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Driving Tips and Road Information for Visitors to the United States

USA Driving Tips Guide for Visitors in the USA

Are you new to driving in the United States? If you are visiting and planning on renting a car, it is important to familiarize yourself with the rules of the road, and ensure you have a basic understanding of US traffic laws. While many laws may be similar to those that you are used to, you may also notice a few differences. Here is some advice from VroomVroomVroom to help you enjoy a safe road trip in the States.

The basics of driving in America

  • In the US, we drive on the right side of the road. 
  • Distances and speed limits are measured in miles.

Common road signs you may come across

STOP: A red sign reading "Stop" means you must come to a complete stop and yield to any oncoming traffic or pedestrians on a crosswalk.

YIELD: A triangular sign reading "Yield" indicates that you need to decrease your speed as you approach an intersection, and yield to any vehicles with right-of-way.

WARNING SIGNS: These signs will generally be yellow with black symbols, and warn drivers of upcoming hazards like road work, narrow bridges or pedestrian traffic.

SERVICE SIGNS: Blue signs indicate the locations of facilities such as gas stations, rest areas or camping grounds.

ROUTE SIGNS: Highways and interstates are numbered in the USA, and you will see signs alongside the road indicated it's number.

BROWN SIGNS: These point out scenic areas and attractions in the area. 

Traffic signals

A difference you may notice when driving in the USA, is the flashing traffic signals. If traffic lights are flashing red, you must come to a complete stop and yield to vehicles with the right-of-way. If the lights are flashing yellow, you should treat it the same as a “Yield” sign. Steady your speed and yield to other vehicles approaching the intersection.

General road rules and safety tips

  • You are not permitted to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving. You could face fines for doing so. Motorists are only able to use hands-free devices.
  • Do not pass a vehicle stopped at a crosswalk, and always give way to pedestrians.
  • In the USA, driving distances can be quite large in between cities. Driving while fatigued is a common cause of road accidents. Take frequent breaks and make sure you are well-rested before hitting the road.
  • Enter roundabouts to the right, and travel in a counter clockwise direction. A rotary is a larger version of a roundabout, and drivers are required to yield to vehicles already in the rotary, and signal when they intend to exit. 
  • Weather conditions like rain, hail and snow makes the road surface slippery, so drivers should take additional care on curves. Hydroplaning (when your tyres begin to ride the layer of water on the road) can occur if you do not maintain a slower speed.
  • Beware of railroad crossing signs, a yellow sign with a cross and “RR”. Reduce your speed when approaching, and if you see flashing red lights you need to come to a stop.
  • HOV (high Occupancy vehicle) lanes are marked for cars with a certain number of passengers.

Driving tips for interstate travel

  • New York: If you are traveling in October through to December, there is an increased risk of hitting deer. Deer are most active at dawn and dusk, and often travel in groups. Areas where there have been frequent collisions with deer are marked with signs.
  • California: On narrow mountain roads, keep to the far right side of the road as much as possible. Maintain slower speeds when you come to the peaks of hills, as you may not be able to see approaching vehicles on the other side. 
  • Florida: If you come to a road that is flooded, do not attempt to drive through. It is difficult to tell the depth of the water, and your vehicle could potentially be swept away.
  • Texas: If you find yourself stuck in hazardous weather conditions like tornadoes, do not seek shelter under an overpass. The tunnel effect makes the wind even more powerful. 
  • Arizona: If you are driving in summer through the desert, keep in mind that temperatures can regularly exceed 100 degrees with low humidity. If you are leaving the main highways, make sure your car has plenty of gas, and you have packed food and water. If your vehicle breaks down in an isolated location, you should remain with it. 

Read more about USA toll roads here. You can find driving tips in popular cities like New York or learn more about crossing international borders.