Weird driving laws around the world

Everyone gets frustrated with the rules of the road sometimes, but in truth it’s quite easy here in Britain. All over the world, there are a host of weird, frustrating, or downright ridiculous rules of conduct that are far more extreme than anything we have to deal with.

Here we present a selection of genuine automotive regulations from around the world that just might have you scratching your head.

Your license plate determines when you can drive in Manila

Metro Manila, the capital of the Philippines, has a massive population – somewhere in the region of 14 million. And so many people means LOTS of congestion. The local authority’s solution is the Unified Vehicle Volume Reduction Platform, which was introduced in 1995, and blocks vehicles from using the road at certain times based on the last number on their license plate .

Plate numbers ending in 1 and 2 are not allowed to travel on certain roads every Monday, 3 and 4 every Tuesday, 5 and 6 every Wednesday and so on. The restrictions are in effect between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., meaning journeys require very careful planning, and although personal plates are available, they are not enough to avoid the regulations.

It is illegal to run out of fuel on the highway

Germany’s motorway network is celebrated the world over by thrill seekers as around 50% of it is unlimited, meaning motorists can move efficiently at the speed of their choice. But there is one speed that is not welcome on the highway: 0 mph.

In fact, it’s more than just undesirable – stopping is actually illegal except in an unavoidable emergency. And running out of fuel is not considered an “emergency”. Instead, it is labeled driver negligence and subject to a fine. So it’s probably best to make sure you fill up the BMW M5 rental car when you finally get to Berlin this weekend.

No young drivers in Niger

Admittedly, Niger is not the most obvious destination for a driving holiday. Despite outstanding natural beauty, this landlocked West African country is not without its problems, as shown by the United Nations claim in 2021 that it is the least developed country in the world. It also has separate driving rules, specifically that no one under the age of 23 is allowed to drive – the highest minimum age on the planet.

Would-be travelers on the road might also be put off by the daunting government directive that says, “It is essential that visitors report to the police station in any city where they are stopping over for the night” – due to the high rate of violent crimes in the country.

Do not eat or drink in Cyprus

We all know that texting or surfing a smartphone while driving is stupidly dangerous. But there are thousands of drivers who continue to do so. Thus, particularly punitive measures have been introduced on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where it is illegal to drive without both hands on the wheel – since eating and drinking are both prohibited.

And this is not an empty threat; if you are caught, you incur a fine of 85 euros and between two and four points on your license. The law is also enforced with relish; during a week-long island-wide blitz in 2018, police arrested over 650 offenders.

Keep your top in Thailand

A warning for those who intend to drive in Thailand: keep your decency. Despite average temperatures in Bangkok exceeding a sweaty 30 degrees at this time of year, keeping your top on is a good idea.

Section 388 of the Penal Code 2499 (1956) states: “Any person who performs such a disgraceful act in public by undressing, displaying his undressed person or committing any other act of obscenity shall be liable to a fine not not exceeding 500 baht. [around £12].” The extent of this application is unclear, but drivers should avoid finding out.

It’s OK to drink and drive in some countries…

Drunk driving is by no means a good idea. Official UK government statistics estimate that around 230 people die each year in crashes where at least one driver has exceeded the limit. And yet, as incredible as it may seem, in some countries driving under the influence of alcohol is not prohibited.

Among the countries that do not have a blood alcohol concentration limit are Vanuatu, Togo and Niger – which seems totally at odds with its cautious approach to young drivers (see left). Most shocking of all, however, is that there are no limits on the Caribbean holiday island of Barbados, although driving without excessive care and attention is considered an offence.

…but it’s not good to be a drunken passenger in other people’s homes…

While some countries have an unforgivable laxity with drink-driving, others take drinking much more seriously. Consider, for example, the states of Serbia and North Macedonia. The AA’s advice for both says: “A person visibly under the influence of alcohol is not permitted to travel in a vehicle as a front passenger.”

Yes, not only do you need a designated driver in the Balkans, but you also need a designated passenger. Presumably the idea is to make sure the driver isn’t distracted, but anyone who is seriously too drunk can be a distraction wherever they’re seated, surely?

…and some crazy rules were finally overturned

The past few years have seen U-turns on some of the most contentious and ridiculous rules. Saudi Arabia arguably allowed women to drive in June 2018 – the last country in the world to do so. There was also relief for women from Russia and Belarus last year when they were allowed to become international truck drivers; previously, the work was considered “too complex”.

Meanwhile, a more bizarre law was finally repealed in Western Australia in May 2021 – a law introduced in 1946, which made it illegal to carry more than 50kg of potatoes in the trunk of your car, unless you were a member of the country’s Potato Corporation. And no, we didn’t make that up.

Click here for our list of the best driving roads in the world…

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