If you’re traveling to America for the first time, it’s important to know a little bit about our driving laws. While some things are universal, others are specific to the US and, even more, to each individual state. Here are our top ten USA Driving Tips:
The roads in the US are wide, especially compared to some in the UK and EU. This is one nice feature as it’s easy to see other cars coming, and you have plenty of room to drive and pass by other cars without someone ending up right next to a fence or wall. Our interstates (similar to motorways or autobahns) have 4-8 lanes and, as suspected, cross many states. Interstates running north and south have odd numbers (I-75, for example) and those running east and west have even numbers (I-80, for example).
- Know the state laws. Laws vary by state for things like blood alcohol limit for drunk driving and passing rules. In some states when passing on the interstate, you pass in the left lane and then immediately move back into the right lane. In other states you’re allowed to continue driving in the left lane for as long as you like. This is a little more difficult to define when there are multiple lanes too.
- Speed limits vary by state. As soon as you cross from Colorado into Utah for example, the speed limit on I-70 goes up from 75 to 80mph.
- Everyone in America drives on the right side of the road.
- Seat belts are required for those in the drivers’ seat and front passenger seat. We recommend everyone in your car wear a seatbelt, regardless of where they’re sitting.
- Stop signs: In America, while roundabouts are becoming more popular, many intersections still utilize a 4-way stop. In these instances where 2 roads meet, everyone at an intersecting point will have a stop sign. Generally, the first person to arrive goes first, and so on and so forth. If 2 or more cars arrive at the same time, the car to your right usually has the right of way. When in doubt, wait a moment and see if someone goes or waves you on through. Pay careful attention: while some intersections are 4-way stops and will be labeled as such, others are not. These will usually say, “Opposing traffic does not stop.” Just make sure to look for stop signs across from you and to either side of you before proceeding. Again, when in doubt, wait a minute.
- Right on red: At most traffic lights in the US, unless otherwise specified with signage, you are allowed to turn right at a red light if no oncoming traffic is present. This is handy as it allows you to continue on your way more quickly and keeps traffic from backing up.
- Pedestrians have the right of way in all crosswalks.
- Hiring a car, or “renting” a car as we say in America, is easy for those in the UK. Your UK drivers license is accepted here. There is a wide variety of cars to rent, from small, compact cars to larger sport utility vehicles and sports cars. What you decide to rent will depend on your budget. However, if you plan to do much traveling and driving on interstates we recommend at least a 6 cylinder engine for power and speed.
- While interstates have a common look across the country, state roads and county roads vary widely. State roads are paved and vary from 2 lanes to 4. Their speed limits will also vary, depending on the terrain the road is covering. County roads are often unpaved, gravel or dirt roads leading to exciting hiking or mountain biking trails and may require a vehicle with a little more clearance. When in doubt, you can call the nearest visitors center or department of transportation center and they will be able to tell you more about the conditions of particular roads.
- Be alert. US drivers can be impatient ones. It’s possible you’ll even encounter undertaking on Interstate roads if there are more than 2 lanes on your side. Again, when in doubt, slow down and take a moment to look around before proceeding, if at all possible.
We hope our USA driving tips have helped you feel more confident driving in America.