Whenever you cross into another state, you're responsible for knowing the driving laws of that state. As the Romans once said, "Ignorantia juris non excusat or ignorantia legis neminem excusat", which is Latin for "ignorance of the law excuses not." Police in the U.S. feel the same way: Being ignorant of a law is not a valid defense for breaking it.
Yet, some driving laws are so bizarre that you can't help but wonder how they ended up on the books — or how drivers would even know such laws existed. That's why we've done some of the heavy lifting for you. That said, not all laws prohibit you from doing certain things — some laws implicitly give you permission to do things. And, in the case of these weird driving laws, they might be things that you never even thought of doing. Here are some of the most unexpected driving laws we found from around the country.
1. Party in the Passenger Seat
Did you know that in some states, the front passenger can have an open container of alcohol? If you assumed it was completely illegal to drive with an open container in a vehicle, you're not alone. But it turns out that there are 10 states that don't have laws preventing passengers from drinking while a vehicle is in motion: Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Missouri, Mississippi, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
If you're the driver, however, you're still forbidden from indulging, of course. And keep in mind that if you get pulled over, you'll probably face a little more scrutiny than usual to prove that you're in compliance with the law.
2. Zero Tolerance in Rhode Island
So, over in Scituate, Rhode Island, they take the opposite approach to alcohol in the car. While passengers on the other side of the state line in Connecticut can imbibe on cocktails while riding, the town of Scituate (population 10,611) has a law on the books that states, in part, that no alcoholic beverages, even those in closed containers, can be transported by vehicle. That's right. And the law doesn't focus exclusively on cars; rather, it bans people from possessing alcoholic beverages on any town property, including cars on the roads.
Rhode Island's last "dry" town, Barrington, changed its laws in 2011 to allow the sale of alcohol, though there are still a few other dry towns in New England. Scituate is just something else entirely.
3. Don't Trash Your Car in Hilton Head
If you live in or visit the island of Hilton Head, South Carolina, you better keep the inside of your car clean, otherwise you could be charged with "constituting a nuisance" per a town ordinance. One might think this law is purely for aesthetics — you know for keeping this upscale beach locale pristine for tourists. But apparently, collecting trash in your car can cause a rodent problem.
The law states, "It shall be unlawful for any person to place, leave, dump or permit to accumulate any garbage, rubbish or trash in any building, vehicle and their surrounding areas in the town so that the same shall or may afford food or harborage for rats." Um, OK.
4. Rudeness in Rockville
Next time you're driving through Rockville, Maryland, be sure to keep your road rage in check because foul language here is against the law. (Yes. You read that right.) The first part of the law states, "A person may not profanely curse and swear or use obscene language upon or near any street, sidewalk or highway within the hearing of persons passing by, upon or along such street, sidewalk or highway."
That might lead you to think it's OK as long as no one hears you, but nope, they've got that covered, too. The next part states, "A person may not act in a disorderly manner by profanely cursing, swearing or using obscene language." So if you swear at the person that cuts you off in traffic but no one hears you, did it really happen?
5. Won't Someone Think of the Sheep?
In Montana, it's a fairly common occurrence to drive with sheep in a vehicle, or at least, more common here than in most other places. (In 2018, there were about 220,000 sheep in the state, compared to about 1 million people.) If you're transporting sheep, though, you'd better have a chaperone. According to the Missoulian newspaper, the law specifically bans sheep "in the cab of your truck" unless there's a chaperone, so it sounds like it's still OK to transport them in a vehicle designed for carrying livestock. However, this detail raises more questions than it answers. Who, exactly, is the chaperone supposed to protect — the sheep, or the driver?