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Cars and Traffic Laws

You may already have a driver’s license. (You were eligible for a provisional driver’s license at age 16.) But now that you are 18, the law applies to you differently in some instances. For example, you can be employed as a driver now. On the other hand, being caught with a beer or other alcoholic beverage - whether you are in a car or far from one - could still result in the temporary loss of your driving privileges.

How does the law treat me differently now that I’m 18?
The greatest change may be that the law now holds you (not just your parents) responsible for your actions. At age 18, you assume liability for your own traffic violations or accidents. It is your responsibility to know (and follow) the rules of the road described in the Nevada Driver Handbook. When you were younger, your parents could be held legally responsible for at least some damages and financial losses caused by your actions. See N.R.S. 483.300.

Do I need my own car insurance?
Yes, you must carry insurance and have proof of insurance in order to drive a vehicle. Further, a person shall not operate the motor vehicle of another unless he knows the required evidence of insurance is present in the motor vehicle and he has his own evidence of insurance which covers him as the operator. See N.R.S. 485.187. If you are a student, your parents may be able to continue to carry you on their car insurance while you operate their vehicles or if your parents are co-owners of your car. Otherwise, you will have to get your own insurance.

Also, when you buy a car, you will either receive the original Certificate of Title or a copy, commonly known as the “pink slip.” You will receive the original certificate if you paid cash for the car. You will receive a copy of the certificate if you financed the car; the original certificate will remain with the lender until you pay off the loan. The Certificate of Title is a very important document, as it contains detailed information about the car and provides proof of ownership. When a car changes ownership, the seller is required to sign this certificate and to have it recorded within 10 days by the Department of Motor Vehicles to finalize the transfer and discharge the seller from any further responsibilities connected with that particular vehicle. See N.R.S. 482.426.

If I don’t already have a driver’s license at age 18, how do I get one?
First of all, you no longer have to meet the special requirements nor are you subject to the restrictions that apply to younger drivers. For example, you do not have to complete formal diver’s education or training to apply for a driver’s license. Instead, you must simply:

red badge Apply in person.
red badge Be a Nevada resident and provide a Nevada address.
red badge Provide acceptable proof of your name, date of birth and Social Security number.
red badge Complete a Driver License Application and pay the required fee.
red badge Surrender any existing U.S. License, permit or I.D. card.
red badge Pass the vision test and the driver’s knowledge test.
red badge Have your picture taken. N.R.S. 483.290.

You will then be issued an instruction permit that will allow you to drive on public roads if accompanied by someone over 21 years of age. (He or she must be sitting close enough to grab the steering wheel if necessary.) Then, to get your actual driver’s license, you must pass a driving test and provide proof of financial responsibility. For more information, visit the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicle website at

beer glassWhat could happen if I drive after drinking a beer or two?
You are putting yourself and others in danger. Teenagers are more than twice as likely as adult drivers to be involved in a fatal, alcohol-related crash, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles. It is illegal for anyone to drive under the influence of alcohol. Drivers can not have a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more in their blood or breath. See N.R.S. 484.379. Further, it is illegal for any driver to be under the influence of a controlled substance.

Any person who drives or is in actual physical control of a vehicle on a highway or on premises to which the public has access shall be deemed to have given his consent to a preliminary test of his breath to determine the concentration of alcohol in his breath. See N.R.S. 484.382. If a person fails to submit to the test, the officer shall seize his license and arrest him. Further, any person who drives shall be deemed to have given his consent to an evidentiary test of his blood, urine, breath or other bodily substance to determine the concentration of alcohol or controlled substance. See N.R.S. 484.383. If a person to be tested fails to submit to the test and an officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person was driving and under the influence, the officer may direct that reasonable force be used to the extent necessary to obtain samples of blood. If a person to be tested is under the age of 18 the officer shall, before testing, make a reasonable attempt to notify the parent or guardian.

If I’m caught drinking alcohol with my friends, can my driver’s license be taken away?
Yes. If you are under 21 and are cited for drinking alcohol at a party, you could wind up with a suspended driver’s license - even if you were nowhere near a car at the time. If a person less than 21 years of age is caught with a concentration of alcohol of 0.02 or more but less than 0.08 in his blood or breath at the time of the test, his license, permit or privilege to drive must be suspended for a period of 90 days. See N.R.S. 483.461.

Do I need a permit or license to operate a motorized scooter?
Yes. A moped is a vehicle, even though it looks and handles essentially like a bicycle and is propelled by a small engine, is designed to travel on not more than three wheels and is capable of a maximum speed of not more than 30 miles per hour. See N.R.S. 483.088.

Do I need a license to ride a bicycle?
No. There is no state law requiring a license to ride a bicycle. A person riding a bicycle must ride upon or astride a permanent and regular seat which is attached to the bicycle. See N.R.S. 484.505. A person riding a bicycle must keep at least one hand upon the handle bars. See N.R.S. 484.511. A bicycle used at night must be equipped with a front light, a red rear reflector, and side reflectors. See N.R.S. 484.513.

Do bicycle riders have to follow the same traffic laws as motorists?

Yes. Every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway has all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle. See N.R.S. 484.503.

Laws That Young Drivers Should Know

Reckless driving: Nevada law prohibits driving a vehicle on a highway or in an off-street parking facility in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others or property.This includes but is not limited to speed contests. See N.R.S. 484.377. If the reckless driving results in death or substantial bodily harm of another, the driver is guilty of a category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less that 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 6 years, or by a fine of not more than $5,000, or by both fine and imprisonment. Nevada also has a statute which penalizes aggressive driving. See N.R.S. 484.3765.

Littering: Nevada law makes it a misdemeanor to throw anything at or from a moving vehicle. See N.R.S. 202.185 and 484.465.

Accidents: In Nevada, you must stop after any accident you are involved in wherein someone is injured or another person’s property is damaged. See N.R.S. 484.219 and 484.221. You must render or see to the rendering of reasonable assistance to any person injured in the accident. See N.R.S. 484.223. A person failing to stop at an accident involving injury or death is guilty of a category B felony that could result in imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less that 2 years and a maximum term of not more than 15 years and by a fine of not less that $2,000 nor more than $5,000. See N.R.S. 484.219. You also must exchange names, addresses, vehicle registration number, driver’s licenses and other relevant information. If no police officer is present, the accident shall be reported to the nearest office of a police authority or the Nevada Highway Patrol. A report must be made within 10 days when injury or death occurs or damages are $750 or more. See N.R.S. 484.229(1). If a person willfully fails, refuses or neglects to make a report of an accident, he may have his driving privileges suspended for 1 year unless terminated by receipt of the report and evidence that the failure to report was not willful. See N.R.S. 484.236.

Driving without a license: In Nevada, it is a misdemeanor to drive without a valid driver’s license. Also, the law requires drivers to have their licenses with them while driving. Driving with a suspended or revoked license is a misdemeanor that could result in up to six months in jail and/or a fine of not less than $500 nor more than $1,000. See N.R.S. 483.560.

Cell phones and driving: There is currently no law against talking on a cell phone while driving. But keep in mind that mixing the two could cause a traffic accident. Also, you may be more likely to drive erratically and wind up with a traffic citation for impeding the flow of traffic, failing to stay in your lane or other types of distracted driving.

Seat belts/child passenger restraints: It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle unless the driver and all passengers are properly restrained by safety belts. See N.R.S. 484.641. Children must be secured in federally approved safety seats until they are either 6 years of age or weigh 60 pounds. See N.R.S. 484.474.

Unattended child in a motor vehicle: It is against the law to leave a child (7 years of age or younger) unattended in a motor vehicle if there is risk to the child’s health and safety or the engine is running or the keys are in the ignition. See N.R.S. 202.575. In such situations, the child must be supervised by a responsible person, 12 years of age or older.

Ignoring Flagmen: It is unlawful for a driver of a motor vehicle to fail or refuse to comply with any signal of an authorized Flagman serving in a traffic control capacity in a clearly marked area of highway construction or maintenance. See N.R.S. 484.254. If injury results or damage to property of $1,000 or more, the driver can be fined not less that $1,000 or more than $2,000 and ordered to perform 120 hours of community service.
This guide is an introduction to narrow topics of Nevada law. Keep in mind that federal, state and local laws are constantly subject to change. If you have a legal question or problem, you should consult an attorney.