Do You Really Know the Basics of Driving?

By: Elisabeth Henderson

Do You Really Know the Basics of Driving?
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?
To slow everyone down
To ensure that traffic can move in an orderly fashion
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.
To create an illusion of safety
To add color to the scenery

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When you hear an emergency siren or see flashing lights, what should you do, if possible?
Speed up and take the next turn to get away
Pull over to the right
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.
Pull over to the left
Stop where you are

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When crossing a train track, what should you be sure to check for?
That all tracks are clear
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.
For a smashed penny on the rails
Your phone for any new messages
How long you have been waiting

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If a school bus stops in front of you and is flashing red lights, when should you proceed?
As soon as no one is coming on the left
As soon as you’ve checked for children on the left
As soon as the school bus is in motion
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.
As soon as you feel aggravated by how slow it is

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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?
Shake your fist at them
Speed up and pull in front of them
Yield them the right-of-way
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.
Close your eyes and hope for the best

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What does a flashing red light signal?
Stop completely at the intersection and go when it’s safe.
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.
Stop briefly, then go.
Tap the breaks.
Stop until the light turns green.

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What does a solid yellow line beside a broken yellow line mean?
The painters were confused.
Pass if you really need to, but otherwise just sit tight.
You may pass if you’re on the broken yellow side, but not on the solid side.
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.
You may pass if on the solid side, but not on the broken side.

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If a green arrow appears at the same time as a red light, what does it mean?
That the universe has gone haywire, and it’s time for a nap
Stop or go, whichever you feel
The driver can turn in the direction of the arrow, but traffic going straight must stop.
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.
All traffic should turn in the direction of the arrow, rather than going straight.

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What is a blind spot?
A spot behind you on either side where your mirrors may not show a car lurking
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.
Parts of yourself that you’re not aware of
A time when you fall asleep momentarily while driving
That split second when you sneeze and blink

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What do defensive drivers do?
Get all worked up when someone criticizes them
Try to anticipate what may go wrong and plan ahead to prevent an accident
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.
Drive slowly at all times
Always look in the rear-view mirror

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If a light changes from green to red while a pedestrian is still in the crosswalk, what should happen?
They should be punished.
They should run.
They still have the right-of-way.
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.
Drivers are free to go regardless.

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Driving around a barricade or failing to follow warning signs is ...
Okay if you’re pressed for time.
An offense that will get you a stern warning.
A punishable violation.
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.
Always good for a laugh.

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If passing on a two-lane road, you must pass the car in front of you before ...
The approaching car hits you.
The approaching car is 200 ft away from you.
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.
Your passengers notice that you are taking their lives into your hands.
You take another breath.

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When should signaling be used?
At the last minute so you won’t get a ticket
To give advance warning that you are going to turn or change lanes
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.
Only for making turns
Only by people who are comfortable communicating their feelings

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How do you operate a clutch?
Push it halfway in and give a little gas while you shift gears
Push it all the way in, shift gears, and let it all the way out while you give a little gas
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.
Rest your foot gently on top of it while driving, just in case.
Push it in and out, then shift gears

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If you encounter a person wearing an orange vest and wielding a flag, how should you respond to their instructions?
Make hand signals to communicate your feelings
Wave a flag in return
Obey the 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.
Consider the instructions in your next move

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What happens when you start a stick shift from a standstill on a hill?
The car dies.
The engine floods.
The car rolls back when the clutch is engaged, unless you’re a really smooth driver.
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.
The brakes go out, unless you keep the clutch in.

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What is one way to minimize distracted driving?
Check your phone quickly to avoid an accident
Talk or text later
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.
Eat only burgers without mayo
Play music that doesn’t bring up too much emotional response

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What does a double yellow line show drivers?
It’s safe to pass if the coast is clear.
It is not safe to pass.
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.
This is a one-way road.
There is oncoming traffic.

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Which of the following can traffic signs NOT do?
Warn drivers of possible dangers
Guide drivers to reach their destination
Guide drivers in their life decisions
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.
Inform drivers of local rules

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What is the equilateral triangle used for?
Exclusively for caution signs
Exclusively for yield signs
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!
To show that cars and bikes have equal access to roads
To notify drivers of an approaching triangle in the roadway

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What does the pennant shape mean?
That you’re coming closer to your high school
That you’re free to pass
A two-lane highway
A no-passing zone is approaching.
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.”

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What does a flashing yellow light mean?
Drivers should speed up because the light is about to turn green.
Drivers should use caution because the light is about to turn red.
Drivers should slow down because anything could happen.
Drivers should use caution in this area.
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.

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When entering an intersection that is not controlled by a traffic signal, always yield the right-of-way to traffic approaching from which direction?
On your right.
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.
Most quickly.
On your left.
Most slowly.

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What does a round shape indicate?
A railroad crossing is ahead.
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.
An intersection is ahead.
A school zone is ahead.
A roundabout is ahead.

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When a railroad signal is lowering to warn of an approaching train, what is the best course of action?
Floor it and see if you can make it under, James Bond style.
Pull over to the right.
Stop between 15-50 feet from the nearest railroad.
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.
Stop between 5-15 feet from the nearest railroad.

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What do speed limits designate?
The suggested speed that cars should travel on a given road
The maximum speed a car may travel without being subject to a ticket
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.
The maximum speed a car may travel without losing control on a given roadway
10 mph under the speed you should actually drive

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What does a broken yellow line tell you?
Pass anytime.
Do not pass.
Weave back and forth if you feel like it.
Pass if the coast is clear.
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.

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When you view the sign, “LEFT LANE FOR PASSING ONLY,” what should you do?
Either pass the car on your right or pull over to the right
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.
Remain in the left lane if you feel you are going fast enough
Pass the car on your left so slowly that you are the only car able to pass before the lane fizzles out
Pull over to the right

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What is the difference between a single solid white line and a double solid white line?
A single solid white line means you should try not to cross it, and a double solid means crossing is prohibited.
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.
A double solid means it’s a no-passing lane, and a single means passing is permitted.
Meh, same thing.
A double solid means try not to cross it, and a single means crossing is prohibited.

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What is the shape octagon used for?
Exclusively for stop signs
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.
For stop signs and caution signs
For “workers present” signs
To indicate an eight-sided intersection

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Why might you see barrels along a roadway?
Either clowns or monkeys
Probably means you’re on a race course and should drive like it
To block obstacles that are likely to be hit and reduce the damage
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.
To draw drivers’ attention to a dangerous spot

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If your side mirrors are properly adjusted, what should you be able to see?
The entire side of your car
A small portion of the side of your car
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.
A clear view of what is behind you, without seeing any of your own car
A clear view of whether the person behind you is attractive

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What defines a “slow-moving vehicle”?
Any vehicle moving more slowly in front of you
Anyone in front of you in the fast lane
A vehicle with a maximum speed of 25 mph or less
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.
A vehicle with a maximum speed of 30 mph or less.

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When driving, where should the hands be placed?
At 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock
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.
At 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock
It doesn’t matter as long as both hands are on the wheel.
It doesn’t matter as long as one hand is on the wheel.

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