DONE - Chapter 7. Major Traffic Laws - Part 4

Florida Drug and Alcohol Test (TLSAE) Course: Chapter 7. Major Traffic Laws - Part one

7.4. Safety Equipment and Driver Responsibility

Section 7.4. Safety Equipment and Driver Responsibility


This section covers the importance of maintaining your vehicle and having all the necessary safety equipment.

Make sure the safety equipment in your car is in good working order and that you are prepared for any emergency breakdown. A sudden vehicle breakdown can cause a serious crash. To avoid that, have your vehicle checked and maintained regularly. Preventive maintenance will not only help you avoid crashes caused by mechanical failure, but will also save you money. A simple leak, which costs a few dollars to fix can result in hundreds of dollars in future repairs if you leave it unattended and compromise your safety. If your car's temperature is rising or the low oil light flashes while you're driving, pull over and stop when it is safe to do so. Driving with low coolant or oil may stall your vehicle and could cause irreversible damage to your engine.

Be on alert for carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when poisonous gases are inhaled and are picked up quickly by the red blood cells at a higher rate than oxygen, blocking oxygen from getting into the body. The result can damage body tissues and cause death. Symptoms include: headache, dizziness, confusion, flu-like effects, chest pain, nausea and loss of consciousness. Because the gas is odorless, colorless, and tasteless, it can be difficult to detect.

As a part of your annual vehicle maintenance have your mechanic check for any defects in your exhaust system. Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur due to defects in the muffler and leaks in the exhaust pipe, tail-pipe, manifold pipe gasket and manifold engine connection. A small leak can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide inside the vehicle.

The Florida Department of Health offers these additional tips to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning from your vehicle:
  • Never leave an automobile running in a closed garage or in a garage attached to the house - even with the garage door open.
  • While driving, keep the rear window or tailgate of a vehicle closed, as carbon monoxide from the exhaust can be pulled inside.
  • If you suspect you are experiencing any symptoms of CO poisoning, open doors and windows, turn off gas appliances and go outside. In cases of severe CO poisoning, call the 911 emergency services or call the nearest Florida Poison Information Center at 1-800-222-1222.
(Florida Department of Health:

The following is a list of required safety equipment and why it is required:

Rearview mirror

   You should get in the habit of checking your rear view mirror every three to five seconds, which requires a high level of 

Safety belts

These should be available for the driver and for every passenger; they are your best defense against impaired drivers. A “Properly worn” safety belt means with both straps snugly fitted to transfer the impact of the collision to the parts of your body that can take it - your hipbones and shoulder bones. The belt is fastened snugly across your hips. With just the shoulder strap on, you can still slide out from under it and be strangled, while the lap belt alone doesn't keep your face from hitting the steering wheel.

Two headlights

Low beams: illuminate the road ahead of you to 150 feet. High beams: illuminate the road to 450 feet. Keep headlights clean, check for burned-out bulbs regularly, and make sure to switch back to low beams when you see oncoming drivers.

Directional signals

You must have electrical turn signals if your vehicle measures more than 24 inches from the center of the top of the steering post to the left outside limit of the body, or when the distance from the steering post to the rear of the body or load is greater than 14 feet.

A white license plate light

The light on your license plate should make the numbers on the plate readable from a distance of 50 feet.

Two tail lights

These must be red in color and visible 1,000 feet behind your vehicle.

Two stop lights

These red lights must be seen from 300 feet in the daytime, and must come on when the foot brake is pressed.

Back-up light

You must have at least one white light on the back of your vehicle that lights up when you put your car in reverse to warn other drivers that you are backing up or are about to back up.

Brake systems

Your car must have two braking systems. Each must be able to stop the car alone. The parking or emergency brake should be strong enough to hold the car on any hill.


Tires should not have less than a 2/32" tread. You can gauge the depth of your tire treads by inserting a penny into the tread. If you can see Lincoln's entire head, it's time for you to get new tires. Your tires should be inflated to produce maximum contact between the tires and the road. Over-inflation will decrease that contact area, reducing traction. Under-inflation will put pressure on the sidewalls of the tires and raise their temperature, which could cause a blowout. You should check the tire's pressure and tread wear on a weekly basis. You should also equalize the wear on your tires by having them rotated every 12,000 miles.


Your vehicle must have a horn which can be heard from a distance of 200 feet.

Emissions control devices

It is illegal to tamper with, remove, or cause not to work any pollution control device on your vehicle. Those who do are guilty of a first or second degree misdemeanor depending on the offense. Tampering with emissions control devices damages your vehicle and can cause increased air pollution, lower gas mileage and less vehicle efficiency, higher maintenance costs, and respiratory (breathing) difficulties.


The windshield must be made of special safety glass and cannot be tinted with any film that restricts your view or makes the surface reflective. Any crack in the windshield, regardless of size, must be repaired immediately. Even a tiny chip could violate the integrity of the windshield and cause it to shatter. If you have sun visors over your windshield, they must be non-reflective and easily moved out of the way. You cannot have any objects attached to your windshield, side or rear windows that would obstruct your vision. It is against the law to drive with any defective or obstructed windshield or rear window.

Windshield wipers

To keep the dirt and rainwater away from your windshield, you will need two windshield wipers. Check the wiper fluid and replace the rubber blades regularly.


Check all your fluids - oil, water, steering, transmission, and brake - regularly. Checking and changing fluids and light bulbs and listening for unusual noises and sounds are probably the easiest and most important maintenance tips. Driving without water or oil can cause thousands of dollars in damage to your engine, but it only costs $30 to $45 to change the oil in your vehicle. You can add water for free at most service stations.



One of the most overlooked safety features in your vehicle is the headrests. Believe it or not, headrests are not just for comfort, but are very important safety devices. If your headrest is not properly adjusted and you are involved in a collision, your head could snap back, causing injury, including whiplash. The headrest should be adjusted so that it fits along the center of the back of your head.


One valuable safety feature in vehicles today is the airbag. Airbags are designed to soften the force of impact during a collision. Many manufacturers install side and rollover airbags as well.

Airbags only absorb the initial impact in a collision. If you are involved in a collision in which your vehicle hits more than one object, the airbag is only effective during the initial impact. There is still a danger of sustaining injuries from secondary collisions. Frontal airbags are only effective in certain types of collisions. Airbags will deploy in a head-on collision, but not in a collision that occurs from an angle. The airbag by itself is not adequate protection; it will only do its job if combined with properly worn and properly adjusted headrest and safety belt.

How do frontal airbags work?

Sensors are located in the front bumper and must be directly hit (usually at a speed of 10 mph or greater) in order to activate the driver and front passenger airbags. Sensors for side impact curtains are located on the side of the vehicle.

Have you ever seen an airbag activate? When you see an airbag deploy on television, they show it in super, super slow motion. It looks like the airbag stays inflated for a long period time, but it doesn't. An airbag inflates in less time than it takes you to blink your eye (approximately a tenth of a second). It will deflate one second later. Why is that? If the airbag stayed inflated after the initial impact you could be trapped inside the vehicle or unable to drive away. A secondary collision could occur if your vehicle is pushed into another lane. So, the airbag inflates and deflates quickly so you can escape or drive to avoid a second collision.

In 2008, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 2,546 lives were saved by airbags.

(NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts 2008 - Lives Saved in 2008 by Restraint Use And Minimum Drinking Age Laws:

Let's put few things in perspective. The airbag is a very important safety feature in your car, but like anything else, it could have an adverse effect if not properly used. Because of the force produced when the air bag inflates, it could cause injuries or death to small children and even to adults (these injuries usually occur when adults are unbelted).

Precautions you should take include:
  • Position your seat as far away from the airbag as possible.
  • Don't sit any closer than ten inches from the steering wheel.
  • Place children under five in their child seats in the back seat.
  • Children 12 and under should also ride in the back seat; if you absolutely must place a child in the front seat, move the seat as far back as it will go.
If you don't think you can follow these guidelines, you might have one other option. Some newer cars allow you to install a switch to disconnect your passenger-side air bags. If your car doesn't have that feature, you can take it to your dealership or an authorized mechanic. However, keep in mind you must get permission from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration before you install a kill switch or deactivate the airbag.


Florida Seat Belt Law Requires:

All occupants of cars, pickup trucks, and vans who are 6 to 18 years of age must wear seat belts, regardless of seating position.

Children (infant through 3 years of age) must be properly secured using a crash-tested, federally approved child restraint device. The restraint device must be a separate carrier.

For children (aged 4 through 5 years of age), a separate carrier, booster seat or a seat belt must be used.

Drivers will be held responsible and fined for passengers under 18 years old who are found unrestrained regardless of seating position.

Effective July 1, 2009, seat belt violations are enforced as a primary offense for drivers. That means the police can stop you (and ticket you) simply for not wearing your seat belt.

Passengers 18 years and older who are unrestrained in the front seat can be fined individually.

The law exempts the following from seat belt requirements:
  • Any person certified by a physician as having a medical condition that causes seat belt use to be inappropriate or dangerous.
  • Employees of newspaper home delivery services, while delivering newspapers on home delivery routes.
  • Passengers on school buses.
  • Passengers on buses used for transportation of persons for compensation.
  • Riders of farm equipment.
  • Drivers of trucks of a net weight of more than 5,000 pounds.
  • Motorcycle, moped and bicycle riders.

Wear lap belts around your hips, not your stomach. Fasten them snugly. Wear a shoulder belt only with a lap belt. People who wear their shoulder belt under their arm may have a third degree neck burn in the event of a collision.
Never wear the shoulder belt under your arm, against your neck or off your shoulder. In a crash, your body would move too far forward. That would increase the chance of head and neck injuries. The belt would also apply too much force to the ribs or abdomen, which could severely injure internal organs such as your liver or spleen. 

Don't just use your safety belt for long trips or on high-speed highways. More than half of the collisions that cause injury or death happen at speeds less than 40 mph and within 25 miles of home.

Protecting Children


All infant carriers and car seats must be crash-tested and approved by the U.S. Government.

Children being carried on or riding bicycles should wear properly fitted bicycle helmets.

Recommended Child Restraints

Are you aware that traffic crashes are the number one killer of young children in this country? This is a very serious issue.

In 2008, there were 1,347 traffic fatalities among children age 14 and younger. An estimated 46% were unrestrained.

(NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts 2008-Children:

A closer look at restraint devices:

Child Safety Restraint Use Chart

(Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety:

Leaving Children Unattended or Unsupervised in Motor Vehicles

No person responsible for a child younger than six years of age shall leave such child unattended or unsupervised in a motor vehicle for a period in excess of 15 minutes. No person shall leave a child unattended for any period of time if the motor of the vehicle is running or if the health of the child is in danger.

On a hot summer day, the interior of a car can get dangerously hot. One study found that with the windows up and the temperature outside at 94 degrees, the inside of a car could be 122 degrees in just half an hour, or 132 degrees after an hour. Having the window down slightly will only cause a small drop in temperature inside the car - there is no safe way to leave the child in the car alone.

Here are some alarming statistics:

  • 43 children died in 2008 from being left inside a hot vehicle.
  • Total number of deaths from children left in vehicles, 1998-2009: 431.

(Fact Sheet, "Hyperthermia Deaths of Children in Vehicles," Department of Geosciences, San Francisco State University:


If the seat belt is broken or under the seat and not accessible to the passenger, it's the driver's responsibility. The driver must insure that all vehicle occupants have seat belts available.

Why should you wear your seatbelt?


The amount of energy that's absorbed by the vehicle is related to both the vehicle's design and the direction of the impact. More and more high-tech research and development is being conducted to make vehicles safer and more reliable.

The force with which a moving vehicle hits another object is called the "force of impact". Three factors affect the "force of impact":
  1. Speed of the vehicle: The force of impact at 20 mph is four times greater than at 10 mph. And the force of impact at 30 mph is nine times greater than at 10 mph.
  2. Weight of the vehicle: The heavier a vehicle is, the harder it will hit the other object.
  3. Impact distance: The force of impact also depends on the distance a moving vehicle travels between first impact with an object, and the point where the vehicle comes to a full stop. When a vehicle hits an unmoving solid object, the impact distance is short. The object does not "cave in" at impact, so kinetic energy is spent immediately on impact. The shorter the impact distance, the greater the damage.

Newer, more modern cars have a front end that absorbs, or gives in to, the force of impact. This is called a "crumple-zone." It's designed to absorb the impact and reduce its force before it reaches the vehicle's occupants.

Older cars have no "crumple-zones" to absorb the force of impact. When an older car strikes an object, the front-end stays rigid; it doesn't give. The force of the impact pushes the entire engine assembly into the passenger cabin, which is not a very safe occurrence.

There are many features in newer-model vehicles that protect occupants from injury. The sides are more strongly designed, with reinforced steel frames to reduce the chance of injuries in a side-angle collision. Roofs are reinforced to absorb the force of impact and to protect occupants in the event of a rollover. Side air bags and many other safety features may prevent an impact from killing or injuring the occupants.

With each year and every new car design, safety engineers are making vehicles safer. But the fact remains that you, as a driver, are the most important factor for insuring your safety and the safety of those around you.

Reducing the Force of Impact

Vehicles today are equipped with features that help increase impact distance by absorbing the energy. These features include airbags, crumple zones, automatic seat belts, head restraints, energy-absorbing bumpers, steering columns, and wheels; padded dashboards, safety glass windshields, and reinforced sides.

Did you know hitting your head at 15 mph has the same force of impact as being hit with a sledgehammer?

At 30 mph, it's like your head is being shot out of a cannon. A cannonball goes 30 mph when it's first fired. Your head weighs almost as much as a cannonball. So, it's like your head is being shot out of a cannon right into your dashboard.

Force of Impact

Unlike older cars that were made with rigid steel, everything in your car today is collapsible. Vehicles are designed to collapse from the force of impact to prevent energy from the crash from being transmitted to the occupants. But even with improved designs and new technology, you still need to wear a safety belt. Have you ever seen those crash dummy films? Even at low speeds, serious injuries can occur in a crash.

Have you ever been to a junkyard and seen the cars that are all smashed up? The cars are mangled, but the front seat of the car is exactly where the manufacturer installed it, and in good condition. That's why some people walk away from the worst crashes you could ever have imagined. When you're buckled up, you're tied to that front seat; the seat takes some of the force of the crash, which would otherwise be applied to some part of your body. Sometimes a car is totally demolished, and then you see pictures and headlines in the newspaper that say, "Would you believe that this person survived and walked away without a scratch?" Yet some people still say, "I don't want to use my seat belt. I might be injured by the seat belt."

In one classroom traffic safety course, the instructor would blindfold a volunteer who said they didn't fasten their seat belt. The instructor would spin the volunteer around three times, then tell the volunteer to walk forward quickly. The person with the blindfold would say "No, I'm not walking." Do you know why? They were scared to walk into the wall. The instructor would say, "You mean, you're afraid to walk into a wall, but you drive your car at 60 mph without a safety belt."

Excuses for not wearing your safety belt:
  • It wrinkles my clothes.
  • They're uncomfortable.
  • I forgot.
  • They're broken.
  • I can brace myself in a crash.

Keep a handkerchief or a small hand towel in your vehicle. If you're wearing nice clothes, put the handkerchief or towel between the seat belt and your clothes. It smoothes out that area and keeps it wrinkle-free.

A man in one classroom course told a story about his wife, who sold real estate for a living and wore really nice clothes to work every day. He always wore his seat belt, but his wife never did. She would say "I don't want to wrinkle my clothes." He received a call one day from the hospital saying, "Your wife has been in a car crash." He rushed to the emergency room, walked into her room, saw her, and walked back out. He asked the nurses, "Where's my wife?" They said, "She's in there." He replied, "That's not my wife." It was his wife - he didn't recognize his own wife. His wife had gone through the windshield face-first, and the impact had made her face swell up three times its normal size. She had lost several teeth, and part of her tongue was cut out. It took years of plastic surgery to reconstruct her face, and all because she didn't want to wrinkle her outfit. Think about that the next time you don't want to wrinkle your clothes.

Some people think that because their vehicle is equipped with an airbag, they don't have to wear their safety belts. An airbag could save your life, even in a head-on collision. But you have to wear your safety belt with an airbag.

Two people in one classroom course got into a collision and their vehicles went up on two of their side wheels. If they hadn't had their seat belts on, their injuries might have been worse from sliding around the compartments of their vehicles. Fortunately, they were wearing their seat belts and were able to recover from these crashes.

What if you're in a collision where you get hit from the side or an angle? The vehicle might spin. You could be ejected from the vehicle. But if you have your seat belt on, you stay behind the wheel, where you can control your vehicle and get out of danger. Some people say, "I'd rather be thrown from the vehicle." You're 25 times more likely to be killed if you are thrown from your vehicle.

People often have outlandish stories about people who have survived crashes when they weren't wearing a seat belt, like "I knew of someone who was thrown from the vehicle and lived." There are freak collisions where people survive getting thrown from a vehicle. Those are the ones you read about. When there's a freak collision, the media loves it.The fact that it doesn't happen often is what makes it memorable.

Plane crashes rarely happen. Your chance of being in a plane crash is 1 out of 15 million, but some people are afraid to fly. If a plane crashes, even if no one's injured or killed, it's at the top of the headlines. Motor vehicle collisions occur all the time. There's a motor vehicle collision every six seconds in this country, but you're not afraid to get in your vehicle.

A young man was thrown from his vehicle in a crash. He hit a tree and his own car pinned him up against the tree. It's much more dangerous to get thrown from your vehicle than to stay in your vehicle, belted in your front seat.

Some people think they might burn up in a fire or drown in a lake in their vehicle if they wear their seat belt. Your chance of being involved in a collision and your vehicle catching fire or landing in water is only about .04%. If you're involved in a collision that is so bad that your vehicle catches fire, what kind of a chance will you have if you don't have a seat belt on? If you're unconscious from a head injury, you have no chance of escaping the vehicle unless someone drags you out. With your safety belt fastened, you have a much better chance of remaining conscious and escaping from the vehicle.

Several years ago, a woman was crossing a bridge when she was involved in a minor collision with another vehicle. The crash wasn't that bad but it caused her car to spin and, because she wasn't wearing a seat belt, she was thrown over the bridge railing and fell into the river below. She couldn't swim but, luckily, she managed to hold onto a bridge support and was soon rescued by a passing boat. If she had been wearing her seat belt, she would have only been shaken up a bit and would have easily walked away from the crash.

"I can brace myself before the crash." You cannot brace yourself. A 30-mph motor vehicle crash has the same force of impact as falling off a four-story building. You can't brace yourself! Imagine that you are on the fourth floor of a building where there's a balcony. Could you dive off the balcony and land on the sidewalk in the pushup position? You couldn't - it is impossible, and so is the idea of bracing yourself before a crash.

Did you know that some people only wear their safety belts on long road trips or in bad weather? They'll say, "Okay, we're going to Grandma's house. Everybody buckle your seat belts." If the weather's rainy they'll say, "I'd better buckle my seat belt. I might get into a wreck today." All occupants should wear their safety belts no matter how long the trip is or what weather conditions exist.

How many times do you go back and forth from your house?
  1.     You go to school.
  2.     You come back home.
  3.     You go out to eat.
  4.     You come back home.
  5.     You go shopping.
  6.     You come back home.

That was six times in one day that you went to and from your house. Most of you are going to and from your house at least two times a day. Did you know that most collisions occur close to home? So even on those short trips to and from the local store, no matter what the conditions, remember to use your seat belt.Fasten your seat belt each and every time you get into your vehicle. Make it a habit. That's the safest way!

It is extremely important to wear your safety belt properly. It's designed to go across your two hipbones with the shoulder strap over your collarbone. Because of the force generated during a collision, your seat belt could cause injuries to your internal organs if you wear it across your stomach.

Never wear the shoulder strap underneath your arm. There's nothing underneath your arm to stop the seat belt. If you're in a serious collision, the seat belt could cause fatal internal injuries. If the shoulder strap touches your neck and it's uncomfortable, purchase a sheepskin or cloth covering and put the covering over the spot on the seat belt that irritates you. This makes wearing the seat belt more comfortable. You can also hire a mechanic to adjust it for you at a low cost.


  • Wearing safety belts reduces the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45%.
    (NHTSA, 2006 Motor Vehicle Occupant Protection:
  • In fatal crashes in 2008, 77% of passenger vehicle occupants who were totally ejected from the vehicle were killed. Studies show you are 25 TIMES more likely to be killed or seriously injured when you are thrown clear than when you remain inside your vehicle.
    (NHTSA, Traffic Safety Facts 2008 - Occupant Protection:
  • In 2008, the use of seat belts in passenger vehicles saved an estimated 13,250 lives.
    (NHTSA, Traffic Safety Facts - Lives Saved in 2008 by Restraint Use And Minimum Drinking Age Laws:
  • An additional 4,152 lives would have been saved in 2008 if all un-restrained passenger vehicle occupants 5 and older involved in fatal crashes had worn their seat belts.
    (NHTSA, Traffic Safety Facts - Lives Saved in 2008 by Restraint Use And Minimum Drinking Age Laws:
  • In 2008, an estimated 2,546 lives were saved by air bags. From 1987 to 2007, a total of 25,282 lives were saved.
    (NHTSA, Traffic Safety Facts - Lives Saved in 2008 by Restraint Use And Minimum Drinking Age Laws:
  • Motor vehicle collisions occur on our highways about once every 6 seconds.
  • On average in 2008, 102 persons died each day in a motor vehicle collision - one every 14 minutes.

Remember: Wear your seat belt every day.

If it's uncomfortable, purchase a covering.

If it's broken, get it repaired.

All motor vehicle occupants must wear their seat belts.


Florida Drug and Alcohol Test (TLSAE) Course: