Do You Really Know the Basics of Driving?


By: Elisabeth Henderson

7 Min Quiz

Image: mikroman6 / Moment / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Most states require a written exam to make sure drivers know the rules of the road before they’re licensed to sit behind the wheel. If you’re a licensed driver, how long ago did you take your test? Did you pass with flying colors or just squeak by? If you had to take one today, would you still be allowed on the road? If you’re not licensed, take our test to see if you’re ready for the road!

While many of the rules of the road may seem obvious, some basic driving knowledge may surprise you. For instance, certain shapes are used exclusively to indicate only one meaning. Also, there is an exact position suggested for your hands on the steering wheel. What’s the purpose of the orange barrels lining the highway? What’s the meaning of all these lines on the road anyway? Out of all the drivers clotting the roadways, how many of them actually know the basics?

When you get in the car with your buddies, can you trust that they actually remember the rules of the road? Should your friends trust you behind the wheel? Take this test to prove you know what you’re doing, and pass it along to see who you should—and shouldn’t—get in the car with. 

What is the purpose of traffic signals?

The sense of safety brought on by traffic lights may indeed be an illusion. The purpose of these colorful beacons, though, is to bring order to the chaos of desire with an engine. Traffic lights have been around since 1868.


When you hear an emergency siren or see flashing lights, what should you do, if possible?

If traffic allows, the sensible thing to do is to pull over to the right to allow the emergency vehicle to pass. Beyond this basic rule, it’s best to follow common sense when deciding how to respond to an emergency vehicle. If pulling to the right is likely to clog traffic even more, maybe don’t do it.


When crossing a train track, what should you be sure to check for?

Check that all the tracks are clear. It may seem that the track you were focusing on is clear, but there may be another train approaching on a second track, which could smash you like the penny you’re looking for.


If a school bus stops in front of you and is flashing red lights, when should you proceed?

When a school bus is in motion again, it’s a good indicator that there are no longer children exiting the bus to pop out in front of you. While state laws vary on the specifics, it’s generally against the law to go around a stopped school bus.


If you are driving on a multiple-lane road and switching into the center lane from the right, what should you do if another driver is entering the same lane from the left?

While any of these options seem perfectly reasonable, drivers entering a lane from the left technically have the right-of-way over drivers entering from the right. However, it’s probably not a safe bet that anyone knows this rule.


What does a flashing red light signal?

Flashing red lights essentially function as stop signs. Stop completely and make sure the coast is clear! Of course, at a four-way stop sign, whoever arrived first has the right-of-way.


What does a solid yellow line beside a broken yellow line mean?

The broken yellow indicates that you are on the passing side, so if you have this on your side, you can pass, even if the line on the other side is solid. If you’re on the solid side, you can’t pass, even if you’re following a very old truck full of goats.


If a green arrow appears at the same time as a red light, what does it mean?

These conflicting signals are not necessarily a sign that doomsday is upon us. Rather, they just show that it’s safe to turn even if it’s not safe to go straight.


What is a blind spot?

In car lingo, the blind spot is a hidden spot that doesn’t show up in the mirror. Careful drivers check over their shoulder to make sure there’s not a car hanging out in the blind spot before changing lanes. In life, it’s not a bad idea to check for blind spots either.


What do defensive drivers do?

They say defense is the best offense. If staying out of an accident is the prize, then that saying is true of defensive driving. Taking a defensive driving class may help you get out of a ticket, or, in some states, lower your car insurance costs.


If a light changes from green to red while a pedestrian is still in the crosswalk, what should happen?

Even if it grates against your engine-rumbling sensibilities, pedestrians should still be given the right-of-way, even if they have overstayed their welcome in the street. Pedestrians have responsibilities too, of course. But all you can do as a driver is control your vehicle.


Driving around a barricade or failing to follow warning signs is ...

You may very well get a stern talking-to for driving around a barricade. But that talking-to may also include a fine or even a trip to jail. In Texas, for instance, if you drive around a barricade on a flooded road, you could be fined $2,000. Yikes. Also, there’s the flood to worry about.


If passing on a two-lane road, you must pass the car in front of you before ...

Getting over before getting hit is always a good idea. Just for good measure though, it’s wise to get over a good distance before that’s a real possibility.


When should signaling be used?

Contrary to common practice, turn signals are best used in advance of a turn or lane change. It helps to let others know of your plans before they come crashing into you.


How do you operate a clutch?

Pushing the clutch all the way in puts the car in neutral, which allows you to shift to another gear. In order to keep up your speed, accelerate while you release the clutch. Don’t ever let a gearhead see you resting your foot on the clutch! You’re just wearing it down.


If you encounter a person wearing an orange vest and wielding a flag, how should you respond to their instructions?

Yup, as much as you may feel like gesturing or waving a flag to communicate with a flag person, the expectation is that you obey. After all, they’ve gone to great lengths to tell you what to do.


What happens when you start a stick shift from a standstill on a hill?

Since the clutch puts the car in neutral, there’s nothing to keep the car from rolling downhill except the brakes. When you shift the car in gear and move your foot from the brake to the accelerator, the car is prone to roll.


What is one way to minimize distracted driving?

Distracted driving is a leading cause of car accidents. Letting the messages or phone calls wait is the best way to ensure your safety and that of those around you. Research is uncertain about the connection between emotional responses to songs and car accidents.


What does a double yellow line show drivers?

If driving beside a double yellow line, it is not safe to pass. It’s still not safe even if the car in front of you just did it and survived. You may, however, turn left when it is safe to do so.


Which of the following can traffic signs NOT do?

Even if you’re the type to look out for “signs” to help guide your next steps, traffic signs are not designed to help you decide whether to break up with him or her. Though, if you’re that unsure about the relationship, you probably should.


What is the equilateral triangle used for?

Equilateral triangles always house a yield sign. They have nothing to do with equality or the dangers of triangles entering the roadway. While yielding may seem to slow you down, if everyone followed these rules, traffic would move more quickly!


What does the pennant shape mean?

The pennant is the classic shape that gives warning that you are nearing a no-passing zone. It’s the shape that means, “Don’t pass here, or you might kill us all.”


What does a flashing yellow light mean?

Unlike the steady yellow light at a traffic signal, a flashing yellow light is a general sign of caution. This does not equate to speeding up.


When entering an intersection that is not controlled by a traffic signal, always yield the right-of-way to traffic approaching from which direction?

The rule of thumb for right-of-way is to yield to cars on the right. Though, it’s not a bad idea to wait for cars traveling too quickly. Yielding to cars on the right is supposed to get traffic through the intersection most quickly.


What does a round shape indicate?

A circular sign shows that you’re approaching a railroad, and it would be wise to watch for trains. Do people need to be nudged to look out for a fast-moving mass of steel? It seems like the consequences speak for themselves.


When a railroad signal is lowering to warn of an approaching train, what is the best course of action?

It may seem like you can make it under those railroad signal arms, but is it worth it? While it seems like overkill, 15-50 feet is the recommended safe distance to watch a train pass.


What do speed limits designate?

While most drivers often go about 10 mph over the speed limit, it’s actually supposed to designate the top speed. Texas has the highest speed limit on a rural highway, at 85 mph, and Hawaii clocks in at the lowest—60 mph for rural highways.


What does a broken yellow line tell you?

The broken yellow line indicates that it’s a safe viewing instance to pass the slow-moving RV in front of you. It’s also a good opportunity to look over to see who could possibly drive so slowly. You still need to check to make sure it’s safe though.


When you view the sign, “LEFT LANE FOR PASSING ONLY,” what should you do?

Sometimes it seems that these signs are only visible to certain cars and never to the slowest, fast-lane drivers. Nevertheless, the rule applies to all drivers—use passing lanes to pass, then get over.


What is the difference between a single solid white line and a double solid white line?

Single solid indicates that crossing should be avoided, but only the double means it’s prohibited. Since when are rules just encouraged? Perhaps it helps to remember these rules are made to keep people from crashing into each other.


What is the shape octagon used for?

The octagon shape is only used for stop signs. If you see the shape in the distance, you can know what’s expected of you before you fly through the intersection.


Why might you see barrels along a roadway?

You can never be sure that a barrel does not contain monkeys or clowns lying in wait. The intended purpose of orange barrels, though, is to reduce the severity of a collision.


If your side mirrors are properly adjusted, what should you be able to see?

Certainly, the side mirror can be effectively used to check out fellow drivers. Its ideal position for safety, though, should show a small portion of your car to ensure that your blind spot is covered. The blind spot is typically located at the rear quarter of the car, keeping you from seeing someone who may have crept up next to you.


What defines a “slow-moving vehicle”?

Vehicles which have a maximum speed of 25 mph or less are designated “slow-moving.” These are required to bear an orange triangle to warn of their tortoise-like progression.


When driving, where should the hands be placed?

9 and 3 o’clock is the current Safety Sam position. Yeah, it takes away the cool factor of having one arm out the window. According to the National Highway Safety Administration, this position will best keep your arms out of the way if an airbag deploys.


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