Travelling on American roads: tips and suggestions!
Some types of trips in the United States, such as the "coast to coast" journey (which we mentioned a few days ago), or the "fly and drive", will give you the chance to get behind the wheel and experience the thrill of the famous American highways, or simply to move around within the city. But before you get behind the steering wheel, it is good to know some important information on driving in the United States!
First of all, if you’re planning to drive during your trip, not only will you need to bring a valid passport and your ESTA authorisation, but also a driver's license, along with an"international license", i.e. a driving permit abroad,which should be requested prior to departure.
The UK is the only member country of the Visa Waiver Programme that drives on the left, so pay extra attention to the side of the road in the US.
Our first piece of advice is to remember that the American police are very strict in enforcing the law, and will never let you off lightly in case of infringement! Police vehicles are usually lurking in hidden places from which they are ready to intervene even for the smallest infraction. As a driver, you must stop and wait for the agent in your car, with your hands in plain view on the steering wheel.
If a fine is payable, you will receive it in writing and must pay it at a later date. Never pay on the spot. Pay on time to avoid problems in the future, as you are still liable even when you are back in your country. In the US the police keep an archive for small fines, which, if they were to backlog, could also lead to your arrest if you were to commit more minor offences. .
- Fully stopping at the "stop"signs is arequirement, and it is not enough to just slow down!
- Overtaking on the right is allowed on almost all streets.
- Pedestrians always have priority, but in Manhattan cross only on the designated crossings.
- It’s forbidden to overtake the "school bus".When the school bus stops to pick up kids, you have to stop and wait, as the law does not allow overtaking when there’s only one lane.
- It’s forbidden to have open alcohol containers in the car. Special attention should be paid to the use of alcohol. The rules, as we know, are quite restrictive. If you plan to drink make sure there is always at least one sober person that can drive the vehicle. With a BAC greater than 0.08 you can be arrested on the spot, so don’t let it happen to you!
- 4-way intersections with ‘stop’ signs in each lane. If you happen to find a 4-way intersection where each lane has a stop sign, don’t panic! The priority goes in order of arrival.
- Carpools: lanes dedicated to those traveling with two or more people.Motorways have special lanes on the left marked by a diamond symbol: these are "car pool lanes", destined to cars carrying at least two people.
- Children on board.The law prohibits seating children under the age of 8 in the front seats’ they should be sat in the back on special seats.
- Speed limits. Remember that in the US speed limits are highly respected. The limits are generally not very high but still allow excellent practicability of roads and highways.
- On highways, the speed limit varies between 65 and 75 miles per hour (about 105 to 120km per hour).
- On city streets, especially in the presence of schools, the limit is usually 25 mph (40 kmh).
- Generally the police tolerate exceeding the limit to a maximum of 10 miles per hour, and on the highway, almost everybody follows a constant pace of 10 miles over the limit.
- Motorway tolls. The highways are usually free, but in some places you will still find tollbooths where you pay a small toll for crossing bridges, tunnels or other special features.
- What to do in an emergency in the street?For any kind of emergency in the street the best thing to do is pull into the emergency lane and wait. In fact, on most highways in the US, emergency vehicles constantly pass through this lane just to help people in need. They will help you for free, even just to change a simple tyre.
Have a pleasant journey, don’t take it too fast and enjoy the scenery!
Travelling to the United States? Do you have your pre-planning checklist in order? Visit our ESTA Guide for more information about obtaining your travel permit. We'd love to hear from you. Send us your comments or questions for travel assistance.