The American Rules of the Road Quiz

By: Deborah Beckwin

On American roads, what side of the road do you drive on?

If you're not American, driving on the right side of the road may feel a little strange at first. This is especially true when you're making a turn or approaching an intersection.

In American cars, where is the steering wheel located?

Where the steering wheel is located corresponds with which side of the road you drive on. Typically, the steering wheel is located on the opposite of which side of the road you drive.

What do broken white lines on the road mean?

You'll see broken white lines on the road where are the are multiple lanes. A broken white line also means that you can pass into another lane.

What does a solid white line on the road mean?

The solid white line is typically found in two places. The first is near the shoulder or right-hand side of the road. The second is for turning lanes.

What do two solid yellow lines on the road indicate?

Yellow lines mean that you're on a road with traffic moving in opposite directions. If you go to the left of two solid yellow lines, you'd be driving into oncoming traffic.

What does it mean when you see a broken yellow line on your side of the road?

If you're on a road with a broken yellow line, most likely you're on a road with one lane each going in opposite directions. Sometimes there will be a solid line accompanying the broken line, which means you have to pay attention which side that broken line is on. Otherwise, since you're on a smaller road, with a broken yellow line, you can pass the car ahead of you if there is no oncoming traffic in the other lane.

Where do you find usually find the carpool or high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane?

The carpool or HOV lane is typically marked by a white outlined diamond. You usually see carpool lanes in places with a lot of traffic and a lot of lanes--e.g., major highways. But you can see the HOV lane as a bus lane on a city street, which is usually the only time you'd see it in the right-hand lane.

What do you when you see a school bus stopped?

You have to stop when a school bus has stopped. This is applicable even if you're driving in the opposite direction. This is to ensure that children can cross the street safely.

If you see a pedestrian crossing the road, what should you do?

No matter if a pedestrian crosses at a crosswalk or not, you must at least yield to pedestrians. If you can, for the safety of pedestrians and for your own safety, then come to a complete stop. Check your state's law for the legal requirements and details.

How often should you use your car horn?

Car horns can be very startling, so it's important to use them only when you need to. For example, if your traffic light has turned green and the motorist in front of you hasn't moved in a while, you may use your horn. Otherwise, it can be obnoxious and overly aggressive to use your horn and you may anger other motorists.

How should you share the road with bicyclists and motorcyclists?

Motorcyclists and bicyclists can seemingly pop up out of nowhere because they move differently than cars. For example, a cyclist could ride between lanes. So it's important to look in all of your mirrors and check all your blind spots frequently.

When you want to turn left, how do you pass?

If you're coming from a left-hand driving country, it makes sense to pass behind someone else who is turning left from the opposite direction. But this switches when you're driving in the U.S. because passing behind someone turning left when you're turning left would be very awkward. It'd be the same if you tried to do the same if someone was turning right in a left-hand driving country.

When should you wear your seatbelt?

Wearing a seatbelt is important for road safety. They have consistently saved lives and minimized injuries during car crashes. In many states, you can get a ticket for not putting on your seatbelt.

When should you put on your headlights?

The idea with headlights is that you want to see and be seen. The optimal times for headlights (low beams) are if it's raining, snowing or foggy, or 30 minutes after sunset through 30 minutes before sunrise.

What should you do if the traffic lights are not working at an intersection?

Sometimes traffic lights will fail completely and give no light. In that case, you should treat the intersection like a four-way stop, meaning it's first-come, first-served.

What should you do when you see a steady red traffic light?

A solid, steady red light as a traffic light means stop. If you're turning right, many times you can turn on a red light, as long as no one from the opposite direction is turning left or there isn't traffic coming from your left-hand side. Sometimes, there are signs that will say you can't turn right at a red light, and usually that's because you're at a large road with lots of oncoming traffic.

What does a steady yellow traffic light mean?

A solid, steady yellow light is an indication that the traffic light will turn red soon. Depending on your speed, you should either stop completely at the intersection, or you should keep going with caution. The length of time that a traffic light stays yellow varies from city to city, so you may find some lights last longer than others.

What does a steady green traffic light mean?

A steady green light means you may go. But sometimes people disobey traffic signals, so you should still look both ways before you go.

What does a flashing red traffic light mean you should do?

You may see this when there's an issue with the traffic signal. Wherever you see it, it means that the intersection effectively has a stop sign for you. Usually at a four-way stop, all traffic lights would be flashing red.

If you see a flashing yellow traffic light, what should you do?

A flashing yellow light may not be actually be at a traffic light. It may be accompanying a caution sign (e.g., a sign that tells you that you need to slow down).

How do you proceed if you see a steady green arrow and a steady red light for your lane?

You typically see this type of traffic light for a turning lane. Arrows can be for turning left or right. The steady red light means the rest of the lanes still need to stop.

What is the typical sequence of traffic lights?

If you're at a typical traffic light, there's a normal cycle between red lights. If you're at a stop, then you will be waiting for the light to turn green. A yellow light will come in between a green light and a red light, in that order.

When should you use your fog lights?

Fog lights are typically for the fog or mist. Fog lights aren't as bright and don't cause as much glare. Wherever you live, you should check the local and state laws on using them because you only need to use them for specific times.

When should you put on your hazard lights?

One typical reason you'd use your hazard lights (your indicator lights steadily flashing) is because you've been in an accident and you can't pull over. Another reason would be to let other motorists know to move around you because your car has stalled. If you need to be in somewhere in a hurry, some states allow you to drive with hazard lights, but some don't.

Which is NOT a typical reason for another drive flashing their headlights at you?

Headlight flashing is typically used as a warning, but it can also be a sign of aggressive driving. The legality of headlight flashing varies from state to state.

How do you approach a railroad crossing while stopped in traffic?

There are a lot of railroads in America, and sometimes there aren't any signs, flashing lights or gates to stop you. If you come upon a railroad crossing and you're stopped in traffic, do not stop on the track. You need to make sure you give plenty of room since trains can take up more room than the track alone.

Typically, which lane do you use to pass or overtake another vehicle?

Especially on highways, typically the left-hand lane is used for passing, and there should be broken white lines indicating you can do this. Sometimes, on larger roads, you can pass from the right, but generally speaking, slower traffic should be on the right, faster traffic on the left.

In the U.S., we have different colors for roadway signs. What does an orange sign indicate?

Orange signs will typically have some indication of what is going on in the area. For example, you may see an icon of a person with a shovel or a flag, or you may see "road work ahead". This usually means you need to slow down and look for people working in the area.

What does a brown traffic sign indicate?

You usually see brown traffic signs on the highway, but you can see them all over. America has a lot of historic places of interest, so the brown signs show motorists what's ahead, such as camping sites, parks and more.

If you see a blue traffic sign, what does that indicate?

Blue traffic signs represent guidance. They offer helpful information, such as the AM radio station for local weather and traffic, if a hospital is nearby, or what number to call if there is an issue with a railroad.

American traffic signs come in different shapes. So what does an upside triangle mean?

The yield sign usually has a thick red border, with a white triangle in the middle with YIELD in red lettering. Yield means you have to slow down and stop if needed, and give right of way to oncoming traffic.

What does a diamond-shaped traffic sign usually mean?

Diamond-shaped signs look like a square at a 45-degree angle. Usually they come in orange (e.g., road work/construction zone) or yellow (e.g., traffic light ahead). It's a heads up that you'll need to be slowing down soon.

What does a round traffic sign indicate?

A round sign is almost always yellow. It usually has a black X with R R written on it, to indicate railroad crossing. This shape is exclusively for railroads.

What does a pentagon-shaped sign indicate?

School zone signs usually have a fluorescent yellow or golden yellow color, with the two icons of people crossing. School zone signs can also be rectangular and diamond-shaped, alerting drivers to slow down (sometimes to drive a certain speed limit), but the pentagon shape is exclusively for school zones. You can see a pentagon-shaped sign for county route marker signs, but they are blue, smaller and aren't as pointed or as large as a school sign.

If you see a pennant-shaped traffic sign, what does that mean?

You will typically see this sign on smaller roads. You had a broken yellow line on your side of the road, which indicates that you could pass if there is no oncoming traffic. The sign accompanies a now solid yellow line which means you can no longer pass.

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Image: Billy Richards Photography/Moment/GettyImages

About This Quiz

In the United States, we do a lot of things differently, and that is definitely true when it comes to driving. 

For example, in the States, we use the English measurement system more than the metric system. 

That difference really matters because you need to know how we measure speed (miles per hour vs. kilometers per hour) and distance (e.g., we use mile markers on the highway).

But one thing you'll find is that on top of America doing things differently than many countries, because America has 50 different states and other protectorates, the state and local traffic laws tend to vary, too. It's very important to know that as you may take road trips from state to state, city to city. 

Learning about how to take turns, how to approach and navigate intersections, normal American driving etiquette (sans the road rage), how traffic lights operate, the meaning of traffic signs and more can significantly help you as you learn how to drive here.

This quiz isn't going to ask you how drivers operate in Florida vs. Wisconsin. But there are some general things you should know about driving in the U.S. so you can safely get to your destination.

So are you ready to take the wheel and go on a trip of American road rules in this quiz? We hope you enjoy this little jaunt. Safe travels!

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