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Nevada Traffic Laws
Controlling Speed and Speed Limits
The best way to keep from losing control of your vehicle and crashing is to control its speed. This means being aware of your speed at all times, as well as the legal and safe speeds for various conditions. If you drive too fast, you will have a harder time steering safely around curves or avoiding hazards on the road. You will also travel a greater distance before you can react to those hazards or stop your vehicle.
According to 2007 statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
- Speeding was a contributing factor in 31% of all fatal crashes nationally.
- 13,040 people were killed in crashes related to speeding.
- In Nevada, 26% of all traffic fatalities, or 97 deaths, were a result of speeding.
- If you are a young male, your risk of getting involved in a fatal crash as a result of speeding is greater. In 2007, 39% of male teenage drivers 15 to 20 years old who were involved in a fatal crash were speeding at the time of the crash.
Crashes caused by speeding exert an enormous economic cost to society. NHTSA estimates that cost to be $40.4 billion per year. What's more, the economic losses in Nevada alone total an estimated $330 million annually, or approximately $900,000 per day.
Basic Speed Law
Nevada's basic rule on speed states that you must drive at a speed that is both "reasonable and prudent." One way to obey this rule is to follow posted speed limit signs. But under certain conditions, even these posted speeds are not safe. The basic rule states that in addition to these signs, you must also consider any actual and potential hazards that may exist, which may include the following:
- The type and amount of traffic on the road.
- The weather conditions and your visibility.
- The condition of the road surface: Is it wet, icy, dry, or covered with snow?
- The type of road you are on: Is it wide or narrow? Flat or steep? Straight or curvy?
You must use discretion and common sense while driving. This means that you must avoid traveling at unsafe speeds. Driving 55 mph, for example, in a 55 mph zone during a severe rainstorm may be a violation of the basic speed law. In addition to knowing the maximum speeds allowed by law, every driver must be able to determine what speed is safe for travel. This law exists to slow down drivers in adverse conditions, not to allow them to exceed safe speeds.
Driving Too Slowly
Driving too slowly is not only unsafe, but it can be illegal. Driving too slowly or going at least ten miles per hour below the flow of traffic can cause other drivers to attempt unsafe passing maneuvers. When there are two or more lanes of traffic going in the same direction, slower traffic must move to the right and allow other drivers to pass. If there is only one lane, slower drivers should look for turn-outs or places where they can pull over and let faster moving traffic pass.
Speed Limits in Nevada
Posted speed limits are set for normal road and weather conditions. When traffic is bad or weather conditions create slick roads or poor visibility, you will need to adjust your speed accordingly. The following are some speed limits in Nevada (posted speed limits may differ in some areas):
- School Zones......15 mph
- School Crossing Zones......25 mph
- Business and Residential Areas......25 mph
- Reduced Speed Areas Going Into Towns......45 mph
- Urban Freeways and Rural Highways... 65 mph
- Rural Interstate Freeways...... 70 mph
Some Important Facts:
- Speed is a factor in about 30% of all fatal traffic crashes nationwide every year.
- The chance of death or serious injury doubles for every 10 mph over 50 mph that a car travels.
- Young males are most often associated with speeding. 39% of men between the ages of 15-20 who were involved in a fatal crash were speeding at the time of the crash.
- Speeding is not worth the chance of getting a ticket, injury or dying. On average, speeding saves only a few minutes on trips under 25 miles. To travel 15 miles, it would take you 16 minutes and 21 seconds at 55 mph; at 70 mph, that trip would take 12 minutes and 53 seconds, saving you less than 4 minutes!
WHAT DO YOU THINK? According to statistics, young males have the greatest risk of crashing as a result of speeding. What do you think are some of the factors that contribute to the risk? List them in the box below.
Firefighters, paramedics, police officers and other emergency personnel often risk their lives to provide important services to Nevada residents. They put out fires, transport people to hospitals, apprehend criminals, and do so many other things to make life safer and more convenient. Thus it is important to respect their presence. One day it may be YOUR life they are saving. There are three laws related to emergency vehicles that you must follow:
Yielding to Emergency Vehicles - You must yield the right-of-way to all emergency vehicles, including police cars, ambulances, fire engines and any other vehicles using a siren and red or blue light. When an emergency vehicle approaches from either direction, you must pull over to the right as soon as possible and stop, watching for other vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists so you do not endanger them. If you are in the middle of an intersection, pull over to the right side of the road once you clear the intersection. Once you have stopped, wait until the emergency vehicle has passed or when directed by a police officer. Emergency vehicles often alert other vehicles with horns or speakers that they are approaching. They will sometimes travel on the wrong side of the road, so pulling over to the right side of the road will clear the way for these vehicles and keep you out of harm's way.
Following Emergency Vehicles - Never follow within 500 feet of an emergency vehicle traveling in an emergency situation. There may be more emergency vehicles on the way. When you follow too closely, you interfere with their duties.
Moving Over for Emergency Vehicles - If you approach a stopped emergency vehicle that is displaying its flashing lights, you must do each of the following if there are no police officers directing traffic:
- Slow down to a speed that is reasonable and proper and under the posted speed limit, if any.
- Proceed with caution.
- Be prepared to stop.
- Move over to a lane that is not next to where the emergency vehicle has stopped unless the roadway, traffic, weather or other conditions make this unsafe or impossible.
This is an important law because it protects emergency personnel who in turn are trying to help you or someone else. They often must step temporarily into traffic to perform their duties. Many drivers pass too closely, and this can cause injury or death. If you are convicted of failure to move over for an emergency vehicle, which is a misdemeanor, you will be sentenced to a jail term of up to six months, fined up to $1,000, or both.
Emergency vehicles exist for the safety of everyone. They need to be respected.
Special Note... Don't wear stereo headphones while driving. This is illegal and quite dangerous because you will not be able to hear emergency vehicles or other traffic around you.
School Buses and School Zones
Stopping for School Buses
When a school bus prepares to stop to load or unload children, it will flash an amber or red light 500 feet before it comes to its designated stop. When the bus comes to a complete stop, it activates alternately flashing red lights and the stop signal arm. These signals tell ALL oncoming and following traffic to come to a complete stop before they reach the bus. You must remain stopped until the bus driver turns off the red flashing signals. This means you must not pass this school bus! If you pass without stopping, the school bus driver can report you to the school district and the DMV. You will be sent a warning letter that explains the seriousness of this violation. If you are not the registered owner of the vehicle you drove past the school bus, the actual owner will be receiving the letter.
Once the driver has turned off the flashing lights, be sure to watch for children entering or leaving the school bus. Be especially wary of younger children who may not understand the dangers that may be present at school bus stops; these are the ones who are the most unpredictable as they may step in front of you without hesitation. Always be sure to check for children before passing a school bus.
Penalties for Passing a Stopped School Bus
Nevada punishes drivers who pass a school bus that has stopped and is flashing its red lights. Following are some penalties to expect:
- First Offense - DMV will add 4 demerit points to your license and you will be fined $250 to $500.
- Second Offense (within one year) - Your license will be suspended for 6 months and you will be fined $250 to $500.
- Third Offense (or more, within two years) - Your license will be suspended for one year and you will be fined up to $1,000.
There are only a few exceptions where you don't need to stop for a school bus that has stopped and is displaying its flashing red lights and stop signal arm. On highways with separate, divided roadways, you do not need to stop:
- When meeting or overtaking a school bus on a different roadway.
- For a school bus that is going in the opposite direction on a highway containing four or more lanes of traffic.
- For a school bus that has stopped at a school loading zone, where students are not permitted to cross the roadway.
Stopping at School Zones
A school zone is an area near a school that includes streets next to the school or school property. Other areas where students cross the street to get to school, usually nearby but not next to the school, are school crossing zones if they are marked as such. You will know if you are approaching either type of zone because they are normally marked with signs, signals, pavement markings, and sometimes yellow flashing lights.
The speed limit in school zones is 15 mph, while it is 25 mph in school crossing zones. Unless otherwise posted, the reduced speed limit is in effect from half an hour before school begins to half an hour after school ends. The yellow flashing light will indicate that you are in a school zone or school crossing zone; if the light is not flashing, the posted speed limit is then enforced. If there are people in the crosswalk in a school zone or school crossing zone, you must wait for everyone, including the school crossing guard, to completely clear the road before proceeding. You must also obey school crossing guards.
School police have the authority to issue traffic citations on streets that are adjacent to school property, if authorized by the local school district superintendent. They are there to protect children, school personnel, and school property. Whenever you are near a school, you should slow down and watch for children.
Highway Work Zones
Roads can't last forever, so they need to be maintained regularly. That is the main reason you see construction work zones on roadways. You must be patient and extra cautious by driving at slower speeds through these areas because construction often creates dangerous conditions such as narrow lanes and rough roads. Orange signs, cones and barrels help you identify an area as a work zone. When you are nearing a work zone, you should see signs warning you that you will need to slow down. Always follow signs and directions from workers as they help you get through safely.
Work Zone Penalties
Penalties for violations in work zone are doubled. For example, drivers who speed, move aside barriers or signs, or ignore flaggers will be subject to fines, community service, or jail terms that are doubled up to specified maximums. However, those who disobey a flagger and injure a road worker or cause more than $1,000 in damages will have to pay a fine of at least $1,000 and perform 120 hours of community service. Under the double penalty law, the fine can be doubled. These penalties apply even if there are no workers present, though the area must be marked as a double penalty zone. Always be careful when driving in these areas.
Tips for driving in work zones:
- Pay attention!
- Follow the instructions on the roadwork zone warning signs and those given by flaggers!
- Watch the traffic around you and be prepared to react to what other drivers are doing. Check the taillights/brake lights of vehicles ahead of you for indications of possible hazards that are ahead.
- Be prepared to slow down or stop.
- Merge into the proper lane well before you reach the work zone.
- Follow other vehicles at a safe distance.
- Avoid roadwork zones altogether by using alternative routes when you can. If you know you can't avoid them, consider the following tips to make your travels through these areas safer.
- Allow extra time for your trip.
- Travel during non-peak traffic hours.
- Share a ride or car pool to reduce congestion in the work zones.
Railroad crossbuck signs are posted to show the location where railroads intersect every highway, road, or street grade crossing. If the crossing has more than one track, it will have a posted sign showing the number of tracks. Cross railroad tracks only at designated crossings and always obey all warning signs and signals. Always slow down, look both ways as far as possible down the tracks, listen, and prepare to stop and yield the right-of-way to any approaching trains. You must check for trains even if you do not hear any coming. If you see a train coming, stop! Never try to beat it.
When stopping at a railroad crossing, be sure you are not stopping too close to the tracks, and never stop on the tracks. You may get stuck there during a red light. Stop no closer than 15 feet from the tracks, or about one car length. When there is a gate with flashing lights, stop when the lights begin to flash and before the gate lowers across your side of the road. Never go around lowered gates even if you don't see a train approaching! Remain stopped until the gates are raised and the lights stop flashing.
At railroad crossings, you must stop within 15 to 50 ft. of the nearest rail when:
- The crossing gate is lowered or a flagman gives a signal that a train is approaching.
- A clearly visible signal device warns of a train that is immediately approaching.
- A train approaching within 1,500 feet (3 blocks) of the crossing sounds an audible signal as a warning.
- You can clearly see a train approaching from the distance.
Due to their sheer size, trains approaching from a distance appear to move slowly, leading some drivers to believe that they can cross safely even when the gates are lowered. Technological advances also have made newer trains quiet and thus difficult to hear. These cause many drivers to make errors in judgment that lead to many collisions occurring at railroad crossings. But railroad tracks don't have to be dangerous to cross. Be sure to obey all traffic controls posted at railroad crossings and always remember that trains have the right-of-way every time.
Overtaking and Passing Other Vehicles
When you are behind a slower vehicle, your first instinct may be to move ahead of it so you can maintain your speed. Although it is commonly used, overtaking and passing another vehicle is an extremely dangerous maneuver. To execute a pass properly and safely, you must have good judgment of the situation and make quick decisions. You must know if it is safe and legal prior to making the maneuver. Your pass must not interfere with the safety of the driver in the vehicle you are overtaking. Be aware of road conditions, the speed of the car you are overtaking, and the distance of oncoming vehicles, if there are any.
Passing is a maneuver which requires good timing. If you wait too long, other drivers behind you will catch up and block you. If you attempt the pass too soon, you may crash into another vehicle. Proper passing also requires good visibility and a properly maintained vehicle. Always be aware of blind spots (both yours and other drivers'). Following are Nevada laws on overtaking and passing:
Passing on the Left
Ideally, you should pass other vehicles using the passing lane, which is the left lane on a highway that has at least two lanes in your direction or the lane on the left side of a two-lane road. Passing on the left side is legal whenever there is:
- A broken yellow line on your side of the road; or
- A single broken white line in the middle of a two-lane road. Because of the white line, this is a one-way road.
Before you cross over into oncoming traffic to overtake and pass another vehicle, make sure it is safe for you to do so. The lane should be clear of oncoming vehicles for a distance of at least 10-15 seconds (about 1/4 to 1/3 of a mile). You must be able to complete the pass within a reasonable amount of time and space without exceeding the speed limit before starting the maneuver. This means you must be able to return to the right lane before the passing zone ends, before you enter an intersection, and before oncoming traffic gets within 200 feet of you.
It is unsafe and against the law to pass another vehicle on the left side in these situations:
- When your view is obstructed within 100 feet of any bridge or tunnel
- When you are approaching within 100 feet of or traversing any intersection or railroad grade crossing.
Fatal collisions often occur when passing is attempted on a hill or curve. Too many drivers attempt to pass when they don't have a good view of oncoming traffic. You must not pass on the left when:
- Approaching a curve on a highway.
- Approaching the top of a hill on a highway.
- Your view of the highway is obstructed within a distance where you become a hazard if another vehicle were to suddenly approach from the opposite direction.
Additionally, you should not pass another vehicle on a grade unless you are traveling at least 10 mph faster than the overtaken vehicle (without exceeding the speed limit), or unless you can complete the maneuver in a safe distance, usually not greater than 1/4 of a mile.
NOTE: If a vehicle proceeding down a hill were to conflict with a vehicle heading up the hill, the vehicle heading up the hill should be given the right-of-way. It is often safer to back up a hill than to back down.
Passing on the Right
Generally, you should avoid passing on the right. In fact, passing on the right side is illegal in most situations. This is because other drivers may not see you and may decide to change lanes. In the situations where you may pass on the right side, you may do so only if it is safe. Before attempting to pass, be sure to signal, check your mirrors, and look over your shoulder. You may pass on the right side if:
- The driver of the vehicle you want to pass is making or signaling to make a left turn; or
- The road is clearly marked for two or more lanes of traffic traveling in the same direction; or
- The road is clearly marked for one direction of travel (one-way) and has two or more lanes.
In no instance should you drive off the paved or main roadway.
Safe Passing Techniques
You can still pass another vehicle safely despite all the restrictions placed on this maneuver. The key is being able to see and identify when it is safe to pass a vehicle in front of you. So how do you know when it is safe to pass? Ask yourself these questions to help you decide:
- Do I really need to pass?
- Is it legal to pass?
- Is the vehicle ahead driving well under the speed limit?
- Is the road ahead clearly visible?
- Are any oncoming vehicles a safe distance away?
- Do I have room to return to the lane in front of the vehicle ahead?
Scanning the road is an essential skill, particularly when passing. To make a successful pass, follow these steps:
- Scan the roadway for hazards, including oncoming vehicles, those approaching from the rear, and other vehicles merging into your lane.
- Look over your shoulder to check your blind spots. This will allow you to avoid running into another vehicle when making your move. Make sure to maintain a safe following distance.
- Signal before you move into the adjacent lane to make the pass. Turn on your turn signal at least 3 to 5 seconds before you begin the maneuver.
- Tap your horn lightly if necessary to let the other driver know you are preparing to pass.
- Be sure you are driving at least 10 mph faster than the vehicle you are passing (without exceeding the speed limit).
- Re-check road conditions to make sure it is still safe. When driving on a multi-lane highway, for example, a driver may move in front of the vehicle you wanted to pass, which would force you to travel further.
- Ensure that you have enough room to return to the lane. It is safe to move back in when you are able to see BOTH headlights of the car you just passed in your rear-view mirror.
- Signal before moving back into the lane, again turning the signal on 3 to 5 seconds in advance.
- Glance over your shoulder again to make sure it is safe to return.
- Make sure you do not cut in too close to the vehicle you passed. Give its driver a three-second space or wait until you can see BOTH its headlights and its tires in your mirror before moving into the lane.
Safe Passing Tips
- When beginning and ending a pass, always turn on your signal 100 feet in advance on city streets or 300 feet ahead on freeways or highways to give other drivers sufficient time to adjust (at least five seconds).
- Check your mirrors and look over your shoulder before you move out of your lane.
- Avoid passing on two-lane roads as you will be driving into oncoming traffic.
- Check road conditions ahead. You will need a gap of about 10-15 seconds in oncoming traffic to pass safely.
- Don't attempt the pass unless you have enough room to return to your lane.
- Before you re-enter your lane, make sure you can see BOTH headlights of the car behind you in your rear view mirror to ensure you have enough room.
- Do not pass more than one vehicle at a time.
- Never pass to the left of a driver attempting a left turn.
Passing is prohibited...
- If you must enter and then exit from a high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane to complete the maneuver.
- Within 100 feet of a railroad grade crossing.
- Within 100 feet of a bridge, viaduct or tunnel.
- Within 100 feet of an intersection.
- On a hill or curve where your view of oncoming traffic is blocked, as you may not be able to see those that are close enough to be a hazard.
- When an approaching car from the opposite direction makes passing unsafe or will be within 200 feet of you before you complete a pass.
- When a school bus has stopped and is displaying a flashing red light and stop signal arm (signaling that it is loading or unloading passengers).
- On the shoulder of the road.
- In areas marked by a solid yellow line on your side of the road (the right of the center line), including double yellow lines.
- In areas with a "Do Not Pass" sign or other sign prohibiting the maneuver.
In addition to the above, passing is dangerous in these situations...
- It is dangerous to pass a long line of cars.
- It is dangerous to pass when the vehicle ahead of you is traveling near the speed limit.
- It is extremely dangerous to pass when an oncoming car is within 1/2 of a mile.
Special Note... If you are being passed, don't insist on taking the right-of-way. Allow the other driver to pass and use common sense.