Driving course (Chapter 4)

tion 4.1. SIPDE, including distance guidelines and adaptation to surroundings

Safe driving depends, to a great extent, on your ability to correctly analyze a traffic situation and react to it. Good seeing habits are most important for responsible driving. However, just being able to see well is no guarantee you will see all critical clues or make correct responses. The driving task is primarily a thinking task. Driving is about 10 percent physical and 90 percent mental. Physically, all you can do is start, stop and turn your car. All the rest is mental. Responsible drivers use a system that helps them deal with most of the traffic possibilities they encounter. These drivers have fewer close calls and collisions than drivers who do not use an organized system.

The SIPDE process is an organized system of seeing, thinking and responding.

  1. Search
  2. Identify
  3. Predict
  4. Decide
  5. Execute


Begin by searching the traffic situation to gather information for your decisions and actions. Develop a system of searching for information and clues within and about the driving environment to recognize possible problems ahead, behind and on both sides of your vehicle. You must process this information properly, decide how to avoid conflict and execute the correct actions.

Develop a visual search pattern. A visual search pattern is a process of searching critical areas in a regular sequence. To use a visual search pattern, look for clues in a certain pattern and in a systematic manner.

An example of a visual search pattern for driving straight ahead is:

  1. Glance ahead.
  2. Check your rearview mirror.
  3. Glance ahead again.
  4. Glance at the side of the roadway or intersection.
  5. Glance ahead again.
  6. Check your speedometer and gauge.
  7. Glance ahead again.

Each glance should last only an instant.

Different driving environments and traffic situations present a variety of visual search problems. Harold Smith introduced a system for safe driving many years ago that is still in use today. The Smith System stresses eye discipline and the idea of space cushion.

  1. Aim high steering:
    To “aim high” means to look far ahead when you drive. Consider this: We do not look at our feet when we walk – we look ahead. Aiming high allows you to be able to analyze traffic situations. In city traffic, look at least one block ahead. On highways and expressways, look as far ahead as possible – at least two to three seconds.
  2. Keep your eyes moving:
    Glance near and far, right and left, in mirrors as well as at the instrument panel. Be sure to look ahead often.
  3. Get the big picture:
    Getting the big picture is the mental process of putting together the critical clues that your eyes selected and identified as you scanned the driving scene.
  4. Make sure others see you:
    You must communicate with other drivers. Communicate your presence or intentions with the lights, the horn, car position, eye contact or body movement.
  5. Leave yourself an out:
    Leaving yourself an out means you have identified an escape path in case of a possible conflict. You should adjust your position to keep space around your vehicle in changing traffic conditions. If you do not have at least one available out, adjust your position until you do have one.


If you do not know what you are looking for, knowing how, when, and where to look does little good. You must learn to identify specific driving-related clues.

For example, if you identify a line of parked vehicles on a street and front wheels turned towards the street on one of the cars, a motorist may be pulling into your lane. Vapor coming from an exhaust pipe or a driver sitting in the car may also indicate that a parked car may be ready to enter your path of travel.

The kinds of clues you search for differ in different driving environments. In city driving, search for intersections, pedestrians and other traffic. On open highways, search areas much further ahead. Look for crossroads, slow moving vehicles, and animals. When driving on an expressway, search the other lanes ahead, behind, and beside you for other roadway users who might affect your planned path of travel.

Develop the habit of ground viewing. This is when you make quick glances at the roadway in front of your vehicle. Watch for animals and debris on the road.

Problem dirvers

Always be on the lookout for problem drivers. Problem drivers usually give clues to their driving behavior. Some fast drivers may be problem drivers. They may try to pass without enough room or in a no-passing zone. They might change lanes frequently, trying to get ahead of the normal traffic flow. Distracted or confused drivers may also be problem drivers. Be alert for individuals who are driving with only one hand on the steering wheel while holding a coffee cup, a celluar phone, or a map in the other hand.

The roadway itself is another important area to watch. Identify intersections, hills and curves early. Be aware ahead of time when the width of your lane may be reduced. Multi-lane roadways often narrow into single lane roadways. Identify signs warning you of this change early enough to position your car in the through lane. Always try to avoid making any unnecessary stops in moving traffic.

Identify situations in the roadway that can narrow your lane space, such as standing water potholes, or objects, early so you have more time to plan a path around them.

Your identification process should keep you looking constantly for roadside hazards such as pedestrians, bicyclists, parked cars and animals. Watch for shopping center entrances, roadside stands, and restaurants.

Identify the roadway surface and conditions each time you begin to drive. You may need to make adjustments if the weather changes while you are driving. Roadway surfaces may be dry when you start out and then become wet and slippery with rain.

Identify traffic controls as early as possible so you are ready to make the correct response.


Once you have identified a possible hazard, predict how this hazard might create a conflict. When you predict, you interpret the information you have identified. You anticipate where possible points of conflict might occur. You try to foresee what might happen and how it could affect your path.

Analyzing a situation is part of predicting, and is a basic part of responsible driving. Often, you will be faced with more than one possible hazard, so predicting is a complex issue.

Predicting involves what is happening, what could happen and, if it does happen, how it might affect you. To predict, you must evaluate the situation and make a judgment about the possible consequences. The more complex a situation is, the more difficult it is to identify and predict.

Making a judgment about a traffic situation involves measuring, comparing, and evaluating. As you drive, you judge speed, time, space, distance, traction and visibility. You make judgments about your own driving performance as well as the actions and performance of other drivers.

When predicting the actions of others, do not assume that other roadway users will always take the correct action. Instead, watch for clues about what they might do. The responsible driver predicts that other roadway users, including drivers and pedestrians, will make mistakes.

The most important predictions to make concerning the actions of other drivers are: Where will the other driver go? What actions will the other driver take? Is more than one action possible? When will the action be taken? Where might I be when that action happens? Where might our paths cross?

You should also attempt to predict when pedestrians may step out in front of you. By making this prediction, you will be able to slow or stop in order to avoid a conflict.

Always be prepared to adjust your speed for varying conditions and situations. Different traffic, roadway, and weather conditions can change the amount of time and space needed for slowing down and for braking control.


Once you have identified a situation and predicted a possible conflict, you must decide upon an action to avoid the conflict. There is probably no task more important for a driver than making wise decisions in time to avoid conflict. There may be times when you fail to identify every clue in a situation. Other users will often take actions you did not predict. The decisions you make in these situations become the basic factors for your safe driving. Be prepared to change your plans to avoid a conflict.

Any decision you make will be influenced by your own speed and the speed of other vehicles. Many drivers think that slowing down is the only way to avoid a conflict, but it is not. A quick maneuver may also be required.

You can decide to change your position within your lane or you might change lanes to the left or right. The Smith System guideline of “leave yourself an out” tells you to change your position when necessary. You will then have an escape path to use in order to avoid conflict. Having more than one escape path is ideal, which means having space all around your vehicle.

The decision to communicate with others helps reduce the chance of a conflict. The Smith System Rule, “make sure others see you,” tells you to let others know where you are and what you plan to do.

You may use your lights to give signals to other drivers. Your brake lights signal other drivers that you intend to slow or stop. Using your turn signals tells other drivers that you plan to turn or change lanes. Your emergency flashers convey the message “I am in trouble” or “I cannot move.” (Four way emergency flashing lights on a moving vehicle is a violation of Florida Law.) White back-up lights let others know that you are backing up or intend to back up. (Look for back-up lights on cars in parking lots as a clue for a possible conflict.) Parking lights warn other drivers that you are parked along the side of the roadway. Try to develop eye contact with other drivers. You can communicate many messages this way. If there is a possibility of conflict, check to see if the other person is looking at you. (While eye contact often helps reduce the risk of conflict, it does not guarantee that there will not be conflict.)


Carrying out your decisions in order to avoid conflict is the “execute” step in the SIPDE process. This step involves the physical skills used in driving. In most cases you will execute routine maneuvers and actions.

Executing the decision to accelerate means you have judged the speed and use of space by others. You might accelerate to get out of another driver’s way or to avoid an obstruction in the roadway. Remember that different vehicles have different acceleration capabilities. Consider your own vehicle’s capabilities before executing a decision to accelerate.

When you have decided to decelerate, or brake, to reduce risk, you should have already considered the surface of the roadway. The amount of braking needed will vary with the speed of your car and the condition of the roadway. When braking suddenly, check vehicles to the rear. Avoid locking the brakes during an emergency stop. Locked brakes make steering impossible, since wheels must be turning to provide traction for steering.

When you decide to steer away from a conflict, execute just the amount of steering needed. Oversteering can cause you to lose control of your vehicle, especially at higher speeds. Higher speeds also require more space for your maneuver.

You will often need to execute a combination of actions. You might need to accelerate and steer at the same time. In another situation, you might need to brake, communicate, and steer at the same time. The precision and timing with which you execute these actions determines whether or not a conflict will occur.1

Section 4.2. Following distance, including two-second minimum, when to increase speed and dealing with tailgaters


Two-second gap

The concept of one car length of space between two vehicles for every ten miles per hour has been rendered obsolete by NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) research. The primary reason for this is that people have difficulty judging what one car length is consistently. Furthermore, at fifty-five miles per hour, a vehicle travels 80.63 feet in one second (55 mph multiplied by a conversion factor of 1.466 equals 80.63 feet per second). If a driver has accurately judged fifty-five feet of distance between his vehicle and the vehicle ahead and has to stop, the car will travel 60.47 feet before the driver can even begin to apply the brakes during the average reaction time of three-quarters of a second, all but assuring a collision. If you maintain a minimum (for clear, dry weather) of a two-second interval between you and the car ahead, at fifty-five mph you will have a 161.3 foot buffer ahead within which to react and stop.

When you are following another vehicle in your lane, you should have at least a two-second cushion between your vehicle and the one ahead. Pick out a stationary object ahead of the car in front of you, such as, a white line across the road, the shadow of an overpass, or a parked car on the shoulder. Start counting when the lead vehicle passes that spot: one-thousand one, one-thousand two. If you have passed the spot you selected before you complete your two-second count, you are too close. Take your foot off the gas and slow down until you are at a safe distance, or change lanes if it is safe.

There are times when two seconds’ following distance is not enough. The two-second rule is a minimum. Additional seconds need to be added for darkness, bad weather, large vehicles, vehicles towing other vehicles, vehicles following others too closely, or any other less-than-ideal situations. Two seconds is the short- or close-range environment, which you should scan for immediate hazards. Drivers should also look at least ten seconds ahead of their vehicles to be aware of medium-distance potential hazards. Always try to keep a safe area around you. Keep from getting boxed in and not having a way out if someone presents a hazard. The law does not allow for any good reason for hitting another vehicle in the rear. F.S. 316.0895 (1) states: “The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having the regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon, and the conditions of, the highway.”2

Section 4.3. Stopping distance in relationship to speed

The faster we drive, the further it will take us to stop. Several things must be considered to determine stopping distance.

Reaction and breaking distance at various speeds
The above graph indicates the reaction (red) and braking (gold) distance for the total braking distance at various speeds.

Your mental and physical conditions are very important.

Your age, use of drugs including some prescription and over-the-counter medications, and physical fatigue will all affect your ability to react to a potential hazard, or perception and reaction time. Reaction time in daily driving averages 1.5 seconds with various driving distractions.

The vehicle is another important factor to be considered in stopping distance. Worn or under-inflated tires negatively affect stopping distance. Vehicles must have brakes that meet certain standards; if brakes are not working properly, stopping distance will be affected. Whether or not your vehicle has an Anti-locking Brake System (ABS) must be considered as well.

Road and weather conditions must be considered. As we discussed in another section, friction is the most important factor in stopping a vehicle. Conditions such as wet roads or roads made of gravel reduce traction and increase stopping distance.

When you are forced to stop, three things must happen. You must perceive the hazard or warning; you must react to the hazard; and you must use your brakes to stop.

The length of time you take to identify, predict, and decide to slow for a hazard is called your perception time. You cannot consistently estimate your perception time because your ability to perceive will change from time to time. By scanning and maintaining the proper spacing method that we discussed earlier, you will perceive hazards earlier and allow yourself more reaction time.

Once you know a hazard exists, the length of time you take to execute your actions is your reaction time. An average driver’s reaction time is 3/4 of one second in clinical laboratory settings, but reaction time in the driving environment is an average of 1.5 seconds. If you are impaired due to alcohol, drugs or fatigue, your reaction time will increase; thus the time required to stop and the distance that your car travels before stopping will also increase.

Braking distance

The distance your vehicle travels from the time you apply the brakes until your vehicle stops is called braking distance. This distance will change depending on your driving abilities, your vehicle’s condition, and the conditions of the road. Estimating stopping distance can be difficult, so it is better to utilize the two second rule. This rule enables you to project your approximate stopping distance under ideal conditions at any speed.

Don’t forget – the higher the speed, the longer the braking distance. At higher speeds, you will have a harder time controlling your vehicle. A vehicle with worn tires or bad brakes needs a longer distance to stop. Check your tires frequently for low air or worn tread. If the brakes on one side of your car are worn or out of adjustment, your vehicle may pull to one side in a stop – if this happens, get the brakes checked immediately. If you panic and slam on your brakes you might lose control of your car in an emergency situation. Be alert at all times, but stay calm in an emergency. Remember, wet road surfaces will reduce traction on the road and increase your braking distance. Reduce your speed if it begins to rain during your drive.

Section 4.4. Environmental hazards, rain, slick roads, standing water, fog and wind

We drive in environmental conditions each time we make a trip. Understanding better how to handle changing conditions will make the trip more enjoyable and safer. Dealing with too much light, such as the sun in your eyes, may be handled by wearing sunglasses or properly using the sun visor. For safety reasons, keep the lower edge of the sun visor pushed toward the windshield when in use.
Oncoming vehicle with high beams

Night driving means there will be changes that you must deal with successfully. Aside from reducing detail, darkness conceals hazards: pedestrians, bicycles, stalled cars, curves and other objects or conditions. You must make a decision on the basis of a sketchy and incomplete picture. At night, it is more difficult to judge the speed and position of other vehicles. You must depend largely on your headlights, which will show only a relatively short and narrow path ahead. Light does not bend around corners, so you must reduce your speed on curves to a point where your headlights illuminate the road ahead. Usually, adequate highway lighting is limited. Glare from roadside lighting and the headlights of oncoming vehicles may impair your visibility. Keep your panel lights as dim as possible for better vision, while using enough panel light to read your speedometer and other gauges. Reduce speed as much as is necessary to stop within the visible distance. Increase seeing distance by keeping the headlights clean and properly aimed and the windshield clean.

Lights in fog

There are other visibility conditions we must consider to drive safely, such as fog, haze, smoke and mist. These conditions can affect our visibility greatly. Florida law requires that we turn on our low beam headlights and use our windshield wipers in rainy weather. Never drive with only your parking lights on. Be alert for slow-moving or stopped traffic. Check your rearview mirrors frequently for vehicles that are approaching quickly from the rear. Be especially careful for patches of fog in valleys and low-lying areas. If possible, drive slowly but keep moving. If conditions are too difficult, pull over as far to the right as possible, off the main travel portion of the roadway, and stop. Leave your parking lights on and activate your hazard lights.

Driving in the rain is a hazard we must consider. When the roads are wet, stopping distance is increased. When braking, friction between your tires and the surface of the roadway affects your stopping distance. Wet roads have less friction and increase the distance it takes you to stop. Also, driving through water may cause hydroplaning. The tread on a tire prevents hydroplaning, which is one reason the law requires tire treads to meet certain standards. As little as 1/16 of one inch of water can cause hydroplaning.

Driving on water

Hydroplaning occurs when your tires ride on a thin layer of water and do not touch the road. When the car is riding on a film of water, there is no friction between your tires and the road. Hydroplaning also affects your ability to steer and brake.

Do not drive through large bodies of standing water, which can affect brake performance and the vehicle’s electrical system and can cause engine failure, which could result in costly repairs. If the standing water is concentrated on one portion of the road and only one side of the vehicle goes through the water, the vehicle will often pull in that direction. The force of the pull is dependent on the depth of the water and the speed of the vehicle.

As you approach standing water, lift your foot off the gas pedal and check your rearview mirror for vehicles that are following you too closely.


  1. Slow down before driving through the water.
  2. Turn your windshield wipers on.
  3. Tap the brakes as you exit.
  4. Use caution when checking the outside mirrors. Rain can distort or obliterate images.
  5. NEVER drive through standing water if you do not know how deep it is.

Wind can also be a problem, especially when driving large vehicles, such as a truck or a motor home. Be alert for cross gusts when leaving overpasses, large buildings or other large areas where the wind was temporarily blocked from striking your vehicle.

Another ongoing problem with wind gusts occurs when you are being passed by large vehicles such as tractor trailers or buses traveling in either direction. Wind gusts from these vehicles can make your car more difficult to control. As these vehicles start to pass you, grip your steering wheel firmly. You may also want to reduce your speed.

Environmental Causes

Florida Traffic Crash Facts – 2008
Lighting Conditions at the Time of Crash

Lighting Conditions All Crashes Fatal Crashes Injury Crashes Property Damage
Daylight 153,649 1,123 86,976 65,550
Dusk 6,317 82 3,432 2,803
Dawn 3,103 42 1,662 1,399
Darkness 76,533 1,505 35,536 39,492
Unknown 3,740 12 556 3,172
Total 243,342 2,764 128,162 112,416

Road Surface Conditions at the Time of Crash3

Surface Conditions All Crashes Fatal Crashes Injury Crashes Property Damage
Dry 206,892 2,470 109,361 95,061
Wet 32,363 271 17,445 14,647
Slippery 1,204 7 652 545
Icy 33 0 16 17
Other 2,850 16 688 2,146
Total 243,342 2,764 128,162 112,416

Section 4.5. Vehicle emergencies, tire failure, brake failure and loss of power steering

When you are driving, things can happen very quickly. You may only have a fraction of a second to make the right move. Here are some guidelines for handling emergencies.

Brake Failure


If your brakes fail, pump the brake pedal rapidly several times. You may be able to work up enough pressure to stop the car. If this does not work, shift into the next lower gear. As the car begins to slow down, shift down again. To slow down further, apply the parking brake. You may use your left foot on the parking brake (remember to hold the release button off). Keep in mind that the parking brake is a separate braking system and brakes only the two rear wheels. When brakes are overused, such as when driving downhill or with your foot riding on the pedal, they can overheat. The best solution for overheated brakes is to stop and let them cool off. Pull off of the highway to a safe place. Make sure there are no objects on the floor, such as a wadded floor mat or drink can, that could keep you from being able to press the brake pedal down. It is not safe to try to move an object from under the brake pedal while you are driving. Remember to release the parking brake if you are going to push or tow your vehicle.

Different vehicles have different braking systems. It is important to read your owner’s manual so you will know exactly what kind of brakes your vehicle has, so you will know how to react in emergencies.



If your vehicle breaks down, park where the disabled vehicle can be seen for 200 feet in each direction, if possible. Try to safely park the vehicle with all four wheels off the traveled portion of the roadway. Place your car in park if you have an automatic transmission. If your car is equipped with a manual transmission, put your car in gear. Engage the parking brake and turn on your emergency flashers. Tell all passengers to exit the vehicle on the side away from traffic. Raise the hood and tie a white cloth to your left door handle or radio antenna. It is safer to stay with your car than to go for help.

Dead Battery

A dead battery will prevent your car from starting. Consult your owner’s manual for correct procedures for “jump-starting” a battery. Jump-starting can be dangerous if you do not have the right equipment or knowledge to perform the task. A battery can explode if jumped improperly.


Most vehicle fires start in the engine compartment. Quickly steer the vehicle out of traffic and off the roadway to a safe open area. Stay away from buildings and service stations. Turn off the ignition. Tell all passengers to exit the vehicle and move a safe distance from the vehicle. If the fire is small and you have a portable extinguisher, you may attempt to extinguish the fire. Do not raise the hood if the fire is in the engine compartment, as air will cause it to flare up. Never apply water to a gasoline fire. If you cannot control the fire, move a safe distance away from the vehicle due to the possible presence of toxic fumes and/or potential explosion. Make sure someone has called the fire department (911).

Flat Tire or a Blowout

When a front tire blows out, the vehicle pulls strongly in the direction of the deflated tire. You must steer firmly against the pull of the vehicle to keep it on its intended path. A left front tire blowout is especially dangerous, since the vehicle may pull left toward the lane of oncoming traffic. When a rear tire blows out, the back of the car can fishtail. Handle a rear blowout like a skid. Grip the steering wheel firmly and ease up on the accelerator. Avoid braking. Steer the vehicle in the direction you want the front end to go and coast into a safe location. If you are going to change a tire, check the owner’s manual for the correct procedure. A tire change should always be performed off the traveled portion of the highway.

Engine Warning Light On

When the engine warning light on your dashboard comes on, it may say “check engine,” “check oil” or “hot.” As soon as possible, stop your vehicle off the traveled portion of the roadway. Continuing to drive your vehicle may cause severe damage to the engine. Follow the instruction shown on the dash. Never open the radiator cap until the engine has cooled. Check your owner’s manual for proper procedures.

Flooded Engine

An engine floods when too much fuel but not enough air reaches the engine. Depress the accelerator fully for 5-10 seconds. Release the accelerator and re-start the engine. If the engine does not start within the allowed time, wait several minutes and try again.

Headlight Failure

If you find yourself suddenly without headlights, stay calm. Do not slam on your brakes. Try turning the light switch and the dimmer switch on and off a few times. Some circuits might still work. Use whatever lights are available to help you drive off the roadway to a safe location. Make sure your vehicle is seen by others by using your directional signals and four-way flashers if they are working.

Hood Flies Up

Hood flies up

If your hood flies up while you are driving, brake smoothly to slow the vehicle down. Try looking out the left side window or the gap where the hood hinges to the rest of the vehicle’s body to see the road ahead. Use your mirrors to check the rear to see how close the vehicle behind you is before you brake. Turn on your turn signal and exit to a safe location off the roadway.


Jammed Gas Pedal

If you let up on the gas pedal and the engine does not slow, your accelerator pedal is probably jammed. Keep your eyes on the road. Do not tap the gas pedal with your foot as it may stick farther down and cause the car to go faster. Try to pry the pedal up with the toe of your shoe. Never try to reach down to dislodge the pedal yourself; you cannot afford to take your eyes off of the road. Shift into neutral. The engine will race faster, but the power will be removed from the wheels. Follow an escape path to a safe place off the roadway. Turn off the ignition when you are off the road and no longer need to change direction.

Power Steering Failure

A failure in the power-steering system is the most common type of steering failure. Power steering failure occurs when the engine dies, the power-steering fluid in the system is low or a drive belt slips or breaks. The steering mechanism will still work, but you must exert much effort to steer. As soon as possible, take the vehicle to a service center to be repaired.

Right Wheels Off the Pavement

If your vehicle leaves the traveled portion of the road because your right wheels are off the pavement, take your foot off the gas pedal and hold the steering wheel firmly. The greater the drop-off between the roadway and the shoulder, the more steering control you need. Keep your car in a straight line. If possible, avoid braking. Wait until the road is clear and return to the pavement at a slow speed.


If your vehicle skids, respond quickly and calmly. A vehicle skids when the tires lose their grip on the pavement. Slippery surfaces combined with a sudden movement may cause your vehicle to skid. High speed, especially on curves, may also lead to skidding. When you feel your vehicle begin to skid, take your foot off the gas pedal and do not use your brakes, unless you are about to hit something. Steer into the direction of the skid to straighten the vehicle out. Be prepared to countersteer, if necessary, to straighten the vehicle out, but take care not to overcorrect. Then steer in the direction you wish to go. Straighten the steering wheel as soon as you are going in the correct direction. If you do not straighten in time, the vehicle will begin to skid in the opposite direction. Begin to correct your steering as soon as you go into the skid. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to come out of the skid. All of your steering movements must be quick but smooth. Once you are going straight again, you may begin to accelerate slowly.4

Section 4.6. Sharing the road with motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians and large trucks including visibility limitations

Sharing the Road with Large Vehicles

In 2007, 413,000 large trucks (gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds) were involved in traffic crashes in the United States; 4,584 were involved in fatal crashes. A total of 4,808 people died (12 percent of all the traffic fatalities reported in 2007) and an additional 101,000 were injured in those crashes.

Large trucks accounted for eight percent of all vehicles involved in fatal crashes and four percent of all vehicles involved in injury and property-damage-only crashes. One out of nine traffic fatalities in 2007 resulted from a collision involving a large truck. Drivers of large trucks were less likely to have a previous license suspension or revocation than were passenger car drivers (eight percent and 15 percent, respectively).5 In 2007, large trucks were involved in 288 fatal crashes on Florida’s roadways.6

For safety’s sake, you must understand all traffic laws, be courteous, abide by the rules of the road and drive responsibly. Large vehicles include not only trucks, but any vehicle you have trouble seeing around, including buses, vans, delivery trucks, motor homes and some sport utility vehicles (SUV). Large vehicles have blind spots on both sides of their vehicles just as smaller vehicles do. These blind spots are called the “no zone.” Drivers of large vehicles must use their mirrors to see around them, and as the bumper sticker says: “If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you.” If large vehicles need to swerve or change lanes for any reason and cannot see the vehicles around them, a crash can occur. Try not to stay in the “no zone” of either side of a large vehicle any longer than is necessary.

Another “no zone” is the large area directly behind large trucks. Tailgating large vehicles greatly increases the chance of a rear-end collision. Since you cannot see what the truck driver can see, you must rely on the brake lights of his or her vehicle. By the time you see the truck’s brake lights come on, the driver has used up his or her reaction time and has started using up braking distance.

Another “no zone” is just in front of large vehicles. When passing a bus or a truck, be sure you can see the front of the vehicle in your rearview mirror before pulling in front of the vehicle.

Another “no zone” is when a large vehicle is making a wide right turn. The driver of the vehicle may need to swing wide to the left in order to safely negotiate a right turn. If you are directly behind or beside them, the driver will be unable to see you. Cutting in between the vehicle and the curb on the shoulder to the right increases the possibility of a crash.

Another “no zone” is when a truck is backing up. Sometimes a truck must block the street to maneuver its trailer accurately. Never cross behind a truck that is preparing to backup or is in the process of doing so. Most trailers are eight and a half feet wide and can completely hide objects that come between them and loading areas. Drivers attempting to pass behind a truck that is backing up enter a blind spot for both drivers.

Sharing the Road with a Bicycle

The first automobile crash in the United States occurred in New York City in 1896, when a motor vehicle collided with a bicycle rider (Famous First Facts, by Joseph Kane).

In 2008, 118 bicyclists were killed in Florida and an additional 4,380 were injured in 4,775 crashes. Bicyclists’ deaths accounted for 3.9 percent of all traffic fatalities and two percent of the traffic injuries in Florida for 2008.7

In the United States in 2007, bicyclist fatalities occurred more frequently in urban areas (72 percent), at non intersection locations (64 percent), between the hours of 5:00 PM and 9:00 PM (26 percent), and during the months of June (11 percent) and September (11 percent).

Most of the bicyclists killed or injured in 2007 in the United States were males (88% and 83%, respectively), and most were between the ages of 5 and 44 years (55% and 79%, respectively).8

As the driver of a motor vehicle, give bicycles extra space whenever possible. Some riders may not be able to control their bicycles well and may suddenly get in your path. Be sure to give extra space to young riders, riders who may be distracted, riders who may have been drinking and older riders. As you start to pass, approach slowly and try not to frighten the rider. Before passing, be aware of the possible path the bicyclist may take. Florida law requires bicyclists to ride on the right side of the roadway but a cyclist may swerve into your path for a variety of reasons that you may not be aware of such as potholes, puddles, and storm drains. If you can predict a possible change of direction, you may be able to stop in time to avoid a crash.

Always start your pass well behind the bicycle. You should have at least a half-lane of space between your vehicle and the bicyclist. If you do not have this much space, wait for a gap in oncoming traffic and then pass. Before you move over to pass, signal to traffic behind you to let them know that you are changing lanes. You may want to warn the cyclist by tapping your horn.

Large three-wheel cycles are popular in some communities especially retirement areas. They provide transportation and exercise. In retirement areas, riders of three-wheel cycles may travel in large groups.

At night, use your low beam headlights when traveling near bicyclists. Avoid shining your high beam headlights into riders’ eyes.

When parallel parking, check for all types of pedalcycles before opening the driver’s side door.

Sharing the Road with a Motorcycle

In 2007, 5,154 motorcyclists were killed in motor vehicle crashes, an increase of seven percent over the 4,837 motorcyclist fatalities killed in 2006, and an additional 103,000 were injured in traffic crashes in the United States.

Motorcycles made up nearly three percent of all registered vehicles in the United States in 2006 and accounted for only 0.4 percent of all vehicle miles traveled.

In 2007, motorcyclists accounted for 13 percent of total traffic fatalities, 14 percent of all occupant fatalities, and four percent of all occupants injured.

Motorcycles are more likely to be involved in a fatal collision with a fixed object than are other vehicles. In 2007, 25 percent of the motorcycles involved in fatal crashes collided with fixed objects, compared to 18 percent for passenger cars, 13 percent for light trucks, and three percent for large trucks.9

Numerous actions that motorcyclists take can affect you. A rider must operate separate brakes for front and rear wheels to stop. In addition, the rider must coordinate foot and hand brakes carefully for maximum braking. If the front brake is applied independently, it can lock the front wheel and cause a loss of control. This may result in crashes with other road users.

The motorcycle rider must coordinate the hand throttle, hand clutch and foot gear shift lever to accelerate smoothly. If this action is not performed smoothly, a balance problem may occur. The problem is magnified when a vehicle is following too closely.

Following a motorcycle or a motorcycle following you may cause a problem. You should continuously check your rearview mirror and be aware of motorcycles behind you. When a motorcyclist is following you try not to make any sudden stops.

Rough weather and road conditions present greater problems to the motorcyclist than to the driver of a motor vehicle. Allow extra space for motorcycles in all adverse conditions.

A motorcyclist can not cope with adverse weather conditions as well as the driver of a motor vehicle can. For example, a puddle may hide a pothole that jolts your car. That same hidden pothole could throw a motorcycle out of control.

Just as it is for drivers of motor vehicles, the worst time for a motorcyclist is immediately after it starts to rain. As rain mixes with dirt and oil on the road, traction is greatly reduced. Since balance is important for motorcycles, reduced traction is far more critical to a motorcyclist’s control.

When you are following a motorcyclist who is crossing railroad tracks or carrying a passenger, use extra caution. Railroad tracks may present a special problem because motorcycle tires can get caught in the grooves of the crossing, which could result in the rider losing balance. You should predict that the rider might lose balance and/or control at a railroad crossing.

Motorcycle Licensing

How to Get a Motorcycle Also License

All persons requesting a motorcycle endorsement:

  • Must hold a Class E license or higher or meet the requirements for a Class E license.
  • Must complete a motorcycle safety course, Basic RiderCourse (BRC), or
  • Provide an out-of-state license with a motorcycle endorsement (except Alabama).

How to Get a Motorcycle Only License

Under 18

  • Must hold a Learner’s License at least 12 months prior to the issuance of a Class E Motorcycle Only license.
  • Must provide completion of an approved motorcycle safety course.

Over 18

  • Pass the vision, road sign and road rule examinations or hold a current Learner’s License.
  • Must provide completion of an approved motorcycle safety course.

Source: S.322.0255 and 322.12(5)(A), F.S.

Sharing the Road with Pedestrians

In 2007, 4,654 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in the United States – a decrease of 13 percent from the 5,321 pedestrians killed in 1997. Of the 4,654 pedestrians killed, 531 were in Florida. On average, a pedestrian is killed in a traffic crash every 113 minutes. There were 70,000 pedestrians injured in traffic crashes in 2007. On average, a pedestrian is injured in a traffic crash every eight minutes.

In 2007, one-fifth (20 percent) of all children between the ages of 5 and 9 years who were killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians. In addition, children under 15 years old accounted for eight percent of all pedestrian fatalities in motor vehicle crashes.

Older pedestrians (ages 70+) accounted for 16 percent of all pedestrian fatalities and six percent of all pedestrians injured in 2007. The death rate for this group, both males and females, was 2.66 per 100,000; this was higher than any other age group.

During 2007, 36 percent of the young pedestrian fatalities occurred between the hours of 3 PM and 7 PM, and 48 percent occurred on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.

Of all the highway users, pedestrians are the most vulnerable. It is the special responsibility of drivers to watch for and protect pedestrians.10

Many pedestrians who do not drive are not fully aware of traffic laws, including those that pertain to signals. Many do not know the distance needed to stop a moving vehicle. Children and the elderly are most at risk. Children can act impulsively and may run into traffic without thinking. The elderly may take longer to cross the street. They may not be able to see or hear well and may be unaware of possible dangers. Never assume that pedestrians will move out of the way. In some situations you may have to stop to allow a pedestrian to cross safely. Try to let them know you are there with a tap on your horn or a hand wave.

Many pedestrians assume that drivers will yield the right of way to anyone in the crosswalk. When they cross at an intersection with a Walk signal, pedestrians may not even look for oncoming traffic.

Pedestrians waiting to cross the street often stand in the street instead of on the curb. They may even dash across the street without warning. During a rainstorm, pedestrians may be more concerned about protection from the weather and pay little attention to moving traffic.

Be alert for pedestrians at night, even in well-lit areas. It is often difficult to identify pedestrians at night.

Watch for pedestrians when leaving an alley or driveway. Always stop before crossing the sidewalk and look for pedestrians. You may tap your horn as a warning. Once across the sidewalk, be prepared to yield the right of way to other traffic on the street.

Although a jogger is safer using a sidewalk or jogging path, you may encounter joggers on the street. A jogger who is coming toward you should see you, but a jogger whose back is towards you may not hear you coming. Be aware of joggers who are wearing music headsets as their hearing ability will be compromised.

The moment you step from your vehicle, you are a pedestrian. The knowledge you have about driving should make you more aware of possible problems and conflicts with pedestrians.

Sharing the Road with a Blind Person

The primary traveling aids for a person who is blind are often a white cane and/or a trained guide dog. Independent travel involves some risk that can be greatly reduced when you, the driver, are aware of the use and meaning of a white cane or guide dog.

Drivers must always yield the right-of-way to persons who are blind. When a pedestrian is crossing a street guided by a dog or carrying a cane or walking stick that is white in color or white tipped with red in a raised or in an extended position, all vehicles must come to a complete stop.

Traffic Regulations to Assist Mobility Impaired Persons

Whenever a pedestrian who is mobility impaired (using a wheelchair, crutches, a cane or a walker) is in a crosswalk, it is the driver’s responsibility to stop at the intersection to allow the pedestrian to cross safely. Once the pedestrian has crossed safely, the driver may proceed with caution.

Section 4.7. Passing laws with information on clear distance and prohibitive situations

Passing on a two-lane road, meeting traffic

Drivers of vehicles proceeding in the opposite direction shall pass each other on the right and each driver shall give to the other at least one-half of the main-traveled portion of the roadway, as nearly as possible.

When you observe an oncoming vehicle, check to see if it is traveling on or near the centerline. If it is, slow down by removing your foot from the accelerator and cover the brake pedal. Move to the right position in your lane. Check the condition of the shoulder in case you need an escape path. The later at night it is, the more important it is to watch the oncoming traffic; be aware that the drivers may be sleepy or intoxicated.

Passing in the same direction on a two-lane road:

First, make sure you are in a passing zone, with no solid yellow lines on your side of the centerline. Check for oncoming traffic that could interfere with your pass. Can you tell how fast oncoming vehicles are approaching? Are there other vehicles ahead of the vehicle you are passing? Before starting your pass, look for vehicles that may be entering the highway from a side road, either to travel in the lane in which you are passing or to travel in the lane to which you will be returning when you complete your pass. Check for vehicles that may be following you or in the process of passing you. Stay a safe distance behind the vehicle you want to pass. The closer you get to the vehicle, the less you can see ahead. This is especially true when passing large vehicles. Before you start to pass, signal to drivers behind you by using your turn signal. When you have completed your pass , do not return to the right side of the roadway until it is safe and you are clear of the vehicle you have passed. You must return to your lane before coming within 200 feet of any approaching vehicle. Before you move back into your lane, signal your intention to return to that lane.

Passing on the right.

You may pass on the right if:

  • the vehicle ahead is making a left turn or is about to make a left turn.
  • the roadway has an unobstructed pavement not occupied by parked vehicles and is of sufficient width for two or more lanes of moving traffic in each direction.
  • you are on a one-way street with two or more lanes.
    When passing on the right, you must do so only under conditions permitting such movement and in no event shall such movement be made by driving off the pavement or main travel portion of the roadway.

When you may not pass

You may not pass on a two-lane road with traffic moving in the opposite direction under certain conditions:

  1. When you see a “Do Not Pass” or “No Passing Zone” sign.
  2. When a solid yellow line is painted on your side of the centerline.
  3. When approaching the crest of a hill or a curve in the roadway where the driver’s view is obstructed within such a distance as to create a hazard. This is due to the possibility that another vehicle may be approaching from the opposite direction.
  4. When approaching within 100 feet of or traversing any marked intersection.
  5. When approaching within 100 feet of or traversing any railroad grade crossing.
  6. When the view is obstructed upon approaching within 100 feet of any bridge, viaduct or tunnel.

Being passed

When you are being passed, maintain your speed; do not speed up or slow down. Help other drivers pass you safely by moving to the right side of your lane to give them more room and a better view of the road ahead. At night, switch to your low beam headlights when someone is passing you.

Section 4.8. Right of way, including the concept that no driver can claim the right of way and what to do when traffic lights malfunction

The law does not give the right-of-way to anyone; it only says who must yield the right-of way. Every driver, motorcyclist, moped rider, bicyclist and pedestrian must do everything possible to avoid a crash. When must you yield the right of way? Every driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to:

  1. A pedestrian worker and flagperson engaged in maintenance or construction work on a highway when lawfully notified by a warning device of that person.
  2. An escort vehicle or pedestrian flagperson that is engaged in the management of highway movement of an oversize vehicle, when the driver is warned of the presence of the vehicle or person.
  3. A publicly-owned transit bus traveling in the same direction which has signaled and is re-entering the traffic flow from a specifically designated pullout bay.
  4. A vehicle which has entered the intersection from a different highway.
  5. All vehicles approaching on a state-maintained highway when you are about to enter or cross the state-maintained road from a paved or unpaved road that is not controlled by a traffic control device.
  6. All vehicles approaching on a paved county or city maintained road from an unpaved road that is not controlled by a traffic control device.
  7. Any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction which is within the intersection or so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard when turining to the left within the intersection or into an alley, private road, or driveway.

In addition, the driver on the left shall yield to the vehicle on the right when both vehicles have entered an intersection from different highways at the same time.

Every vehicle must yield the right-of-way at intersections that are controlled by stop signs, yield signs and traffic signals or as directed by a police officer.

When you approach an intersection in which the traffic lights are inoperative, you should stop as if the intersection is controlled by a stop sign. (See F.S. 316.1235)

Section 4.9. Speed adjustment in relationship to environmental hazards, surroundings, school zones and construction zones

As you travel the roadways in the state of Florida, you will see signs which state the “speed limit.” These signs tell you the maximum limit allowed by law under ideal conditions. Some examples of when the speed limit may be too fast follow.

Environmental Hazards

Heavy rain reduces your ability to see and be seen. In daytime turn on your windshield wipers, low beam headlights and, if needed, your windshield defroster. Heavy rain at night can almost blind you. Driving at the speed limit under those conditions is too fast. You should reduce your speed limit under those circumstances.

Fog reduces your ability to judge distance. Oncoming vehicles may be closer than you think. Be alert and be prepared to slow down. You may need to pull off the pavement until conditions improve; if so, remember to turn on your emergency flashers to warn other drivers that you are stopped.

Dawn and dusk are also examples of environmental hazards. Try to make your car more visible to others. Turn on your low beam headlights, not only so you can see better, but so others can see you better.

Road Obstructions

Although expressways are built to keep traffic moving, conditions sometimes slow or halt traffic flow. One of these situations is highway construction. Watch for warning signs that are tell you when you are approaching a construction area. In Section 8, you will see examples of those signs. The closer you get to the construction area, the more you need to use caution and obey special speed limitations. You may see lighted signboards and/or cones as you get closer to the construction area. The number of traffic lanes may be reduced. Check your mirrors and your blind spot before merging to be sure that the lane is clear. Trucks and other equipment may be using some or all of your traffic lane. Watch for trucks pulling away from the area. They may leave mud or sand on the road. Slow down, steer gently and obey workers’ instructions. Be especially careful of workers and equipment operators who may not see you. Always use an extra space cushion to protect them.

Car Crash

An expressway crash may cause blockage of one or more lanes. When you see a problem ahead, check your mirrors for traffic behind you, flash your brake lights and slow down gradually. Watch for emergency personnel and for police officers directing traffic. If you can go around the crash scene, proceed cautiously. Do not stop unless otherwise directed. Do not slow to a crawl to look at the crash. You will only slow traffic and may even cause another crash.

Night Driving

Lights in fog

Night driving brings on a new set of circumstances that make the speed limit too fast for conditions. When driving at night, always keep your headlights on. High beams will permit you to see further ahead, but you should only use them when there is no oncoming traffic for at least 500 feet and you are at least 300 feet behind if following another vehicle.

Use your low beam headlights in bad weather. Use of your high beams in heavy rain or fog will reflect the light back into your eyes.

Sometimes drivers do not realize that they have their bright lights on. If an oncoming driver does this, do not put on your bright lights. Slow down and glance down at the right edge of the road as a guide for your lane position. Do not stare directly into the oncoming lights to avoid being blinded.

Overdriving Your Headlights

Overdriving your headlights is driving at a speed that makes your stopping distance longer than the distance illuminated by your headlights.


School Zones

School zone

As a driver you must know what school zone and school crossing signs look like. School zones signs usually indicate the hours of enforcement in addition to the school zone speed limit of a minimum speed of 15 miles per hour to a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour. These speed limits are strictly enforced for the safety of children. Sometimes the signage will be accompanied by a flashing yellow light. You may refer to Section 8 for examples of the signs.

School zones present different conditions in the form of children walking, running or riding bicycles, school buses, vehicles driven by parents and school crossing guards. You must look at each child in a school zone as a human caution sign.

Note: Fines for speeding violations are doubled in a school zone.

Construction Zones

Construction zones may utilize a combination of several different types of traffic management devices. You may encounter a flagperson giving you instructions about when to proceed or when to stop. You may also see signs, traffic cones or barricades with flashing yellow lights giving direction.

Often the Department of Transportation gives you advance notice when they will be doing roadwork so drivers can make alternative travel plans. However, if you do not get advance notification and you get caught in traffic, be patient, stay calm and stay within the speed limit. Besides the safety risks, speeding fines are doubled in construction zones.

F.S.316.183 – Unlawful Speed

  1. No person shall drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing. In every event, speed shall be controlled as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person, vehicle, or other conveyance or object on or entering the highway in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to use due care.
  2. On all streets or highways, the maximum speed limits for all vehicles must be 30 miles per hour in business or residence districts, and 55 miles per hour at any time in all other locations. However, with respect to a residence district, a county or municipality may set a maximum speed limit of 20 or 25 miles per hour on local streets and highways after an investigation determines that such a limit is reasonable. It is not necessary to conduct a separate investigation for each residence district. The minimum speed limit on all highways that comprise a part of the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways and have not fewer than four lanes is 50 miles per hour.
  3. No school bus shall exceed the posted speed limits, not to exceed 55 miles per hour at any time.
  4. The driver of every vehicle shall, consistent with the requirements of subsection (1), drive at an appropriately reduced speed when:
    1. Approaching and crossing an intersection or railway grade crossing.
    2. Approaching and going around a curve.
    3. Approaching the crest of a hill.
    4. Traveling upon any narrow or winding roadway.
    5. Any special hazard exists with respect to pedestrians or other traffic or by reason of weather or highway conditions.
  5. No person shall drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.
  6. No driver of a vehicle shall exceed the posted maximum speed limit in a work zone area.
  7. A violation of this section is a non-criminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation as provided in Chapter 318.

Section 4.10. Wireless communications

Since the introduction of cellular telephones in 1983, there have been dramatic changes in the cellular industry. With a growth rate of about 40 percent per year, it is estimated there are now more than 150 million cellular phone users in the United States. Changes in technology, inc luding the transition from heavy, cumbersome and expensive cellular telephones, to inexpensive, miniature hand held units, have had a significant impact on when, where and how we conduct our affairs, both business and personal. Societal pressures for increased efficiency, more leisure time, and an improved sense of safety have placed wireless communications at the forefront of potential situations for an increasingly mobile and technologically sophisticated populace.

While voice communications has been the primary focus of the cellular industry, the desire to “work on the road” has resulted in a move toward the integration of technologies. This trend is such that cellular communications can now be the focal point of a truly “mobile office” including E-mail, fax, and internet services in addition to telephone, voice-mail and paging capabilities from any location.

Indeed, time spent commuting, caught up in traffic and just plain traveling can now be productive. In addition, the cellular telephone brought with it a sense of security for those concerned about traveling alone in unfamiliar areas or concerned about vehicle breakdown. It is not surprising, then, that more than 85 percent of cellular telephone owners use their phones at least occasionally while driving, and more than 27 percent use their phones during half or more of their trips.

Cellular use while driving

The recent growth of cellular telephone use crosses all ages and gender boundaries. More than just the latest electronic toy, cellular telephones have become an integral part of our business and personal lives. They are used to schedule appointments, broker deals, call for assistance, report emergencies (auto crashes, impaired drivers and reckless driving) and maintain contact with loved ones.

Specific aspects of cellular telephone use have been identified which demonstrate that phone conversation, rather than dialing, is the most frequently reported related factor in crashes. Contrary to expectation, the majority of drivers were talking on their phones rather than dialing at the time of the crash. A few drivers were also startled when their phones rang, and as they reached for their phones, they ran off the road. Other driver factors included driving too fast for conditions or failing to yield while talking on the phone. The overwhelming majority of cellular telephone users were in the striking vehicle and struck cars or other large objects that were in clear view of the driver. There are studies that show that cellular telephone use is a growing factor in crashes. Driver inattention is the most frequently cited pre-crash condition for drivers who use cellular telephones.

In Florida and some other states, cellular emergency calls are directed to the state police (*FHP on your cellular phone). The state police surveyed are generally appreciative of the quick notification capabilities afforded by cellular telephones. Be sure your reason for calling is a true emergency before using *FHP to call for assistance.

Drivers must concentrate on the road and traffic while driving. You must not carry out activities while driving which negatively impact the operation of the vehicle.11

Section 4.11. Railroad crossings

There is a regulation in baseball which says that if the ball and the runner reach first base at the same time, the tie goes to the runner. In traffic, if a train and a car get to a crossing at the same time, the tie goes to the train. With this understanding, let’s look at some ways to keep from having a fatal tie at a railway crossing.

Railroad crossings are a type of intersection, and like highway intersections, they can be very dangerous. Railroad crossings have their own unique markings; you will see examples at the end of this section.

There are two types of railroad crossings: controlled and uncontrolled. Controlled crossings usually have both red lights and crossing gates. You must make a complete stop when the lights are flashing and/or the gates are down. Remain stopped until the lights stop flashing and the gates are raised. F.S.316.1575(2) states that it is illegal to drive through, around or under any crossing gate that is closed or is being opened or closed.

An uncontrolled railroad crossing not have red lights or a crossing gate. However, like controlled crossings, uncontrolled crossings are marked with a round yellow advance warning sign placed ahead of the crossing. This advance warning sign tells you to slow down, look and listen for a train. Be prepared to stop at the tracks in the event that a train is approaching. A crossbuck sign marks the railroad crossing. Some of the more dangerous crossings may have a stop sign. If this is the case, the same laws apply as at a highway intersection.

When you approach a crossing, slow down and check traffic in the rear. Be aware of other cars approaching you at an unsafe speed. Reduce the noise level in your car to listen for the train sounds by turning the volume on your radio all the way down. If necessary, lower your window.

Stop at a safe distance before the tracks if a train is approaching – not less than fifteen feet or more than fifty feet. When the train has passed, make sure the intersection is clear and that another train is not approaching on another track before you attempt to cross. A sign below the crossbuck will indicate how many sets of tracks you will be crossing.

Railroad crossing

When crossing the railroad tracks, reduce your speed to handle a potential rough ride. Check both ways on the track for a short sight distance. Drive onto the tracks only when you have enough space and speed to clear the tracks. Make sure any vehicles ahead of you have cleared the tracks before you start to cross. Never stop on railroad tracks waiting for traffic ahead to move.

Be prepared to stop behind large vehicles, such as school buses and trucks hauling flammable contents. The law requires such vehicles to stop at all railroad crossings.

Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Warning Signs

Round yellow advance warning sign

Round Yellow Advance Warning Sign

Round black-on-yellow warning signs are placed ahead of public highway-rail intersections. The Advance Warning sign tells you to slow down, look and listen for a train, and be prepared to stop if a train is coming.

Pavement markings

Pavement Markings

Pavement markings have the same meaning as Advance Warning signs. They consist of an X with the letters RR and the no-passing marking on two lane roads. There may also be a NO PASSING ZONE sign on two-lane roads at railroad crossings. There may be a white Stop Line painted on the pavement before the railroad tracks.

Parallel track signs

Parallel Track Sign

These signs are diamond-shaped with black illustrations showing railroad tracks parallel to the highway. These signs warn drivers who are making a turn that there is a highway-rail intersection immediately after the turn.


Stop Sign

A Stop sign means the same at a railroad crossing as it does at a highway intersection. Stop, look, and listen for the train. Proceed only when it is safe to do so.

Multiple tracks signs

Multiple tracks

When there is more than one set of tracks at a railroad crossing, there is a sign beneath the crossbuck with a number indicating how many tracks are present. Watch for additional trains coming from either direction.


Do Not Stop On The Tracks Sign

This sign may be posted on the right side of the road or on the far side of the tracks. When you stop, be sure that the front (or the rear) of the car is at least 15 feet from the tracks.

Exampt signs

Exempt S ign

There are two kinds of Exempt signs:

  • A sign below the crossbuck with a white background and black letters that says Exempt
  • A sign below the advance warning sign with a yellow background and black letters that says Exempt

An Exempt sign means that the crossing has been abandoned or its use discontinued. Follow local regulations about stopping.


Track Out Of Service Sign

This sign may be posted at a crossing that has been abandoned or its use discontinued. Follow your local regulations about stopping.

Crossbuck signs

Crossbuck Sign

This sign marks the grade crossing. It means you must yield the right-of-way to the train. If there is no white line painted on the pavement, you must stop before the crossbuck sign.



NEVER attempt to go around the gates at a railroad crossing. When the red lights are flashing, a train is present. Even if the red lights continue to flash and no train appears, do not cross. Call the police. There may also be an 800 number posted at the crossing to call for help. If there is a flagperson or police officer directing traffic at a railroad crossing, obey that person. You can cross the tracks if that person directs you to do so.

When the gates are down, it means a train is present. It is unsafe and illegal to cross


One thought on “Driving course (Chapter 4)

  1. Hi there! This blog post couldn’t be written any better! Going through this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept preaching about this. I am going to forward this information to him. Pretty sure he’s going
    to have a very good read. I appreciate you for sharing!

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