Rules of the Road For Rhode Island Drivers

You might think that if you know the rules of the road for one state, you know them all. However, every state has its own laws and rules for drivers. If you’re planning on driving in Rhode Island soon, use this guide to refresh your memory on Rhode Island’s rules of the road.

Rules for general safety on Rhode Island roads

  • Children who are under eight years old, less than 57 inches tall, and/or under 80 pounds must travel in rearward facing child seat. Children between eight and 18 may sit in any position but must be wearing a seatbelt at all times.

  • The driver and all passengers over the age of 18 must wear seat belts whenever the vehicle is in operation.

  • If a school bus has flashing red lights and/or an activated “STOP” sign, drivers in both directions must stop. Failing to stop for a school bus can result in a $300 fine and/or a 30-day suspension of your license.

  • Drivers must always give emergency vehicles the right of way. Do not enter an intersection if an emergency vehicle is approaching, and if one is overtaking you, pull safely to the side of the road and let them by before re-entering traffic.

  • Pedestrians in crosswalks always have the right of way. All motorists, cyclists, and motorcyclists must yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. At the same time, pedestrians must follow “WALK” and “DON’T WALK” signals and pay attention to traffic.

  • Always treat out of order traffic lights as you would four-way stops. All drivers must come to a complete stop and proceed as they would with any other four-way stop intersection.

  • Yellow flashing traffic lights signal drivers to slow down and approach with caution. Red flashing traffic lights should be treated as a stop sign.

  • Motorcyclists must have a Rhode Island driver’s license and must pass a test to receive a motorcycle endorsement for their license. All motorcycles must be registered with the state.

  • Drivers may cross bicycle lanes to make a turn, but may not enter the lane to prepare for a turn. You must also yield to bicyclists in the lane before making your turn and give as much room as possible (recommended three to five feet) when passing.

Important safe driving laws

  • On multiple-lane highways, the left lane should be used for passing and the right lane for regular driving. Passing on the left is always recommended, but passing on the right is legal when the vehicle on the left is making a left turn on a street wide enough for two lanes without obstructions or parked cars, and on a one-way street with two or more lanes traveling in the same direction with no obstructions to traffic.

  • You may make a right on red at a traffic light in Rhode Island after coming to a complete stop, checking for approaching traffic, and see if it’s safe to go.

  • U-turns are allowed wherever there is not a “No U-Turns” sign. Be aware of oncoming traffic and traffic approaching from side streets whenever making a U-turn.

  • All drivers must stop at a four-way stop. After stopping, you must yield to all vehicles that were stopped there before you. If you arrive at the same time as one or more other vehicles, yield to the vehicle(s) to your right before proceeding.

  • As with other states, blocking intersections is illegal. If there isn’t room to proceed all the way through the intersection, stop before the intersection and wait until the roadway is clear.

  • Some areas in Rhode Island may have ramp-metering signals to assist with merging onto freeways. When there are no signals, accelerate and adjust your speed to match the flow of traffic, yield to vehicles on the freeway, and merge into the flow of traffic.

  • Driving under the influence (DUI) is defined in Rhode Island by having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher for drivers over the age of 21. For drivers under 21, the number is lowered to 0.02.

  • In the case of an accident with no injuries, pull the vehicles out of the way of traffic, exchange information, and call the police to get a police report on the incident. If injuries or deaths prevent you from moving the vehicles out of the roadway, find a safe place to wait for law enforcement and emergency services to arrive.

  • Radar detectors are permitted for personal use in passenger vehicles but are not permitted for commercial vehicles.

  • Rhode Island drivers must ensure that their vehicles display valid front and rear license plates at all times. License plates must be renewed annually to maintain their validity.

Following these rules will help you stay safe while driving on Rhode Island roads. Refer to the Rhode Island Driver's Manual for more information. If your vehicle needs service, YourMechanic can help you make the appropriate repairs to drive safely on Rhode Island roads.


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