Top 10 Things to Know Before Taking the DMV Test

The folks at the DMV aren’t developing tests to try and make people fail. In some states, like Florida and California, officials are actually under pressure to increase the pass rate. But, no one wants to increase the pass rate by just making the test easier.

The DMV written test is meant to test one’s knowledge of the rules of the road to ensure our roads are as safe as possible. If drivers get on the road and don’t know the rules of the road, our roads won’t be safe. It’s a pretty straight forward concept.

There are also some areas of the law that are fairly regularly being updated or changed, and the DMV does want to make sure drivers are aware of these new laws that might not get a lot of publicity in the local or even regional news. Areas of the law that are regularly updated include child safety seat and booster seat laws, graduated licensing laws, bicycle or sharing the road laws, and seat belt and cell phone restrictions.

Given that it’s fairly easy to determine what’s important and what’s frequently changing, we created our top 10 list of laws that a person should definitely know before walking into the DMV to take the written test for a driver’s license.

Top 10 Things You Need to Know

#1 Traffic signs — Know your traffic signs

Traffic signs are a guaranteed part of the test and if you are wise you will know the signs without the words in them too. Everyone knows a red octagon is a stop sign, but what about a long rectangle that’s green? What about a blue sign? What does a white sign communicate? As we have more and more non-English speakers driving on the roads, knowing what signs communicate by color and shape becomes increasingly important.

When studying the traffic signs, it’s not a bad idea to brush up on your pavement markings. You probably know what the double yellow lines mean, or the yellow dashed line indicates, but it’s a good idea to see what the manual says, so you are clear on the answer in a multiple choice question.

#2 Right-of-Way – OR – What to do at an intersection with a 4-way stop sign?

How many times do you sit at an intersection in a shopping center and face people who seem to have no idea who has the right of way? This seemingly widespread ignorance causes wrecks at intersections on a daily basis around the country. You should expect to see a question like this: What should you do if two cars approach a multi-way stop or stop intersection at the same time?

In case you don’t know the answer, it’s: Yield to the vehicle on the right.

#3 How to share the road with trucks, bicycles, pedestrians, and basically any THING that’s not an automobile.

Automobiles need to look out for motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians. Many states require that automobiles pass cyclists giving a 3-foot clearance, and others require a safe distance. Motorcycles should be treated like other automobiles and given their own lane in most states, except CA, where it is legal for a motorcycle to share a lane with an automobile. And, pedestrians almost always have the right-of-way, and even if they don’t, automobiles should still look out for them to avoid hitting them.

Sharing the road with trucks is a little different. Trucks can’t stop as quickly as an automobile, and they have large blind spots. To share the road safely with a truck, motorists should avoid riding in a truck’s blind spot for long periods of time and should not cut in front of a truck or slow down quickly in front of a truck.

Poor driving habits on the part of motorists cause many accidents with trucks, and, therefore, there’s an excellent chance you’ll get a question about sharing the road with big rigs……or cyclists, motorcycles or pedestrians.

#4 Speed Limits

Given many motorists try to get out of speeding tickets by saying they didn’t know the posted speed limit, there appears to be a knowledge issue on the topic. Hence, expect at least one question about what the speed limit is in a certain area, such as a school zone, unless otherwise posted. Every single DMV manual has a chart with the state’s standard speed limits in specific zones or roads, so review it and know it.

#5 Bad Weather

Weather varies greatly by state. Someone moving from Florida to Minnesota has a lot to learn about how to handle a car in snow. Someone moving from California to Kansas probably needs to learn the basics of what to do when near a tornado. Each DMV manual covers the recommended strategies for coping with bad weather, and it’s a good idea to know the strategies that your DMV has recommended.

Fog, rain, snow, tornados, hurricanes and floods are all bad weather examples that your state’s DMV manual may cover. Review this section, especially if you just moved to a new state with different weather patterns than you are used to.

#6 Seatbelt and Child Safety Seat Law

Each state is different so know the law in your state. And, not only know the law but be prepared for a question listing three different kids and asking which one needs a child safety seat or a booster seat. This is one area where the test may be seeking to ensure you not only know the law but know how to apply the law.

#7 Cell Phone Laws & Distracted Driving

A decade ago distracted driving generally referred to playing with the radio or eating food while driving. With the advent of smartphones and cell phones, distracted driving has taken on a whole new meaning and states are scrambling to create laws that keep the roads safe. In general, it is never safe to text or to talk on the phone while driving. Some folks carry bad behavior a step further and will read email or do Internet searches while driving.

This is one area where it’s important to know what is not safe. But, when taking the test, you need to go to your state’s DMV manual and find out exactly what your state’s laws are on the subject because very few states have the same policies. Some let you talk on the phone with a hands-free device, some don’t. Some states don’t mention texting in their laws; others are very clear it is illegal to text and drive. Before taking the written test, know what your state says about distracted driving and know the law.

#8 Graduated Driving Licensing Laws

Since the 1990’s, many states have begun enacting GDL laws. This means that gone are the days where a person has a permit for a period that allows him to drive anytime with a parent, and then a full blown license is granted. Each state handles this differently, but basically now there are graduated restrictions on what a permit and, in some states, what an initial license allows drivers to do.

#9 Headlights

In general, headlights are important when you have trouble seeing or when other cars might have trouble seeing you. Specific laws about when headlights should be on do vary by state. This is another area that it is best to learn what your state requires. While every state requires headlights at night, some states require headlights when it’s raining or foggy. Check your manual before taking the test so you can answer correctly or visit the AAA Digest

#10 Move Over Laws

Move Over Laws represent a common sense practice that is now sweeping the states with a wave of new laws. A Move Over Law, in general, requires that cars move over, or get out of the way, of emergency personnel. To find out what your state says about Move Over Laws, visit the AAA Digest that summarizes each state’s specifics on this common sense law.


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