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Why Do People Touch the Ceiling When Driving Through a Yellow Light?

You may have seen a passenger do it or perhaps another driver. You may even do it yourself!

The practice of touching the ceiling of your vehicle while driving through a yellow light is one of a handful of superstitions that are relatively common throughout the U.S.

But what exactly does it mean? Let’s take a closer look. 

Why Do People Touch the Ceiling When Driving Through a Yellow Light? 

Touching the ceiling while driving through a yellow light is generally seen as a protective gesture. It ensures the driver and passengers safely make it through the intersection without any accidents or other incidents.

Some drivers also kiss their hands before touching the ceiling, presumably for some extra protection. Alternately, some drivers view the gesture as a “thank you” sign, expressing gratitude to the universe, luck, or some higher power.

It’s not clear exactly why this would provide any luck or protection or how this habit came to be. Still, you’ll find it’s a habit of drivers young and old, from all parts of the country and worldwide. Many drivers can’t tell you why they do it either.

Yellow traffic light
When on a road trip, if you drive through a yellow light touch your ceiling!

Other Common Driving Superstitions

If you’re a “ceiling toucher,” you’re certainly not alone in practicing driving superstitions.

There are plenty of little habits that, while their origins and effects are murky, make you feel better as you hit the road. Let’s take a look.

Holding Your Breath While Passing a Graveyard

This is one of the more well-known driving superstitions. Holding your breath while passing a graveyard is said to prevent breathing any ghosts or spirits into your body.

People also think it shows respect to the dead by not breathing in front of them when they obviously can’t. 

Holding Your Breath While Driving Through a Tunnel

Unlike holding your breath past a graveyard, holding your breath while driving through a tunnel has much less grim associations. People believe this driving superstition will bring good luck to those who accomplish it. 

Alternatively, holding your breath for the length of a tunnel could also grant a wish to those who are successful. As with holding our breath past a graveyard, you should be careful trying this one. Don’t hold your breath too long if you’re the one behind the wheel.

Pro Tip: Superstitious or not some people prefer driving barefoot, but Is Driving Barefoot Illegal? Find out!

Lifting Your Feet Over Railroad Tracks or Bridges

This driving superstition has two very different interpretations. In the first, not picking up your feet as you go over the tracks means you’ll never find true love.

Or you could lose your current partner. Another interpretation says that picking up your feet supposedly prevents you from dying young. In any case, this is a superstition best practiced by passengers only.

Tossing Loose Change on the Floor of a New Car

If you see loose change on the floor of someone’s car, it may be more than some forgotten coins. It’s a tradition known as “car coining.”

The practice of tossing change onto the floor of a new car aims to bring good luck to the vehicle and its owner. Even if it doesn’t bring you any luck, you’ll at least have some spare change hanging around for parking meters or tolls.

Honking Before or While in a Tunnel

While it might startle those unfamiliar with the superstition, honking before or during a drive through a tunnel is pretty common.

Many believe it will help them pass through the tunnel safely. It may be part of a lingering habit from days when narrow tunnels did pose actual safety risks.

Others may have heard stories about ghosts or evil spirits inhabiting the tunnels or surrounding areas. The honk may be an effort to ward them off. 

Yellow light
Touch the roof, hold your breath, or honk your horn while driving if you’re a superstitious driver.

Where Do Superstitions Come From? 

As you may be able to tell from the superstitions listed above, these small habits of dubious effectiveness have many different origins. Some are based on religious or cultural beliefs about life, death, and luck.

Others have their origins in true-life events or safety concerns that may no longer be necessary or valid. Some may simply have no detectable origins at all. These may have just started as a habit that grew and spread over time. 

Pro Tip: If you’re a beginner RV driver and want to stay safe, make sure to use these 11 Excellent RV Towing Tips for Beginners.

Are Driving Superstitions Based in Reality? 

Most drivers, even those who practice these superstitions, will likely acknowledge they’re not real or effective. While they may have origins in actual events or practices, there’s simply no evidence that doing any of these things will protect you.

However, many feel they’re harmless. If they make you feel better, that’s a bonus in and of itself. 

Quirky Driving Superstitions Are Muscle Memory to Most of Us

Whether you touch the roof, hold your breath, or honk your horn, many of us observe these small superstitions without even thinking.

These behaviors are simple muscle memory to most people, who may have been doing them for years. While how effective they are is questionable at best, driving superstitions aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

You’re better safe than sorry, after all.

Which superstitions do you do while driving? Tell us in the comments below!

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  1. Bob says:

    😆🤣😂 I’ve never even heard of these let alone done them. Further proof humans are idiots! 😆