For some people, planning a road trip across the USA is a dream holiday. Having done this quite recently, I thought it important to share a few top tips I learnt whilst driving in America. Some of these tips were learnt the hard way so you can avoid them.
Top Tips For Driving In America
Park Facing The Direction Of Traffic
In the UK you’re allowed to park facing any direction, so long as you’ve parked the car parallel to the pavement and not just abandoned it in the street. Unfortunately if you’re driving in America you MUST park facing the direction of traffic.
No one will tell you this when you rent the car, and believe me, they are very quick to pounce and give you a ticket for this.
Coloured Parking Zones
As with the previous point, no one will inform you of these rules. You’re supposed to just know them. Sigh
Driving in America is fine, but when it comes to parking BEWARE. In my experience of driving in the cities, there aren’t many places to park on the street. What limited street parking there is, is heavily enforced.
RED pavement: ‘TOW AWAY ZONE’ and is usually found near fire hydrants.
BLUE pavement: Disabled parking OR ‘TAXIS ONLY’
WHITE pavement: Passenger loading & unloading (usually up to 5 minutes). The Driver must stay with vehicle
GREEN pavement: Short term parking up to 10 minutes
YELLOW pavement: Loading & unloading for commercial vehicles only
The above coloured pavement meanings can vary slightly depending on the city you’re in so make sure you read any road signs around. Also be weary of parking meters, these aren’t always for general use. Some areas have parking meters which are exclusively for Taxis only. However, they look identical to normal parking meters.
Freeways, Highways & Interstates
Generally there isn’t much difference between driving in Europe and driving in America. However, there are several things to note about motorway driving in America if you’ve never experienced it before.
My first top tip would be to hire a Sat Nav, or enable mobile data usage to use you’re preferred Sat Nav App. This will help you greatly as (in my experience at least) there don’t appear to be many early warning signs for turnoffs.
Whilst were on turnoffs. In the UK we’re very much used to turning off onto the slip road for a junction, whereas in America the whole lane turns off.
America does a lot of things in it’s own weirdly wonderful way. One such American oddity is the colour of American rear indicator lights. Unlike the majority of the rest of the world, auto manufacturers in America have stuck to red lights for rear indicators. As a foreigner this was very confusing as a red light on the rear of a car usually denotes a car’s braking.
If you’re thinking of driving in America make sure you do your research on the size of the car you’ll be driving. Cars we would consider large in the UK and Europe are considered medium cars in America. Imagine that, the new JLR Discovery being classed as a ‘medium’ sized car (picks up jaw off the floor).
The sheer size of Vehicles in America leads to, unusually large lanes on the roads.
Driving long distances on the UK motorway network is an illuminating experience, unfortunately this isn’t the case with driving in America. For some unknown reason there don’t seem to be many street lights on the freeways and interstates. This means you get the full glare of oncoming headlights, especially with 6 lanes of oncoming traffic.
You will however find a few street lights just before a junction to turn off.
Turning Right On Red Lights
Some people will know about this rule for driving in America, for those who don’t, it’s as simple as it sounds. In America you’re allowed to turn right on a red light, even if the traffic is moving. You just need to treat the red light like a ‘STOP’ sign and make sure it is safe to turn.
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