United States, it is perfectly legal to turn right at a red light, if there is no sign stating otherwise. This may seem strange to drivers from other countries, but it can be convenient. You must, however, give way to pedestrians and oncoming traffic. In some US states, turning right at a red light is not allowed unless there is a sign specifically permitting it. If you’re not sure, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and wait for a green light.
Russia – driving a dirty car
It is illegal to drive a dirty car in Russia. If you are caught driving a dirty car, you will be fined. The amount of the fine will depend on how dirty your car is. If your car is very dirty, you may even be required to clean it before you are allowed to continue driving. So, if you plan on driving in Russia, make sure to keep your car clean!
In the UK, you cannot drive a car with dirty number plates because this will obscure the plates from ANPR camera detection.
Cyprus – taking your hands off the steering wheel
In Cyprus, you risk a fine if you take your hand off the steering wheel. This rule – the law states ‘raising his hand from the vehicle unnecessarily’ – is strictly enforced and there are many signs around the island warning drivers to always keep their hands on the wheel. If you are caught doing so, you will be fined €25 (£21).
Spain – Keep a spare set of glasses
In Spain, if you wear glasses (or contact lenses) you will need to keep a spare set in your car. This isn’t such a daft law since if you need glasses to drive, it makes sense to have a spare pair rather than risking driving without perfect vision. However, the Spanish law that states that the front passenger cannot put their feet on the dashboard while the vehicle is moving risks an £85 fine is another one to be aware of.
Other potential fines for driving offences in Spain include throwing a cigarette from the car, eating ice cream while driving and being behind the wheel while wearing a cap or hat that covers the ears. Spain also fines drivers for driving with an arm or hand outside of the vehicle, driving without a shirt on and driving in flip-flops or while barefoot.
USA – There’s a lot going on
While most countries have bizarre driving laws, there are some very unusual ones in the USA. Most states have their own level of daft driving laws and here’s a quick rundown of some of them:
- In California, you cannot jump from a car travelling at 65mph, or have an unoccupied vehicle travelling faster than 60mph.
- The state also prohibits the driving of a car while wearing a dressing gown (for women), while San Francisco has made it illegal to buff or dry a car using underwear.
- Elsewhere, Alaskans are banned from tying a dog to their car roof, while having a gorilla in your back seat is banned in Massachusetts.
- In Alabama, you cannot drive while blindfolded – which makes sense, but the state also decrees that you can drive the wrong way along a one-way street but only if you have a lantern attached to the front of your car.
- Enjoy reading? Then you can’t drive and read a comic book in Oklahoma.
Other European driving laws
It’s not just in America where there are odd driving laws, Europe – as we have seen – also has its fair share. We can also add to the list:
- In France, you need to carry a breathalyser
- Danish drivers must check for children hiding underneath their car before setting off
- Cyprus has banned the drinking or eating of anything while driving.
And special mention must go to the drivers of South Africa who risk a severe fine if they do not stop or slow down for a herd of livestock.
There’s also a no splashing pedestrians’ law in Japan and the UK, while in Manila you cannot drive in the Philippines’ capital on Mondays if your license plate ends with a 1 or 2.
Incredible Driving Rules from Around the World
These are some of the strangest and most interesting driving laws from around the world. From not being allowed to drive shirtless in Thailand to not sounding your horn in Japan, these laws help to promote safety on the roads.
While they may seem strange at first, they’re actually quite helpful in keeping everyone safe.
So, the next time you’re driving in a foreign country, be sure to brush up on the local laws to avoid any potential accidents.
And don’t forget that foreign drivers probably think that here in the UK, we have weird driving rules too including flashing oncoming traffic to warn them about a speed trap, sleeping in the car while drunk and driving too slowly.