Driver Licensing

Rules of the Road

There are traffic rules that say where, when and how fast you can drive. These rules help to keep traffic moving safely. Rules of the road include traffic control devices, right-of-ways, and parking rules.

What do I need to know about Traffic Signals?
What do I need to know about Traffic Signs?
What do I need to know about Pavement Markings?
What are the General Rules of the road?
What is Right-Of-Way?
What are the rules of Parking?

Traffic Signals



Traffic signals are lights that tell you when or where to stop and go. A "green" light means you can go if it is safe. A "yellow" light means caution and a "red" light means stop.

Traffic lights are usually at intersections and are green, yellow and red, from bottom to top, when together. There are some intersections and other locations where there are single green, yellow or red lights.

A steady GREEN traffic light means you can go through the intersection. You must yield to emergency vehicles and others as required by law. If you are stopped and then the light turns green, you must allow crossing traffic to clear the intersection before you go ahead. A GREEN arrow means you can safely turn in the direction of the arrow. There should be no on-coming or crossing traffic while the arrow is green. If you are turning left, a steady green traffic green light means you may turn but only when safe to do so. Oncoming traffic has the right-of-way. Be alert for signs that prohibit left turns. When turning right or left, watch for pedestrians crossing in front of your vehicle.

A steady YELLOW traffic light means the traffic light is about to change to red. You must stop if it is safe to do so. If you are in the intersection when the yellow light comes on, do not stop but continue through the intersection. A flashing YELLOW traffic light means slow down and proceed with caution. A YELLOW arrow means that the protection of a green arrow is ending and if you are turning in the direction of the arrow, you should prepare to stop and give the right of way to oncoming traffic before turning.

A steady RED traffic light means stop. This device is to alert you of the red light and that you must stop. You must wait until the traffic light turns green and there is no crossing traffic before you may move ahead. If you are turning right, you may turn after coming to a full stop, if it is safe to do so and if there is no sign prohibiting the turn on a red light. Be careful of pedestrians crossing in front of your vehicle. A flashing RED traffic light means the same as a stop sign. You must come to a full stop and then may proceed when it is safe to do so. A RED arrow means you must stop and you cannot go in the direction of the arrow. You may proceed when the red arrow goes out and a green arrow or light goes on.

If a traffic control signal is out of operation or is not functioning properly. The vehicle facing a:

  • Green signal may proceed with caution as indicated in South Dakota Codified Law (SDCL) 32-28-2;
  • Yellow signal may proceed with caution as indicated in SDCL 32-28-3;
  • Red or completely unlighted signal stop shall stop in the same manner as if the vehicle is at a stop sign.

Back to Top

Traffic Signs
Traffic signs tell you about traffic rules, hazards, where you are, how to get where you are going and where services are located. The shape and color of these signs give clues to the type of information they provide.

Warning Signs - These signs are usually yellow with black lettering or symbols and most are diamond shaped. These signs warn you to slow down and be prepared to stop if necessary. It warns you that a special situation or a hazard is ahead. Some common warning signs are shown below.

advisory speed plate sign The advisory speed plate sign is used in conjunction with any
warning sign to indicate the maximum recommended speed
around a curve or through a hazardous location.
low clearance sign The low clearance sign warns driver of clearance less than the
maximum vehicle height permitted.
T symbol sign The T symbol sign warns traffic approaching a T intersection on
the road that forms the stem of the T.
merge sign A merge sign warns that merging movements may be
encountered where two roadways converge.
lane reduction transition sign The lane reduction transition sign warns of the reduction in the number
of traffic lanes in the direction of travel on multi lane highway.
added lane sign An added lane sign warns of two roadways converging and
merging movements are not required
hill sign The hill sign warns of a downgrade where the length, percent of grade, horizontal curvature, or other physical features require special precautions on the part of drivers.
slippery when wet sign The slippery when wet sign warns of a condition where the highway
surface is extraordinarily slippery when wet.
deer crossing sign The deer crossing sign alert vehicle operators to unexpected entries into the roadway by deer. These crossings may be relatively confirmed, or may occur randomly over substantial distance of roadway. The distance of the crossing are may be posted below the sign. There are similar signs for pedestrians, trucks, bicyclists, and other potential conflicts.

Railroad Crossing Warning Signs - Many railroad crossings have signs or signals to warn drivers. Never try to beat a train across the tracks. Never start to cross if there is not room for your vehicle on the far side and if you will have to stop on the tracks. Wait until there is room for your vehicle on the far side. It is wise not to shift gears when crossing railroad tracks, just in case you might stall. Remember that trains are large and may be moving faster than they appear to be moving. Some common railroad crossing warning signs and signals are shown in the illustration below.

A round yellow warning sign with an "X" symbol and black "RR" letters
is placed along the road before you get to a railroad crossing.

A white, X-shaped sign or "crossbuck" with "Railroad Crossing" on it is
located at the railroad crossing. This sign has the "Yield" sign.

You must yield to crossing trains.

Railroad Advance Warning
sign A Railroad Advance Warning sign is used to warn of a highway-railroad crossing
Railroad crossing
sign Railroad crossing

Railroad flashing light signals and crossbuck signs are found at most public crossings. These signs should be treated the same way as a yield sign. The driver should slow down and be prepared to stop upon sighting a train. If there is more than one track, a sign below the crossbuck indicates the number of tracks at this crossing.

  • At some crossings, along with the crossbuck sign, you will see side-by-side lights that will flash alternately when a train is approaching. When the lights are flashing, you must stop. At some crossings there is also a crossing gate that will lower when a train is coming. Do not drive around the gate. Some crossings also have a bell or a horn that will sound. Do not cross until the bell or horn has stopped.
  • Crossings with more than one train track will often post a sign that shows the number of tracks. These signs warn you that there is more than one track and there may be more than one train crossing. Not all crossings with more than one train track will have these signs so it is important to check for more than one track before crossing.

Work Area Signs - These construction, maintenance or emergency operations signs are generally diamond or rectangular shaped, orange with black letters or symbols and warn you that people are working on or near the roadway. These warnings include reduced speed, detours, slow moving construction equipment and poor or suddenly changing road surfaces. In work areas, traffic may be controlled by a person with a sign or flag. You must obey these persons.

Road Work sign The Road Work sign serves as general warning of obstructions or restrictions.
Workers sign The Workers sign is used to alert drivers of workers in or near the roadway.
Flagger sign The Flagger sign is used in advance of where a flagger is stations to control traffic.

Regulatory Signs - These signs are square, rectangular, or have a special shape and are usually white, red or black with black, red, white or green letters or symbols. They give you information about rules for traffic direction, lane use, turning, speed, parking and other special situations.

No Parking
sign The No Parking sign prohibits parking in the area
Fine Doubles sign The Fine Doubles sign informs you that the speeding fines will be doubles
in construction zones
Yield to Oncoming Traffic sign This Traffic sign reminds you of your obligation to yield to on coming traffic
if you are turning left and there is a green ball displayed at a signalized intersection
Do Not Enter The Do Not Enter sign is used to prohibit traffic from entering a restricted road. They are one-way against you. You will see them at exit ramps and at one-way streets.

Some regulatory signs have a red circle with a red slash over a symbol. These signs prohibit certain actions, i.e., no left turn, no right turn, no U-turn, etc. Common types of regulatory signs are:

No left turn sign     No right turn sign     No U turn sign

speed limit signSpeed Limit Signs. These signs indicate the maximum safe speed allowed or the minimum safe speed required. The maximum limit should be driven only in ideal driving conditions and you must reduce your speed when conditions require it. For example, you should reduce your speed when the roadway is slippery, during rain, snow, icy conditions, or when it is foggy and difficult to see clearly down the road. Some high speed roads have minimum speed limits and you are required to travel at least this fast so as not to be a hazard to other drivers. If the minimum posted speed is too fast for you, you should use another road.

The SPEED LIMIT sign indicates the maximum or minimum safe speed that is allowed. The Metric equivalent may also be provided.




Lane Use Control Signs. These signs tell you where you can go, where you can turn and often use an arrow symbol. These signs can be located on the side of the road or hanging over the lane of travel. Sometimes arrows may be painted on the road as a supplement to the signs.

No Passing Signs
No Passing Signs. These signs tell you where passing is not permitted. Passing areas are based on how far you can see ahead. They consider unseen hazards such as hills and curves, intersections, driveways and other places a vehicle may enter the roadway. These signs, along with pavement markings, indicate where you can pass another vehicle, the beginning and ending of a passing zone or where you may not pass. Where it is permitted to pass, you may do so only if it is safe Be aware of road conditions and other vehicles. Be aware of road conditions and other vehicles.
No Passing Zone sign
The No Passing Zone sign warns of the beginning of a no passing zone. It is found on the left side of the road
Stop Sign
Stop Sign - A stop sign has eight sides and is red with white letters. You must come to a full stop at a stop sign or stop line, if one is present.
You must wait until crossing vehicles and pedestrians have cleared and pull forward only when it is safe to do so.
Yield Sign
Yield Sign - A yield sign is a downward pointing triangle.
It is red and white with red letters. It means you must slow down and yield the right-of-way to traffic in the intersection you are crossing or roadway you are entering.
Slow Moving Vehicle sign
Slow Moving Vehicle - A reflective orange triangle on the rear of a vehicle means it is traveling less than 25 mph. You may see this decal on construction equipment, in rural areas on farm vehicles or horse drawn
wagons or carriages.

Common types of Guide Signs are:

Destination Signs Destination Signs - These signs are square or rectangular shaped and are green or brown with white lettering. They show directions and distance to various locations such as cities, airports, or state lines or to special areas such as national parks, historical areas or museums.
Service Signs Service Signs - These signs are square or rectangular shaped and are blue with white letters or symbols. They show the location of various services such as rest areas, gas stations, campgrounds or hospitals.

Route Number Signs - The shape and color of route number signs indicate the type of roadway: interstate, U.S., state, city, or county road. When planning a trip, use a road map to determine your route. During the trip, follow the route signs to prevent you from getting lost.

State Highway SignCity Road Signs
County Road SignsInterstate Signs

Back to Top

Pavement Markings
Lines and symbols on the roadway divide lanes, tell you when you may pass other vehicles or change lanes, which lanes to use for turns, define pedestrian walkways and where you must stop for signs or traffic signals.

Edge and Lane Lines - Solid lines along the side of the road show you where the edge of the road is located.

  • White lane marking - Multiple lanes of travel in the same direction are separated by white lane markings. A dashed white line between lanes of traffic means that you may cross it to change lanes if it is safe to do so. A solid white line between lanes of traffic means that you should stay in your lane unless a special situation requires you to change lanes.
  • Crosswalks and stop lines - When required to stop because of a sign or signal, you must stop before your vehicle reaches the stop line or if there is one, a crosswalk. Crosswalks define the area where pedestrians may cross the roadway. You must yield to pedestrians in or about to enter a crosswalk. Not all crosswalks are marked. Be alert for pedestrians when crossing intersections.
  • Yellow lane markings - Lines separating traffic moving in opposite directions are yellow. A dashed yellow line between opposing lanes of traffic means that you may cross it to pass if it is safe to do so. Some passing zones have signs that tell you where passing is permitted and where you cannot pass. Where there is both a solid and a dashed yellow line between opposing lanes of traffic, you may not pass if the solid yellow line is on your side. If the dashed line is on your side, you may pass if it is safe to do so. Two solid yellow lines between lanes of traffic means neither side can pass. You may cross a solid yellow line to turn into a driveway if it is safe to do so.
       Lane Change Diagram

Other Lane Controls

Shared Center Lane Diagram Shared Center Lane
These center lanes are reserved for making left turns (or U-turns when they are permitted) but can be used by vehicles traveling in both directions. On the pavement, left-turn arrows for traffic in one direction alternate with left-turn arrows for traffic coming from the other direction. These lanes are marked on each side by a solid yellow and dashed yellow lines. In some areas, the shared center lane becomes a "reversible lane" during rush hours. Be sure you can enter the lane before you do so and then only if it is safe to do so.

Back to Top

General Rules

When there are no signs or markings to control the use of lanes, there are rules that indicate which lane is to be used. These rules cover general driving, passing and turning.

General driving - Never back a vehicle in any travel lane except to parallel park. It is illegal and unsafe to do so. Drivers do not expect a vehicle to be backing towards them and may not realize it until it is too late. If you miss your turn or exit, do not back up but go on to where you can safely turn around.

Do not stop in travel lanes for any reason (confusion, breakdown, letting out a passenger). Keep moving until you can safely pull off the road.

On a road with two or more lanes traveling in the same direction, stay in the right lane except to pass. On a road with three or more lanes traveling in the same direction, if there is a lot of entering or exiting traffic, use the center travel lane.

Unless told to do so by officials, never drive on the shoulder of the road.

Passing - On multi-lane roads, the left-most lane is intended to be used for passing slower vehicles. If you pass on the right, the other driver may have difficulty seeing you and might suddenly change lanes in front of you. Never pass on the shoulder, whether it is paved or not. Other drivers will never expect you to be there and may pull off the road without looking.

Turning - Where there are no signs or lane markings to control turning, you should turn from the lane that is closest to the direction you want to go and turn into the lane closest to the one you came from. This way, you will cross the fewest lanes of traffic. When making turns, go from one lane to the other as directly as possible without crossing lane lines or interfering with traffic. Once you have completed your turn, you can change to another lane if you need to.

Turning Diagram

Right turns. On right turns, avoid swinging wide to the left before turning to make the turn. If you swing wide, the driver behind you may think you are changing lanes or going to turn left and may try to pass you on the right. If you swing wide as you complete the turn, drivers who are in the far lane will not expect to see you there.

Right Turning Diagram

Left turns. When making a left turn, avoid cutting the corner so sharply that you run into someone approaching from the left. However, be sure to leave room for oncoming vehicles to turn left in front of you.

Multiple lanes turning. If there are signs or lane markings that allow for two or more turning lanes, stay in your lane during the turn.

Back to Top


Where vehicles or pedestrians are likely to meet one another and there are no signs or signals to regulate traffic, there are rules on who must yield the right-of-way. These rules tell who goes first and who must wait in different traffic situations.

The law says who must yield the right-of-way; it does not give anyone the right-of-way. You must do everything you can to prevent striking a pedestrian or another vehicle, regardless of the circumstances.

The following right-of-way rules apply at intersections:

  • You must yield the right-of-way to a police vehicle, fire engine, ambulance, or other emergency vehicle using a siren, air horn, or a red or blue flashing light. Pull over to the right edge of the road or as near to the right as possible when you see or hear any emergency vehicle approaching from and direction. Follow any instructions given over the emergency vehicle's loudspeaker. if you are in an intersection, drive through the intersection before you pull over. If a driver fails to come to a complete stop in these situations, they can be imprisoned in the county jail for up to 30 days or fined up to $200 or both.
  • Drivers crossing a sidewalk entering or exiting a driveway, alley or parking lot must yield to pedestrians. It is illegal to drive on a sidewalk except to cross it.
  • You must yield to pedestrians within crosswalks. Children often forget traffic rules and must always receive special care. BE EXTRA ALERT. Slow down and be prepared to stop, if necessary. REMEMBER-South Dakota law requires you to stop for any pedestrian carrying a white cane or utilizing a guide dog regardless of whether or not they are in a crosswalk.
  • If a visually impaired person is standing along a street with a white cane held in a raised position, they are indicating that they wish to cross the street. You must yield the right of way to that person.
  • Drivers turning left must yield to oncoming vehicles going straight ahead.
  • At an intersection where there is no stop sign, yield sign or traffic signal, drivers must yield to vehicles coming from the right.
  • At a 4-way stop, the driver reaching the intersection first, goes first (after coming to a complete stop). If more than one vehicle arrives at the same time, the vehicle on the right, goes.
  • Drivers entering a road from a driveway, alley or roadside must stop for vehicles already on the main road.
  • Drivers may not enter an intersection unless they can get through it without having to stop. You should wait until traffic ahead clears so that you are not blocking the intersection.
  • Drivers overtaking a vehicle traveling in the same direction must yield to that vehicle, even if the vehicle is slowing or coming to a stop.
  • The operator of a motor vehicle on a two-lane highway or a private road meeting or overtaking a school bus on which the amber warning lights are flashing shall reduce the speed of his/her vehicle to not more than twenty miles per hour and proceed past the school bus with caution. When the operator of a motor vehicle approaches a school bus on which the red signal lights are flashing , the operator shall bring the vehicle to a complete stop not closer than fifteen feet from the school bus and shall remain stopped until the flashing red signal lights are extinguished. The operator of a motor vehicle on a highway providing two or more lanes in each direction need not stop when he meets a school bus which is traveling in the opposite direction even though the school bus is stopped and its red signal lights are flashing. The operator of a motor vehicle on a highway providing two or more lanes in each direction shall stop when he approaches a school bus traveling in the same direction when the school bus is stopped and its red signal lights are flashing.
  • You must yield the right-of-way to trains crossing the roadway.

Back to Top


Drivers are responsible for making sure that their vehicle is not a hazard when it is parked. Whenever you park, be sure it is in a place that is (1) far enough from any travel lane to avoid interfering with traffic and (2) visible to vehicles approaching from either direction.

  • Always park in a designated area if possible.
  • Always set your parking brake when you park. Leave the vehicle in gear if it has a manual transmission or in "park" if it has an automatic transmission.
  • Check traffic before you open the door. Shut the door as soon as you can after getting out.
  • Never leave the ignition keys in a parked vehicle. It is a good habit to lock the doors whenever you leave your vehicle.
  • If you must park on a roadway, park your vehicle as far away from traffic as possible. If there is a curb, park as close to it as you can.

No-Parking Zones - There are many areas where you cannot park. Check for signs that may prohibit or limit parking. Some parking restrictions are indicated by colored curb markings. Do not park:

  • in an intersection
  • on a crosswalk or sidewalk,
  • in a construction area if your vehicle will block traffic,
  • within 30 ft. of a traffic signal, stop sign or yield
  • within 30 ft. of a pedestrian safety zone,
  • within 15 ft. of a fire hydrant,
  • within 50 ft. of a railroad crossing,
  • more than 2 ft. from the curb,
  • within 20 ft. of a fire station driveway on the same side of the street or within 75 ft. of a driveway on the other side of the street,
  • blocking a driveway, alley, private road or area of the curb removed or lowered for access to the sidewalk,
  • on a bridge or overpass or in a tunnel or underpass,
  • on the wrong side of the street,
  • in a space marked for the handicapped, unless you have a handicap license plate, tag or sticker,
  • on the road side of a parked vehicle (double parking),
  • on railroad tracks, or
  • wherever a sign says you cannot park.

Other parking restrictions are indicated by curbs painted:

  • White - indicates that only short stops are permitted,
  • Yellow - indicates a loading zone or some other restriction.

Parking on Hills
If you park facing uphill where there is a curb, you should set the parking brake and turn the wheels away from the curb. In any other situation, turn the wheels toward the curb or edge of the road.

Back to Top