By: Sam Bisby
In just over a week, I shall be partaking in a fortnight of driving across California and Nevada in what will be my first time on the road in the United States.
While I am thoroughly looking forward to the whole experience, I am feeling slightly wary of driving in the US having never done it before. Obviously this has resulted in some comprehensive research on the matter and thought I would share my findings with anyone else who needs to know the rules of the road in the US, or are perhaps just curious in the differences between their road system and our own.
So, here are the essentials when it comes to driving in the US, plus some other tips when at the wheel in the States.
It is vital to know that in the US, each state is allowed to have its own driving laws; therefore, you will need to consider the route(s) you will be taking and make note of state-specific rules.
Otherwise, there are general road standards across the whole of the US to abide by, while other factors are advised for foreign drivers to consider. For example, it is a legal requirement that UK motorists driving in the US carry both parts of their driving licence (paper and photocard) – you will need them to rent a car in the first place. However, while it is not vital, it is suggested that all drivers apply for and carry with them an International Driving Licence, as it could come in use in some states (compulsory in Florida).
Ensure you also carry with you the insurance documents from the rental company, and any other paperwork you have I regards to insurance, at all times in case of an accident. In addition, the minimum age for driving in the US is usually 16, but some states don’t allow independent driving under the age of 18 and it is a legal requirement in every state that every occupant wears a seatbelt; meanwhile, it is illegal to have a child under the age of four in the front seat.
Speed limit signs are well posted along most roads in the US, and although some states differ from others, sticking to the national limits will almost always have you covered. Motorways (Freeways) are similar to our own and have a 70 limit, but this speed is often well enforced by the authorities, so keep an eye on your speedometer. Larger roads outside built-up areas (highways) have a 65mph limit and residential areas are strictly 30mph; however, the more rural the area, the higher the limit will tend to be.
The following are some quick tips for driving in the US that will help you blend in a little better:
General tips for driving in the US
The US Interstate Highway System works in a similar manner to our own in that signs are colour coded to indicate what they mean, but then elements do differ in that an interstate’s number will be a reference to which direction the road is going (even numbers for east-west and odd for north-south).
Colours and what they mean:
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