Driving in the USA: rules, information and advice

Most Europeans find it easy to drive in the US. Most of the signs are identical, starting with right-hand drive, while the extensive and well-maintained road network makes driving very comfortable. However, there are some key differences that you need to know.

The first difference lies in the type of gearbox in the machines. Most cars in the United States have the automatic change, different from the manual gearbox we are used to in Spain.

It always starts in position P (park), then you put the D (drive) and off we go; at the traffic lights you use the D and the brake pedal pressed. The march N (neutral) is running in neutral, R (reverse) is reverse.

  • Rent a car for your trip to the United States

THEAmerica has almost no roundabouts - people enter traffic at the intersections called junctions. Most accidents happen precisely at junctions because drivers pass by without paying attention to other cars that are passing. So try to slow down and make sure anyone entering traffic has seen you, the same goes for when you enter the flow of cars. highways.

Remember that, in the United States, each state has its own laws, particularly regarding traffic (speed regulation, drunk driving, cell phone use, etc.). The American judicial system is strict. Never drive without insurance and obey the rules.

Driving in the USA - Rules

Most driving rules in the United States are similar to those in Spain and European countries.


To drive in the USA it is necessary to have the car with you driver's license, moreover, in many states an international driving license is required, to be requested from the civil motorization, or at the Aci offices or for car practices. Drivers and passengers must wear seat belts and obey strict speed limits.

BAC limit

The legal limit differs from state to state, but exceeding the legal limit is always severely punished. In most states, the driver's BAC limit is 0,08%, but some states also issue penalties in the event of a blood alcohol concentration of 0,05% (the penalties, however, are less severe). It is best to avoid drinking alcohol if you are driving. Open alcohol containers in your vehicle are also illegal.

Which side of the road do you drive on in America?

Driving is on the right side of the road as in Spain and the vehicles have the steering wheel positioned on the left side.

Driving in the USA - The right of way

The right of way in America rules they are different from Spain:

  • At intersections without traffic lights, vehicles generally have to pass according to a simple rule: first come, first served. Vehicles must pay attention to stop signs on the ground and on panels. You shouldn't just slow down, but you really have to stop. The vehicle that arrived first at the intersection can leave, followed by the following vehicles in order of arrival.
  • The first come, first served rule applies instinctively even when traffic lights aren't working.
  • Drivers can overtake on both sides on multi-lane roads. On roads with 3 or more lanes, the right lane is generally used by trucks and vehicles entering and exiting the motorway, the center is for regular traffic and the left lane is for overtaking. Around major cities, the left-most lane can also be considered the carpool lane - vehicles carrying two or more people - in heavy traffic conditions.
  • It is customary allow cars arriving from access ramps to enter on the main road.
  • I pedestrians have the right of way once they approach a specially designated intersection or pedestrian crossing without traffic lights. Also, when entering or exiting a parking lot, motorists must give way to pedestrians.

Turn right at the red light

Unless otherwise specified by the signs you can turn right with a red lightprovided that you stop the car briefly and check before turning right that no vehicles arrive. Use the turn signal when changing lanes or before turning.

There are several streets where it is forbidden to turn right with a red light. In this case, a panel clearly indicates “no right turn on red”.

U-turn on dual carriageway

In most locations in the United States, major roads are divided into double or triple one-way lanes, etc. To reach a place on the other side of the road, along which traffic flows in the opposite direction, it is necessary to make a U-turn.

U-turns occur on an asphalt area marked for this purpose and built in the middle of two lanes at regular intervals. Beware, drivers use them to come from both directions, so slow down before entering the U-turn space.

U-turns are prohibited if there is a “No U-turn” sign.

What is the speed limit in the United States?

Speed ​​limits vary by state, county or city at times. In general the maximum speed limit on interstate highways it is 70 miles per hour, with a minimum of 45 miles per hour. On four-lane divided highways, the limit is 65 miles per hour, and on all other highways it's 55 miles per hour.

If you are driving near a designated school zone, you need to slow down at 15 miles per hour. These are not always clearly marked, so be careful in all urban areas. It is not uncommon for the local sheriff to check motorists during school hours.

There are fewer speed cameras in the United States but always abide by the rules because many highway traffic cops are hiding in the bushes waiting for the accelerating car.

Work areas: speed is always reduced in construction areas, even on weekends or public holidays when work on motorways is stopped. Fines for speeding in these work zones double or triple the regular ones.

Read also:
Roads in America - Road signs, how and where to park
How to rent a car in the United States


Driving in adverse conditions

Tourists planning to drive in the US should be able to avoid unfortunate accidents using common sense: if a road is flooded, avoid it, if there is fog, slow down. Check the weather in advance.

If you are driving in snowy conditions, take precautions, such as carrying snow chains and a flashlight. In hurricane season, listen to the news for warnings and advice - if the police tell people not to drive, don't.

Flights offered to United States

Other important rules for driving in the USA

In general, you should follow common sense, but make sure you adhere to the following driving rules:

  • Carpool lanes: watch out for the lanes High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) – “Car pool lanes” characterized by a rhombus-shaped symbol. I am intended for machines carrying at least two people. Penalties for their illegal use can be high.
  • Do not park in prohibited spaces (see the rules for parking in the States).
  • Small children under the age of 8 must stay in the rear seats, on the special seats.
  • Beware of stationary school buses with flashing lights, it is forbidden to overtake them. When the school bus stops and the lights start flashing, all vehicles in both directions must stop and wait until all the students have alighted and the bus leaves.

In case of arrest or police check

If a police officer invites you to stop, stop the vehicle as soon as possible on the side of the road.

You should NEVER get out of the car. Wait until the officer approaches the driver's window keeping his hands visible, necessarily positioned on the steering wheel.

Do not make sudden movements as it could be considered suspicious. Give the documents only at the request of the officer. Always remember to keep them close at hand, for example in the glove compartment.

The main driving risks in the United States

One of the main causes of accidents in America it is that people don't spot each other when they enter state highways, so always take precautions at intersections.

Other situations to watch out for include:

  • la presence of deer and large animals that roam the street.
  • chance to get lost - always carry a map in case your GPS doesn't work.
  • severe storms: It is generally best to avoid driving in a storm, try to find shelter.

What to do in the event of an accident

Get in touch with emergency services (911) and the car rental company as soon as possible in the event of a traffic accident.

Exchange all necessary information with the other driver, such as your address, phone number and insurance information. Take pictures of the site and any damage.

Wait for the police to arrive before moving the vehicle or leaving the scene. If you are involved in an accident without consequences, it may be advisable to transfer the vehicle to a safe place on the side of the road to avoid further accidents.

Read also:
Roads in America - Road signs, how and where to park
How to rent a car in the United States

Route 66 United States -

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