The Florida drivers handbook is your guide to getting a Florida drivers license. Inside the drivers manual you will find driving laws, explanations of how to get your drivers license, and details of the different types of drivers licenses Florida offers.
Chapter 5 Your Vehicle
Chapter 5 of the Florida driver handbook provides a guide to vehicles that may be driven on Florida roads. Included is a basic guide to maintaining your car covering topics like brakes, lights, your horn, windows, signals and equipment that his not permitted by the State of Florida.
These items will be checked before you take the driving test for your license. If your tires, brake light, directional signals, brakes, steering, horn or mirror are not in good condition, you will not be allowed to take the driving test.
You may be stopped at any time by a law enforcement officer for a vehicle inspection.
The equipment on your car must meet certain standards. These are listed below.
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. Your brakes must be able to stop your car within the distance shown on the chart on the right.
You must be able to stop your car within the distance shown by the black cars when you use the foot brake. For safest driving, keep your brakes in such good condition that you can stop within distance shown by the white cars.
It is important to note that the graph below illustrates the braking distance AFTER YOU HAVE APPLIED YOUR BRAKES. To this must be added a REACTION DISTANCE, which is the distance you travel from seeing the danger to putting your foot on the brake pedal. Since 3/4 second is the average reaction time, a motorist will travel 11 feet for each 10 m.p.h. of speed before hitting the brake. At 50 m.p.h. this distance would be 55 feet!
Your car must have the following lights:
- Bright (high-beam) headlights which show objects 450 feet ahead.
- Dimmed (low-beam) headlights which show objects 150 feet ahead.
- Two red taillights mounted on the rear, visible from 1,000 feet.
- A white light that makes the license plate visible from 50 feet (The plate must be kept clean).
- Two red stoplights. They must be seen from 300 feet in the daytime, and must come on when the foot brake is pressed.
All vehicles, including animal-drawn vehicles, must have at least one white light visible from a distance of not less than 1,000 feet to the front. They must also have two red lights visible from a distance of not less than 1,000 feet to the rear, or one red light visible to the rear for a distance of 1,000 feet and two red reflectors visiblefrom all distances from 600 feet to 1,000 feet.
Other Equipment Standards
Horn: Your vehicle must have a horn which can be heard from a distanceof 200 feet.
Windshield Wiper: Your vehicle must have a windshield wiper in good working order for cleaning rain, snow or other moisture from the windshield.
Windshields: Must be safety glass and may not be covered or treated with any material which has the effect of making the windshield reflective or in any way non-transparent. It must be free of any stickers not required by law.
Side windows: May not be composed of, covered by, or treated with any material which has a highly reflective or mirrored appearance and reflects more than 35% of the light.
Rear windows: When the rear window is composed of, covered by, or treated with any material which makes the rear window non-transparent, the vehicle must be equipped with side mirrors on both sides.
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.
Tires: Your tires should have visible tread of at least 2/32 of an inch across the base with no worn spots showing the ply. Smooth tires on wet roads contribute to thousands of serious crashes.
Mirrors: Your car must have at least one rearview mirror which gives a view of the highway at least 200 feet to the rear.
Keeping your Car in Good Condition
No matter how well you drive, you are not safe unless your vehicle is in good condition. If it is not, you could have a serious crash.
Brakes: Check to see that the pedal stays well above the floor when you step on it. If the car pulls to one side when you use the brakes or you hear any scraping or squealing noises, your brakes may need to be repaired.
Lights: Replace burned-out bulbs and clean lenses often. Dirty headlights can cut your night vision by one-half. Burned out signal lights or brake lights mean you can't tell other drivers what you are doing. Keep your lights adjusted so that you don't blind oncoming drivers.
Windows and Windshields: Keep the glass clean, inside and out, to reduce glare.
Equipment Not Permitted
You may not have on or in your vehicle:
- Red or blue emergency lights. These are for emergency and law enforcement vehicles only.
- A siren, bell or whistle.
- A very loud muffler or one that lets out smoke.
- Signs, posters or stickers on the windshield or windows (except those required by law).
- A television which the driver can see.
- More than two spotlights, cowl or fender lights, fog lights (in front), or other extra lights (in front).
- Headsets worn by driver while operating a vehicle.
Bumper Height Requirements
Owners of automobiles and pickup trucks are required to have both front and rear bumpers mounted within certain height levels. Height limitations are governed by the new shipping weight of the vehicle; not the modified or altered weight. The maximum allowable heights between the pavement and bottom of the front and rear bumper, as provided by Section 316.251, Florida Statutes, are:
- Cars with a net weight of less than 2,500 pounds - 22 inches front and rear;
- Cars 2,500 pounds or more but less than 3,500 pounds - 24 inches front and 26 inches rear;
- Cars 3,500 pounds or more - 27 inches front; 29 inches rear;
- Trucks under 2,000 - 24 inches front; 26 inches rear;
- Trucks 2,000 pounds or more but less than 3,000 pounds - 27 inches front, and 29 inches rear;
- Trucks 3,000 pounds or more but not more than 5,000 pounds - 28 inches front; 30 inches rear.
Please Do not Tamper
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 the following:
- Increased air pollution.
- Lower gas mileage and less vehicle efficiency.
- More maintenance costs.
- Respiratory (breathing) difficulties.
DO NOT EXHAUST FLORIDA'S FUTURE!
Anti-Locking Brake System (ABS)
Anti-locking brakes prevent skidding and allow drivers to steer during an emergency, braking situation. ABS can help improve vehicle stability (avoiding spinouts), steering ability (directing the car where the driver wants to go) and stopping capability (distance needed to stop the vehicle).
Many drivers learned the correct way to stop in an emergency situation where traction is lost and the vehicle slides is by pumping the brakes, while this is correct with conventional brakes, with ABS it is different. All drivers need to do with vehicles who have ABS is press down hard on the brake pedal, hold it and steer out of danger. In an emergency situation, ABS pumps the brakes for the driver and pumps the brakes at a much faster rate than the driver ever could. Drivers should be aware that removing steady pressure from the brake pedal or pumping the brakes will disengage or quot;turn offquot; the ABS.
One of the most important benefits of ABS is that driver can steer the vehicle away from hazards while braking. Drivers should not turn the steering wheel hard or jerk the vehicle in one direction. Control of the vehicle can be maintained by steering where the driver wants to go. Drivers need to check that traffic is clear when deciding where to steer and always remember to steer back into the original lane as soon as the hazard is cleared.
Vehicles can be equipped with two different types of ABS:
- Four-wheel-Passenger cars and some light trucks. Always remember to brake hard and steer. It is important to keep firm and constant pressure on the brake pedal while stopping.
- Rear-wheel-Only on some light trucks. It prevents the rear wheels from locking up so that the back end of the vehicle does not skid sideways. The front wheels can still lock up and the driver will lose steering control if this happens. In this situation, the driver should let up on the brake pedal with just enough pressure to allow the front wheels to start rolling again to regain control. When the driver feels that he has regained steering control, the brake pedal should be again be firmly engaged.
Drivers can determine whether their cars have ABS by looking for a lighted ABS symbol on the dashboard right after starting the engine, checking the owners manual or asking the dealer.
Steering Lock Operation Instructions
(Automobile Safety Foundation)
There is a separate written test and road test for motorcycle operators. If you plan to operate motorcycles and vehicles with four or more wheels, you must take the written test and road test for motorcycles, and the regular written test and road test for automobiles.
Extra information for motorcycle operators is available in a separate handbook. Ask for a copy of the motorcycle handbook if you will be operating a motorcycle. Read and study this manual and the motorcycle handbook before taking your license examination. All first time applicants applying for motorcycle endorsements who are under 21 years of age, must complete a department-approved motorcycle safety course before they can be licensed to operate a motorcycle.
Contact your local Florida driver license office for school locations.
Persons riding bicycles or mopeds on a roadway have the same rights (with certain exceptions)and duties as drivers of motor vehicles. Bicycle riders will receive traffic tickets for traffic violations. Know and obey these laws:
- Bicyclists must obey all traffic controls and signals.
- An adult bicyclist may carry a child in a backpack or sling, child seat or trailer designed to carry children.
- You may not allow a passenger to remain in a child seat or carrier when you are not in immediate control of the bicycle.
- Bicyclists and passengers under age of 16 are required to wear helmets approved by ANSI, Snell or other standard recognized by Florida. (Bicycle helmets are recommended for all ages)
- Every bicycle must be equipped with a brake or brakes which allow the bicyclist to stop within 25 feet when traveling from a speed of 10 miles per hour on a dry, level, clean pavement.
- A bicyclist on a sidewalk or crosswalk must yield right of way to pedestrians and must give an audible signal before passing.
- Keep at least one hand on the handlebars.
- On the roadway, check behind you before changing lanes.
- For use between sunset and sunrise, a bicycle must be equipped with a lamp on the front exhibiting a white light visible from 500 feet to the front and both a red reflector and a lamp on the rear exhibiting a red light visible from 600 feet to the rear.
- If you are not traveling at the speed of other traffic, stay on the the rightmost portion if the roadway except when passing, making a left turn, avoiding hazards or when a lane is too narrow for you and a car to share it safely.
- When operating a bicycle on a one-way street with two or more traffic lanes, you may ride as close to the left-hand edge of the roadway as practicable.
- Do not ride two abreast when this will impede the flow of traffic.
- If you intend to make a left turn, you are entitled to full use of the lane from which the turn is made.
- In addition to the normal vehicular-style left turn, you may proceed in the new direction of travel.
- Signal your intent to turn to other vehicle operators by pointing in the direction you are going to turn.
- Do not wear headphones or any other listening device except a hearing aid while bicycling.
- Do not ride a bicycle when under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Persons riding mopeds have the same rights and duties as drivers of motor vehicles. Moped riders will receive citations for traffic violations.
Know and obey these moped laws:
- You must be 16 years of age or older to operate a moped on a public road.
- Operators of mopeds must have the minimum of a Class E license. No motorcycle endorsement is required.
- Mopeds must be registered annually and a tag purchased.
- Mopeds may not be operated on bicycle paths or foot paths.
- No person may operate a moped at a speed greater than 25 MPH.
- Moped operators do not have to carry PIP insurance.
- Operators 16 years age or older are not required to wear helmets.
If you accept employment or engage in a trade, profession or occupation in Florida or if you enroll your children to be educated in a public school in Florida, the vehicle you own must have a Florida registration certificate and license plate. You must obtain the registration certificate and license plate within 20 days after the beginning of such employment or enrollment. You also must have a Florida Certificate of Title for your vehicle, unless an out-of-state financial institution holds the title and will not release it to Florida.
Proving Ownership and Insurance Coverage
To get your license plate and registration certificate, you must prove that you own your vehicle and that you have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance coverage for your vehicle. You must prove ownership by showing your certificate of title. You must prove PIP coverage by showing an insurance identification card or other acceptable proof. The vehicle identification number (VIN) on any vehicle previously titled or registered in another state must be verified by one of several designated officials before the vehicle can be titled and registered in Florida. The VIN on any new vehicle purchased from an out-of-state dealer to be initially titled in Florida must also be verified.
Applying for title, license plates and registration
Apply for title, license plates and registration at any tax collector's office in Florida. The cost of your license plate will depend on the type and weight of your vehicle. Your vehicle must always have a current license plate and you must always have your vehicle's registration when you are driving.
If you buy a vehicle from a dealer in Florida, the dealer must apply for a certificate of title, certificate of registration and license plate for you. If you buy a vehicle from an individual, you must obtain the title from the individual and apply for a certificate of title in your name. You may apply for certificate of title, certificate of registration and license plate at the same time. You cannot get a license plate until you have a title to prove that you own the vehicle.
Vehicle license plates and registration must be renewed each year, on or before the birthday of the first owner listed on the registration form. Each time you renew, you must prove that you have the required insurance. You may renew by mail.
Registrations expire at midnight on the birthday of the first owner listed on the registration form, except for:
- mobile homes - renew yearly by January 31.
- truck-tractors and semi-trailers - renew yearly by December 31.
- vehicles owned by companies and corporations, and some commercial vehicles - renew yearly by June 30.
For more information or assistance on motor vehicle title and registration, contact your local tax collector's office.
Disclaimer: Please get an official copy of the Florida Driver Handbook by visiting your local DMV Office. While we try, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the online verison provided here.