When's the Last Time You Reviewed the Florida Drivers' Handbook?

The Florida Drivers' Handbook isn't a legal document that can be used in court, but it is full of information about driving laws and common sense suggestions about how to avoid grief on streets and highways. We'll review parts of it now and in the coming weeks.

First, who is required to have a Florida license? Without going through all the legal exceptions, which in turn have their own exceptions, if you live in Florida and want to drive a motor vehicle, you have to have a license. If you've moved to Florida and have a license from another state, you must get a Florida license within thirty days of becoming a resident. The definition of "resident" can be trickier than it sounds. You're a resident if you enroll your children in public school, or register to vote, or file for a homestead exemption, or accept employment, or are a resident here for more than six consecutive months. Major exceptions are members of the armed forces and their families, although there are exceptions to that, and non-residents who attend school in Florida.

A licensed driver has only ten days to complete a change of address form after moving. If pulled over by an officer after that time, and the address on your license is incorrect, you may get a ticket. Those laws are pretty mundane, so let's consider some laws and ideas that can help you avoid a wreck, an expensive traffic ticket, or jail.

One thing that comes to mind immediately involves passing. Passing on the right on a two-lane road, typically signifying that you're passing on the shoulder, is illegal. Why? Presumably, the car you're passing has slowed or stopped to turn left. If that driver decides to cancel that left turn and proceeds straight ahead, you're going to hit that car or get hit. Instead of passing on the right, have patience. Slow down. Stop if necessary. When the way is clear, proceed ahead. It may be comfortable to steer with one hand or a wrist thrown over the steering wheel, but if you hit a pothole or have to swerve, all comfort vanishes. A driver steering that way won't have full control of the vehicle. Once an emergency arises, it usually takes too long to get the hands in position to regain control.

Child protection is important in the law. All kids five years old or younger must wear an approved restraint while riding in a vehicle. The number one killer of young children in the United States is wrecks in which children were completely unrestrained. It's estimated that 9 out of 10 deaths and 8 out of 10 injuries could be prevented by using child restraints. The law requires that children five or younger be in child restraints whether the vehicle is registered in Florida. Infant carriers or children’s car seats must be used for kids three and younger. Four and five year olds may be in a separate carrier, a seat integrated into the vehicle, or in a seat belt. Be safe and keep your family safe too.

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