Earning your driver’s license can be a confusing process. Please use this glossary of common terms as a helpful guide to understanding the terms involved.
Air bags provide vehicle drivers and passengers extra protection in a collision. They are stored in the steering wheel and/or dashboard and inflate during a serious crash, e.g., a head-on collision that occurs at over 10 mph. They place a protective cushion between the person and the steering wheel, dashboard, and windshield.
Any driver who operates their vehicle in an unsafe or reckless manner. Aggressive driving can endanger passengers, other drivers, pedestrians, and even the drivers themselves.
Basic Speed Law:
This is a rule that states that a driver must never drive faster than is safe for present conditions, regardless of the posted speed limit.
Any area where the driver’s view is obstructed. This can be caused by anything from poorly aligned rearview mirrors, to the car itself.
Blood-Alcohol Concentration (BAC):
The concentration of alcohol in one’s bloodstream, expressed as a percentage. Blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, is used to determine whether a person is legally intoxicated, especially under a driving while intoxicated law.
The amount of distance required for stopping your car once the brakes have been applied.
Also known as High-Occupancy Vehicle, or HOV lanes, they are a traffic-control system that designated certain lanes as restricted to vehicles with two or more passengers. These lanes are indicated by a diamond symbol.
Contact between two or more objects, as when two vehicles collide into each other.
Insurance that provides coverage to pay the costs of repair or replacement of your vehicle involved in a collision.
Commercial Motor Vehicle:
A vehicle used to transport/deliver goods or passengers for compensation between points on a fixed scheduled route. The vehicle: a. Has a gross weight, registered weight, or gross weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds; or b. Is designed to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver.
There are two kinds of intersections: open (uncontrolled) and controlled intersections. Controlled intersections have traffic control signs or signals. When a driver approaches this type of intersection, he or she must obey the signs, signals, and right-of-way rules.
Protecting yourself and others from dangerous and unexpected driving situations by using a space management system.
Illegally parking next to another vehicle that is properly parked in a stall or on the street. Parking this way prevents other drivers from leaving their parking spaces and stalls the flow of double parking is a traffic violation punishable by fine.
Any event or occurrence that directs the driver’s attention away from the task of driving.
A manual provided by the state Department, or Bureau of Motor Vehicles that contains information about licenses, examinations, road signs, laws and rules of the road, seat belts, and safety issues.
A portion of the highway/roadway used by a vehicle traveling in one direction.
The following distance is the space between your car and the car ahead of you. It is recommended to keep a reasonable following distance so you can safely stop in a case of an emergency, e.g., if the car ahead of you stops suddenly. A defensive driver maintains a safe following distance of at least three seconds behind the vehicle ahead. Following distance should be increased during hazardous road conditions, including nighttime and inclement weather conditions.
Field of Vision:
The area a driver can see while looking straight ahead.
Graduated Driver’s License:
A time-delayed system of increased driving privileges, to help ease new drivers into their roles.
Hydroplaning refers to a loss of traction and sliding on a film of water. Wet road surfaces can cause tires to hydroplane. This could result in loss of control and steering ability, as your tires may lose contact with the pavement. Hydroplaning is caused by a combination of standing water on the road, car speed, and under-inflated or worn-out tires.
A test given to applicants for a driver’s license by a driver’s licensing office. Knowledge tests usually consist of questions based on knowledge of traffic laws, rules and regulations, and traffic signs. Passing a knowledge test is required for getting a learners permit.
Lane position is the placement of your car in the center, on the right, or on the left of a lane. Use these different lane positions to make adjustments for potential problems and create more space between your car and problem situations. On most highways or streets the width of a lane is twelve feet. The average vehicle has a width of six feet, which gives you six feet to maneuver your vehicle within the lane.
A state document required for beginning drivers to operate a vehicle while under the supervision of an experienced driver.
Liability insurance is the insurance coverage that pays for other people’s expenses in crashes caused by drivers covered under your policy. Liability insurance is required by law in most states.
The termination of a driver’s license or driving privilege for an indefinite period of time.
A suspension is the temporary withdrawal of a drivers license or driving privilege for a definite period. A license may be reinstated after meeting legal requirements.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):
Part of the U.S. Department of Transportation whose mission is to “save lives, prevent injuries, [and] reduce vehicle-related crashes.” The NHTSA oversees critical behavioral and vehicle studies, along with maintaining and distributing data for safety research and statistics.
Operating Under the Influence (OWI):
An offense a driver may be charged with if driving after consuming alcohol and/or other drugs. Also known as Driving Under the Influence, or DUI.
A guide to operating the vehicle, provided by the manufacturer.
Parking next to a curb in the space between two parked cars.
A point system assigns point values to traffic violations for each state. When the BMV receives a conviction notice from the court, the offense is entered on your driving record and points are assigned. These points are counted during a specified time period. Once you accumulate a certain number of points, your license may be suspended, you may be required to attend a hearing, take a behavior modification driving course, or undergo a driver assessment reexamination.
The privilege of having immediate use of a certain part of a roadway when two or more users of the roadway want to use it at the same time.
An uncontrolled emotional response by a driver to a traffic situation (deliberate tailgating, yelling at other drivers, assaulting another driver). An extreme form of aggressive driving that may be considered as a criminal offense.
Safety Belt/Seat Belt:
A safety belt securely fastens a person to a car seat to prevent falling or injury. The law requires using your seat belt even if the vehicle is equipped with air bags. The seat belt must be in good working order and must be worn by you and all passengers while the car is moving.
A school zone is an area near a school. All states have a reduced speed limit (15-25 mph) in a school zone during certain hours. The beginning and ending of a school zone may be indicated by special signs.
Tailgating is following another car too closely. If someone is following you too closely, be careful. Tap your brake lightly a few times to warn the tailgater that you are slowing down. Brake slowly before stopping. Avoid tailgaters when possible by changing lanes. If you cannot change lanes, slow down enough to encourage the tailgater to go around you. If this does not work, pull off the road when safe and let the tailgater pass.
There are two kinds of intersections: open (uncontrolled) and controlled intersections. Uncontrolled intersections don’t have traffic control signs or signals. When a driver approaches this type of intersection, he or she must obey right-of-way rules.
A state’s Vehicle Code is a collection of laws related to the operation of motor vehicles.
Allowing other road users go first. A yield sign assigns the right-of-way to traffic in certain intersections. If you see a yield sign ahead, be prepared to let other drivers crossing your road take the right-of-way.
A law stating that drivers under the age of 21 with measurable blood alcohol concentration of .02 percent will be charged with Operating Under the Influence (OWI).