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Saturday, March 2, 2024

No gorillas please!

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APART from chronic traffic congestion, motorists in the Philippines have little to complain about when it comes to being fined for motoring offenses. I don’t know anyone here who has been fined for anything connected with driving. Yet in the UK, most of my friends—including one 90-year-old lady—have been fined at one time or another, mostly for speeding.

In July, I was caught by UK police radar for driving at 35mph (56.3 km/hr) in a 30 mph (48.2 km/hr) area. As a result, next week when I’m back in England, I have to attend a driving “re-education” seminar at a cost of P6,000.

Speeding is only one of many laws in the UK motorists face every day and laws there are strictly enforced. Drive too close to a horse or a cyclist or splash a pedestrian by driving through a puddle and you’ll get a ticket.

But compared to some of the strange driving laws that exist around the world, these seem eminently sensible.

The US has some of the weirdest driving laws. For example, it’s illegal to spit from a car or bus in Marietta, Georgia. It is, however, okay to spit from a truck. In Alaska you’ll be fined if you drive with a dog tethered to your roof.

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In Illinois you are not allowed to drive a car without a steering wheel, a law which must date to the early days of motoring when there were several different types of steering devices. In certain parts of Kansas it’s illegal to transport dead poultry—better not risk it with a bucket of KFC!

Here’s another leftover from a by-gone area that’s still on the books: in Louisiana, a woman’s husband is required by law to walk in front of the car waving a flag as she drives it.

Massachusetts has probably the wackiest driving law anywhere in the world—you cannot drive with a gorilla in your back seat. Apparently they’re okay in the front!

Here’s one to please the young ‘uns. In South Dakota you only need to be 14 years old to get a driving license.

The US is not alone when it comes to strange driving laws. In Russia, you’ll get a ticket if your car is dirty. You’ll also get a ticket in Sweden if you turn your headlights off—they have to be switched on all the time you are driving.

In Thailand, it’s mandatory to wear a shirt while driving. Going topless will attract a large fine.

Germany’s autobahns are famous for their unrestricted speed limits on certain routes, but motorists should make sure they top up at a gas station before joining one. It’s illegal to stop unnecessarily on an autobahn, and because running out of fuel is preventable, anyone who comes to a standstill with an empty tank is breaking the law.

Is there anywhere on earth where there are no driving laws? Yes. Cars are banned on the small Channel Island of Sark. Home to around 600 people, they are able to get around by horse-drawn carriages and the occasional tractor.

Robert Harland is a British national based in Bacolod and Makati.

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