How to Drive in the USA Without Getting Into Trouble

There is definitely good cause to issue a warning about American traffic behavior. This wikiHow will help you avoid trouble.


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    Recognize that US drivers' abilities and skills are as diverse as its culture. Do not assume that other drivers will act the same. People often drive while using cell phones, read maps, eat, drink or groom themselves while driving and are often not aware of other vehicles. Learn defensive driving techniques. Abrupt lane changes are not uncommon in areas popular with tourists and visitors.
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    Keep off rural roads at night. In rural areas avoid driving on the highway at night, as you might run in to animals (fairly common), cars with no lights (somewhat common), drunks behind the wheel (common on weekends) or people just walking around on the side of the road (uncommon). Drunks in traffic is a problem, especially on Fridays and Saturdays. There is also a strange habit of young people sitting on the curb with legs sprawled onto the road - be aware as they will play chicken and will not move for you. The law might not side with you if you run over idiotic teenager's legs.
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    Be very careful passing and changing lanes, as you might meet another driver who isn't as careful. Flashing your high beams at a slower driver in front of you is illegal in most states and will only irritate the other driver. A left turn signal from the car in front of you doesn't necessarily mean you can pass. Be extra careful when you want to turn left and make sure nobody tries to pass you.
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    Take care with turns. In many downtown metropolitan zones, do not turn left onto a street in the middle of a block, the only way out of a parking lot in such a place is to turn right and go around the block.
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    Watch those one-way roads. Also in many downtown metropolitan areas, be careful of one-way roads. Look to see what direction the parked cars are facing before you turn.
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    Americans have a strong respect for lanes. Not respecting lanes is a good way to get into an accident and provoke the ire of the police and other drivers. This doesn't mean they will stay in one lane, however. Often (especially in metropolitan areas) they will abruptly change lanes, but straddling lanes is taboo.


  • Roads in America are sometimes badly planned and sometimes in horrible shape. There is a general lack of awareness in some areas and safety isn't always of highest priority. So, be careful!
  • Automobile liability insurance is mandatory in most states. In many states you are required to show proof of current insurance as well as a valid drivers license anytime you are pulled over.
  • It is common in the US for the police to issue overpriced citations to encourage the offender to show up to take care of the fine in person. Mailing in your payment may be much easier but is often more expensive.
  • Fueling: Try to avoid filling up right before the morning or afternoon rush hours to avoid long lines. Shorter lines and lower fuel prices can usually be found at gas stations a few blocks away from freeway/highway entrances and exits. Look for areas that have multiple stations adjacent to each other. They tend to compete for customers and often have lower prices then a lone station. Prices in general are higher right before a holiday weekend. Purchase early in the week if you can or wait until the holiday is over.
  • Watch out for two people on a bike (the passenger standing on the hub of the wheel on little extensions called pegs) or a whole family on an ATV is a common sight in rural areas.
  • If you get pulled over by a law enforcement officer, be polite and calm. Under no circumstances argue with the police. With good manners and an apologetic looking face you might get out of the ticket, but if you don't, you will have to mail your fine or report to a courthouse, police station, etc, rather than paying it directly to the officer, as is common in some countries. American police officers rarely solicit or accept bribes, and attempting to bribe one can land you in jail.
  • You may also wish to purchase optional insurance to cover loss and/or damage to your vehicle in addition to the required liability insurance. A car alarm is useful if you are close enough to your car to hear the alarm yourself. Otherwise those alarms are generally ignored by most people unless they go off too often and then are considered a nuisance and your car can be towed away.


  • Avoid being narrow minded and ethnocentric. When driving in America, don't judge the entire country, culture, and society by driving around in just one area. America, like many other big countries in the world, has good areas and bad ones. Remember, being polite, open minded, and respectful is a good way to avoid trouble on the road. Happy motoring!
  • For people from the UK, Australia & NZ, Hong Kong, etc: USA traffic goes the other way.

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Categories: Country Specific