Archive for October, 2012


BACKSEAT DRIVER — You’d better watch it when you merge onto the interstate, you’re gonna hit someone one of these days.
DRIVER — Quit kiddin’, they have to get out of MY way, I’m merging and I can’t see them behind me. The law says they have to move over!
THE LAW – The driver’s wrong again. When you merge onto an interstate highway, the traffic on the highway has the right of way. The merging traffic has to yield to the traffic already on the interstate.

BACKSEAT DRIVER – Jack, don’t you see those “slow, construction area” signs? You’ve got to slow down.
DRIVER – No I don’t, there’s no construction going on anywhere around, they’ve shut down for the day.
THE LAW – You are subject to construction area speed signs even if there are no workers present. The speed limit is not only to protect the workers, but you too. There can be unexpected hazards in the area, and you can never be sure there are no workers.

BACKSEAT DRIVER – What do you think you’re doing, you can’t pass on the right, when stopped in traffic.
DRIVER – I’m not waiting any longer, there’s plenty of room, I’m gonna pull up there so I don’t have to wait for all this traffic to make my right turn.
THE LAW – Once in a while he’s right. You CAN move out of your lane to make a right hand turn at an intersection, if you do so safely, do not leave the pavement, and if there’s 8 feet in width of unobstructed pavement. (So obviously, motorcycles can’t make such maneuvers, if there’s not enough room for a car to do so.)

BACKSEAT DRIVER – Now what do you think you’re doing? You can’t just pull that old truck to the mechanic using a chain, that’s dangerous.
DRIVER – Don’t worry, Junior will be in the old truck, he can hit the brakes if we get too close, and we’re only going a few miles anyway.
THE LAW – I’m sure you guessed this one already. You can’t have a person in a towed vehicle except in emergencies, when towing less than 15 miles per hour, or in a parade, or for farming-related activities, and the rider is over 18 years of age.



BACKSEAT DRIVER – Ralph, don’t do that, one of these days you’re gonna have a wreck.
DRIVER – Aw, Suzie, I’m not speeding, and the kids like it when I top that hill real fast, they think they’re on a roller coaster.
THE LAW – If topping that hill means that any of your tires are not touching the pavement, you’ve broken the law.

BACKSEAT DRIVER – Harold that sign said 40 mph and you’re still doing 55, slow down!
DRIVER – I don’t have to hit the brakes — that wastes gas — and I’m coasting down to 40, so I’m OK.
THE LAW – If you are on a highway, going the posted speed limit of 55mph, entering a city, case law suggests that you have 500 feet to slow down, before you can be ticketed for speeding, by use of a radar. Again this is one of those “grey area” rules – does that mean that a cop can convict you of speeding if he uses no radar – probably not. Does that mean if you have a wreck, going 50 mph within 100 feet of that sign, you will be found to be exceeding the speed limit in the civil suit the victim files if you hit someone – probably so. Does the 500 feet rule apply to other speed limit signs after the first one entering the community – no! Does the 500 foot rule apply to school speed zones, or construction zones – no! Does the 500 foot rule apply if there is a sign warning you to slow down before you enter the lower speed zone – no.

BACKSEAT DRIVER – You drive like a little old man, you’re going to get a ticket for that one of these days.
DRIVER – It’s against the law to drive too fast, not too slow.
LAW – If there is a posted MINIMUM speed limit (like on interstate highways), you can be ticketed for driving too slow.



If you read the last “Backseat Drivers” article, on Illinois traffic law, you know that I said that if a traffic light is yellow, you can proceed through it as long as it does not turn red. In law seldom are there clear precise answers. A reading of the relevant statute also leads to the conclusion that if you enter the intersection while the light is yellow; that if it turns red while you are in it, you cannot be convicted of running a red light. I have been in court when an officer has charged a driver with running a red light, even though the driver said she entered the light while it was yellow. The judge found her not guilty, but her decision to drive through the yellow light resulted in her being ticketed, she had to argue her case in court, and fortunately was before a wise judge.

I was recently contacted by a very knowledgeable gentleman who is an authority on such situations, and he too said that if a traffic light turns red after you have entered an intersection on a yellow light, that you are not guilty of running a red light. He correctly said that trying to stop at a yellow light, while another motorist is too close behind you for you to stop safely — could be a violation of the law.
When you pass through a yellow light, you are risking arrest for running a red light, driving too fast for conditions, reckless driving, speeding, etc., etc. Use common sense. If you can stop safely, stop at the yellow light. If you cannot, and the light changes to red, you probably won’t be convicted even if you are arrested.

I asked the same authority on traffic violations, what he would like me to tell you about traffic rules. He said that we all should know that when a pedestrian is at an intersection and has a “walk” light in front of him; that just because the sign turns to “don’t walk” he should not turn around and go back in the direction he came from. If you have a “walk” sign, and can walk through the intersection at an average pace, do so even if the light changes. The lights are programmed so that you should be able to walk through as long as you start with a “walk” light.

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We’ve all dealt with them, even those of us who are not married – BACKSEAT DRIVERS! You know, the riders who seem to know more about traffic laws than the drivers. Following is a list of some of the common criticisms that we may have all been through, and the actual Illinois law that determines whether the driver, or the rider is right.

BACKSEAT DRIVER – Harold, you ran that stop sign, what are you doing?
DRIVER – We’re in a shopping mall, not on a public road, the mall owners don’t make the law.
THE LAW – Cities can and do enforce their traffic laws around shopping malls; apartment, commercial and industrial complexes; and private streets or roads.

BACKSEAT DRIVER – So now you did it, you got a ticket.
DRIVER – I’ll beat this one, he misspelled my name.
THE LAW – Errors on a ticket can be corrected before trial.

BACKSEAT DRIVER – You ran that red light!
DRIVER – The cops can’t get me, it was yellow when I entered the intersection.
THE LAW – A yellow light is to warn you that if the light turns red while you’re going through the intersection, you HAVE violated the law.

BACKSEAT DRIVER – Don’t put that yard sale sign beneath that speed limit sign.
DRIVER – Everyone does it, there’s nothing wrong.
THE LAW – You can’t put signs on traffic signs. (especially yard sale signs with your address on them!).

MOM – Jimmy, get rid of that stop sign in your room, you could get in trouble.
KID – Aw Mom, I didn’t steal it, some of the guys took it and gave it to me.
THE LAW – It’s unlawful to possess traffic signs (and they often have the place where they came from etched into them somewhere).

BACKSEAT DRIVER – Jimmy, don’t squeal your tires!
DRIVER – Aw Mom, there’s nothing wrong with that, I can’t hold this beast down, besides we’re in the country, and we’re not disturbing anyone
THE LAW – It is against the law to squeal your tires anywhere.

BACKSEAT DRIVER – You can’t carry that open bottle of liquor in a car!
DRIVER – Sure I can, as long as it’s in the trunk.
THE LAW – For once he’s right, as long as the open liquor is not in the passenger compartment of the car, it can be carried.



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