Safe driving: What’s safe and what’s not

Meghan Bogardus

While every driver knows that driving distractions like texting can be unsafe, the legality of certain situations can get a little tricky.

Michquel Penn, the community resource officer with Kent State University Police, reviews the ins and outs of driving safely and incident-free.

Myth 1: It is legal to drive with your lights off while your windshield wipers are running.

“It’s legal,” said Cara Willer, a sophomore French major. “I do it all the time during the day, I don’t need my lights on to see.”

Penn said it is illegal. However, it is not something an officer can pull you over for alone. A citation would come after being pulled over for something else.

Evan Clark, a junior visual communication design major, knew it was illegal.

“I had a car come up behind me in the middle of the day once and I didn’t even see it because its lights weren’t on,” he said.

Myth 2: It is always legal to make a U-turn unless there is a sign.

Jessica Keider, a senior music education major, said no.

“You can’t cross the double yellow [lines] ever,” she said.

Penn agreed; it is illegal. U-turns are illegal if they are made on a curve or a hill. The law requires that a driver coming from the opposite direction be able to see you within 500 feet.

“You need to go further down the street where there is a straightaway,” she said.

Penn said at the discretion of the officer, you could be pulled over just for making the U-turn.

Myth 3: You can’t be pulled over for not wearing your seatbelt.

Penn said this is true. Seatbelt violations are secondary offenses. So if you are pulled over for something else, like speeding, you and the front passenger can be cited for not wearing them.

Myth 4: It is legal to not clear the snow off your back window.

Keider didn’t think driving with snow covered back windows would be legal because “ you don’t have the appropriate view of the road.”

Penn said there isn’t a specific law that states that anything about clearing snow, but said some other law could be applied to a situation like this. These include willful or wanton disregard of safety on highways and operation of an unsafe vehicle.

Penn said it depends on the situation and the discretion of the officer whether you are pulled over and cited.

“I encountered someone like that before and they didn’t even know I was behind them with my lights on until I hit the siren,” Penn said.

Myth 5: It is illegal to drive without your license on you at all times.

Keider, like a lot of students, said she believed you had 24 hours to prove it or you could give your social security number, which is not always the case.

“You need to be able to furnish it then and there,” Penn said.

While sometimes the officer can enter your correct information into a computer and pull up proof, Penn said not every department has cruisers with this equipment.

Myth 6: You can’t be pulled over for talking on a cell phone.

“That’s tricky,” said Taylor Shiley, a sophomore fashion merchandising major. “I know they are starting to make it illegal to even talk through Bluetooth.”

Penn said the state of Ohio doesn’t have a law, but several cities and towns have their own laws in place.

Her advice: “Look for posted signs when driving through jurisdictions. You can be pulled over and fined.”

Myth 7: You can’t be pulled over for driving and wearing headphones.

“I always thought you couldn’t with just one in, because you can still hear,” said Echo Bartel, a junior fashion design major.

Penn said a statewide law bans earphones or earplugs because drivers may not hear sirens.

Though Penn said the law might not seem serious, she’s heard of some cases where a driver has gone though an intersection on a green light and hit an emergency vehicle because he or she couldn’t hear the sirens.

Myth 8: You can’t be pulled over for having a headlight and taillight out.

Penn said you can be pulled over and cited for either of these.

Myth 9: Turning right on red is always legal.

It is only legal if there is not a posted sign. Also, Penn said the driver must always come to a complete stop before making the turn.

Contact Meghan Bogardus at [email protected].