Traffic code (also motor vehicle code) refers to the collection of local statutes, regulations, ordinances and rules that have been officially adopted in the United States to govern the orderly operation and interaction of motor vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians and others upon the public (and sometimes private) ways.

The traffic code generally includes provisions relating to the establishment of authority and enforcement procedures, statement of the rules of the road, and other safety provisions. Administrative regulations for driver licensing, vehicle ownership and registration, insurance, vehicle safety inspections and parking violations may also be included, though not always directly related to driving safety. Violations of traffic code (i.e., a “moving violation”) are often dealt with by forfeiting a fine in response to receiving a valid citation (“getting a ticket”). Other violations, such as drunk driving or vehicular homicide are handled through the criminal courts, although there may also be civil and administrative cases that arise from the same violation (including payment of damages and loss of driving privileges). In some jurisdictions there is a separate code-enforcement branch of government that handles illegal parking and other non-moving violations (e.g., noise and other emissions, illegal equipment). Elsewhere, there may be multiple overlapping police agencies patrolling for violations of state or federal driving regulations.

In the United States each state has its own traffic code, although most of the rules of the road are similar for the purpose of uniformity, given that all states grant reciprocal driving privileges (and penalties) to each other’s licensed drivers. There is also a “Uniform Vehicle Code” which has been proposed by a private, non-profit group, based upon input by its members. As with many such offerings, some states adopt selected portions as written, or else with modifications, and others create their own versions. Similarly, most states have adopted relevant standards for signs and signals, based upon the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Many of the standard rules of the road involve consistent interpretation of the standard signs and signals, such as what to do when approaching a stop sign, or the driving requirements imposed by a double yellow line on the street or highway. Many federal departments have also adopted their own traffic code for enforcement on their respective reservations (e.g., national parks, military bases).

List of some standard Rules of the Road:

  • Entering and leaving roadways.
  • Right of way at marked and unmarked intersections under various conditions.
  • Observing and interpreting traffic signs (especially warning, priority or prohibitory traffic signs)
  • Keeping to right side (or left side) except to pass others, where passing is allowed.
  • Direction of travel and turning (one way, do not enter, no U-turn, etc.)
  • Speed, height, width and weight limits.
  • Bicycle and pedestrian priority.
  • Yielding to special vehicles (emergency, funeral, school bus).
  • Vehicle lighting and signalling.
  • Stopping if there has been a collision.