Road Rules

Getting behind the wheel and finally being able to independently drive is exciting. 🎉 It may seem like taking the time to know the basics of your vehicle is not important. But⸺you guessed it!⸺it is. Not knowing your vehicle would be like showing up to a sports game as an athlete and expecting to win… without putting time into practicing. That’s not fun for anyone. 

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So, let’s get started. (Don’t worry, this section is short and you may know a lot of this already!)

Know Your Car

Get Ready – You’re About to Drive 🚙

Three things to remember when preparing to drive:

  1. Always check that your car is road-safe. This means the gas and brake pedals work, the tires have air in them and have enough “tread” on them (the raised part on your tires), and you can see out the windows.
  2. When you sit in the driver’s seat make sure you can easily reach the steering wheel (fun fact: you can move it up or down), the gas and brake pedals (obvious, yes, but we have to say it), the gear stick (so you can put the vehicle in “Drive,” “Reverse,” and in “Park”). 
  3. You’ll want to be able to see what is behind you in the rearview mirror ad (no surprises) both side mirrors which might mean you have to move them around. We’ll talk about how to do that in a minute. 

Clean the Windows and Mirrors 

The technical term is “visibility” and you need it when driving. 

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Your vehicle will have three mirrors. Make sure each one is angled so that you can see what is behind you and what is on either side of your vehicle. This will minimize the “blind spots” or areas you cannot see around your vehicle.

  • Your rearview mirror moves up and down and side to side. Keep it centered and angle it up or down so you can see cars behind you (if it’s angled too low you will see your vehicle’s trunk or sometimes even the back seat; if it’s too high you will see your vehicle’s ceiling… not helpful 😄).
  • Side mirrors also move up and down and left to right and they come with two options for how to adjust them (we can’t keep it too easy on you!). 
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  • Option A (standard): Sitting in the driver’s seat, move them right or left until you see the very edge of the handles on your front doors. 
  • Option B (from the Society of Automotive Engineers): Sitting in the driver’s seat, adjust your side mirrors out and away from the door handles so that when a vehicle moves out of sight in your rearview mirror, you can just then start to see it in a side mirror. 

What do the Dashboard Lights Mean?

When seated in the driver’s seat you will notice symbols on your dashboard, directly behind your steering wheel. These will light up to let you know if there is a problem with part of your car’s operating system. Don’t ignore these! 😵
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Battery is too low. It may not be able to charge itself as you drive. 

The fluids in your engine are too warm.s4pKxipf5cVwoU4F2Dwkq9FjjXJ0msco5mpIlRvRqcuTTUo6rUNnRlVT3DCVpaSqoitLHTjNSzainxRm3oajZAOnT7Itr55d 3l 18q1p0Zow2Iy7Jawm8A0J LYeD5WG7blhjAv9SkMa1ba8hEuWs

Your oil levels are not correct – might be time for an oil change!k labdgoQTXGa6a45uaiLvZYnnp6porW1yVoXzK8 CpWSH50fpqno4G9Yi5Mw znjFw4EAE8arw0F5Hy6Sr1nr2ZFIwR0ruHhMbuO8mrOBZaV8DVMT8obrim 3SaNvTRYdRSR3n4QsfDguelmD 7UuU

A general warning that means you need to have your engine checked.VIhA fAvpOAYAPbevzVMDKEyzzXmbPo8ZG14qKfRC16 E1M7Q17UyWAsX17foR09ajkHjeSd FIf0PiaE1GxNeCbYpx7

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Your vehicle is actively trying to maintain tire traction on the road. 

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Your brake fluids are low. Time to top it off. 

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This symbol usually comes on when there is a problem with the ABS system.

There is a problem with one or more airbags and you should get your vehicle checked for safety. XYvgREoY wNMf7w9uW9XB2rKzPydWO AMp bt0kMGiY ep7POB3kIgGESKUCVxDzybtIhHiDJ3IRob3oA

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This will appear when your high beam headlights are turned on. 

Electronic driver assist systems

There are two automatic technologies in many vehicles that will help you stay safe while driving. We mentioned them above. 

  1. Anti-locking braking system (ABS)
  2. Electronic Stability Control (ESC)

Each was designed to help your brakes not jam if you need to stop suddenly. When you are on an icy road, for example, the vehicle may automatically turn on the ABS and you’ll feel your brake pedal vibrate when you press it. This is normal so just continue applying pressure until you reach a stop. 

If the ABS light comes on and stays on, have your brakes checked right away. 

Safety in the Car

Safely Steering

There are a couple of ways to safely steer your vehicle (yay – options!). 

  • Hand-over-hand steering is when you place your hands on the right and left sides of the steering wheel and keep them there as you turn. 
  • Hand-to-hand steering (sometimes called push/pull) is when you start with your hands on each side of the steering wheel but let go of one side while turning and then reach across with the free hand to continue turning the wheel (visualize it for a moment and you’ll get it 🤔).
  • One-hand steering is permitted when backing up. This frees you up to look in your blind spots.
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The usual terminology of hand placement is to visualize an old-school wall clock with minute hands and hour hands. Then just place your own hands on your steering wheel at the 9 a.m. spot and the 3 p.m. spot.

Seatbelts and Child Restraints

Seatbelts! Aka that comfy hug on the road! Wearing a seat belt is required by law and once you become a driver you can actually get into trouble not only if you fail to wear a seatbelt but also if someone under age 16 in the vehicle you’re driving does not wear one (yikes!). So, it’s a big deal to make sure both you and your passengers are safely buckled in. 

For adults, pull the seat belt (both the lap belt and the shoulder harness) across your body and buckle it. For children, the rules differ based on age. 4KLayQ3VjtpCx42C23qfX7fnsAnnFKOl 5vrS 4iCHcxqeyZvuUUuL9KjXhwBLGMezeFatIrtnkK 3nr9 TJ0infS7 b4KmXIqXzVrgc DLGuQ8l2mBG3s1LsVF44Zgbirf34qg3v1MS3hMCWRD Vlk

👶🏾 Kids either under age 2, under 3 feet 4 inches tall, or under 40 pounds: Law requires a federally-approved car seat in the back seat that faces toward the back of the vehicle. 

🧒Kids under 8 yrs old or under 4 feet 8 inches tall: Law requires a federally approved car seat or booster seat in the back seat of the vehicle unless:

  • All other back seats are occupied by children 7 years old or younger
  • There isn’t a back seat 
  • The back seats face backward (to the back of the car) 
  • The car seat or booster cannot be safely latched into the back seats

In any of these cases, the child can sit in the front. Additionally, for medical reasons a child may sit in the front seat.

🧑 Kids at least 8 yrs or at least 4 feet 9 inches tall: Do not require a child or booster seat. 


The main rule here is to try to sit at least 10 inches away from where the airbags are stored within your car. This can include the airbag in your steering wheel and the airbag in the dashboard if you are a passenger. It is preferred to keep children away from the powerful side airbags in the front and back seats, if possible. 

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Additional occupant-protection rules

As the driver it is your job to ensure your passengers are safe (a big responsibility!). 

  • It is illegal to leave a child under age 6 by themselves in a vehicle. 
  • It is okay, however, to leave a child under age 6 in a vehicle as long as there is another child age 12 or older in the vehicle at the same time (not too confusing, right?). 
  • No matter how young or old your passenger is, it is illegal to leave a passenger (human or animal) in a hot vehicle, even if a window is opened. 

You can be held liable if this happens, so, simply don’t do it. 😎 Two more topics to go then we are done with this section! You’re doing great! 

Using Your Vehicle to Tow

Let’s start with what you cannot tow behind your vehicle: people on skates or rollerblades, bicycles, scooters, skateboards, or any related mode of transportation. If you have a pickup truck, you cannot carry passengers in the back “bed” of the truck unless it is equipped with approved seats and seatbelts. Also be very aware: when your vehicle is towing or carrying something heavy, the “handling” of your vehicle becomes harder to manage than if it were at its lightest weight.

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If, for example, you are going to tow a boat on a trailer or another vehicle, there are some rules to know and follow.  

  1. You can tow a vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 10,000 pounds or less. 
  2. You can tow a trailer coach or a 5th wheel travel trailer under 10,000 pounds GVWR in an unpaid tow if your own vehicle weighs more than 4,000 pounds.
  3. You can tow a 5th wheel travel trailer that weighs between 10,000 pounds and 15,000 pounds GVWR as long as the tow is endorsed and is unpaid. 
  4. You may not drive faster than 55 mph on a two lane undivided highway when towing a trailer. Stay in the furthest through lane on the right.
  5. You may not tow more than one vehicle with a Cass C license. 

Driving for a Greener Planet

To help keep our planet healthy as a driver keep these Green Driving tips in mind: 

  • Vehicle Maintenance – It sounds like boring work, but it is important! Put the time into making sure you have air in your tires, check the filters in your vehicle, and change your oil when it needs it. 
  • Driving Steadily – Now is not the time to put your racing hat on. As a responsible driver, monitor your speeds and gradually speed up or slow down as much as you can. 
  • Lighten Your Load – Get rid of extra weight in the form of luggage racks and items stored in your trunk or back seats. 
  • Consider an electric vehicle (EV) or a hydrogen fuel cell electric car – These vehicles do not emit the type of carbon emissions that gas-fueled vehicles do nor do they need an oil change. 

Know Your Paperwork

The last part of this section is important! Without these documents, you cannot legally drive. 😵 Let’s take a look at what your state requires in order for you to get behind the wheel. 

  1. Insurance is your way of proving you are financially responsible. 💸 You will usually make monthly payments to a car insurance company so that in the event of an accident, any payments owed will be covered. Here are the minimum coverage requirements in California.
    1. $15,000 for a single injury or death
    2. $30,000 for injury or death to multiple people 
    3. $5,000 in the event of property damage
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  1. Vehicle registration is your way of letting the state know you have a vehicle and you are driving it as a resident of the state. This needs to be renewed every year. If you sell your vehicle you must let the DMV know within five days. 
  2. License Plate must be fully visible and not covered.