US Driving Tips for International Drivers

Visitors to the US often have to learn new driving laws, so blogger Eric Rosenberg has pulled together a brief list of tips for international drivers.

The United States is an amazing vacation destination for travelers from all around the world. With 3.8 million square miles of territory split up among 50 states, you will never be bored visiting America. If you plan to drive yourself around while visiting, here are some important tips for driving in the USA.

Prepare Before You Leave

Each US state has different rules on which out-of-state and out-of-country driver’s licenses can be used, so be sure to do research on each state where you plan to drive.

To make sure you are covered, you can order an International Driving Permit, which translates your license information into English along with 9 other languages.

Drive on the Right

Unlike our fellow English speaking friends on the “other side of The Pond,” in the United States we drive on the right side of the road. Going the wrong way will land you a big ticket, if not worse.

If you are coming from one of the 74 countries including the United Kingdom, Australia, or New Zealand where traffic flows the other direction, be sure to keep out driving laws in mind to get to your destination safely.

Speeds are in Miles per Hour

The speed limit signs might look slow to you at first, but if you are driving 60 miles per hour (abbreviated mph) in the United States, you are going nearly 100 kilometers per hour.

Local and state police officers enforce traffic laws in the United States. You speed is most commonly measured by a police officer on the ground using a radar gun in what is known as a “speed trap,” or in some places by spotters in small planes or helicopters.

Fines vary based on speed and location and the worst speeders can find themselves on the way to jail.

Distances are on the Imperial System Too

In the popular film Pulp Fiction, gangster Vincent Vega reminds us that while Americans order a Quarter Pounder with Cheese at McDonalds, our European friends order a Royale with Cheese because no one uses pounds in mainland Europe.

When you ask the average American how many kilometers something is away, you will get a blank stare. While the drive from New York to the Canadian border is only 640 kilometers, few New Yorkers know how long it takes to drive 640 kilometers, or much else about our closest neighbor.

Each City and State Has Different Laws

Every city, county, and state in the United States has the ability to create its own traffic and driving laws. Some of them are logical and standard, but others are much more unique. Be sure to research the local laws before you start driving. Here are some laws you may encounter around the US:

  • Photo Red Lights – Some cities have automatic cameras that take photos of you if you run a red light. Based on the license plate information, the photo light ticket will be delivered to your address (or sent on to you from a rental car company).
  • U-Turns – In most cities, U-turns are allowed anywhere unless a sign specifically prohibits it. In Oregon, the opposite is true.
  • Mobile Phones – Many cities and states have laws prohibiting text messaging while driving, but some don’t. Some cities and states prohibit holding a phone to talk unless you have a hands free device, but some don’t. Each city and state is different.
  • Open Containers – Almost everywhere in America, no passenger can have an open alcoholic beverage while in a moving vehicle. However, in New Orleans passengers can have alcoholic beverages and drivers can have a drink in the car as long as the paper cover is still over the end of the straw.
  • Pumping Gas – In the good old days, all gas stations were full service. Now, you pump your own gas everywhere you go. Unless you go to New Jersey or Oregon. In those states, pumping your own gas is illegal.
  • Share The Road – In most parts of the country, bicycles are treated like motor vehicles and follow the same laws as cars, and are allowed to drive in regular traffic lanes.

Car Rentals Can Be Easy and Affordable

Wherever your travels take you, it is important to have a safe, comfortable vehicle to get around. To save money and hassle, skip the big rental car companies and find your rental with RelayRides. Signing up is easy, and it can save you a bundle on your next USA vacation.