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Driving Tips

Each state has different driving laws

If you drive in the USA, remember that each of the 50 states has its own set of traffic laws and regulations. Fortunately, most of the laws are the same, but some states have slightly different rules. When you rent a car, you should ask the agent if there are any special driving rules in that state. When driving in multiple states, check a tour book for any special driving rules in each state.

Rural highway © Corel
A typical rural highway in the United States.

Maximum speed limits in all states

The speed limit in most states is now 65 miles per hour (about 110 km/hr) except where signs indicate slower or faster speeds. Many drivers travel about 5 mph above the legal limit and the police do not seem to mind. Speed limits are strictly enforced by radar in many states (especially the eastern highly populated areas). Speeding in any road construction area is strictly enforced with very heavy penalties in most states.

Minimum driving age

The minimum age for driving is 16 in most states but some states will not allow unrestricted driving until 18. Some car rental agencies refuse to rent a car to any person under 25 years of age. Other agencies will rent to young drivers but require an added surcharge. Some rental agencies in the US will not rent to drivers over 71 years of age.

Seat belts are required

Nearly all states have laws requiring the driver and front passengers to wear seat belts. Many states require children to wear seat belts even in the back seats. Nearly every state requires special child restraint seats for all young children. Most states require motorcyclists to wear helmets.

Radar Detectors illegal in some states

Interstate Road Sign
Interstate Sign

Some states permit you to use radar detectors, while other states prohibit them. Many people seem to ignore this prohibition. Some states require you to use daytime running lights during rain.

Strict enforcement of certain driving laws

The speed limit in front of every school is greatly reduced when classes are in session.  The reduced limits in these school zones is posted on a sign.  When these reduced limits are in effect, lights with the limit signg will flash. You are required to stop in both directions for any school bus with flashing lights. These rules are strictly enforced in every state and have severe penalties for disobedience. Drinking alcohol and driving is also forbidden and strictly enforced in all states.

US Route Road Sign
US Route Sign

American Automobile Association Benefits

The American Automobile Association (AAA), commonly called the "triple A", provides some wonderful services to drivers. They have offices in every city and most of the larger towns in the US. If you are a member of a national motor club in your home country, you can receive many of their benefits free of charge by simply showing your membership card. The AAA provides free maps and tourist guides for any city or state in the US. Many hotels offer discounted rates to AAA members.

State Route Road Sign
State Route Sign

The US highway system

The USA has an extensive system of interstate highways and state maintained roads. Some of the major highways are toll roads often called turnpikes, but most are free. All major interstate highways running north to south have odd numbers and are ordered from I-5 on the Pacific coast to I-95 along the Atlantic coast. All interstates running east to west are evenly numbered beginning with I-8 and I-10 near the Mexican border to I-94 near Canada.

Want to know how long it will take to drive from one destination to the next? Visit our Distance Finder for the miles and kilometers between major attractions.

Going to New York City? Visit Getting There to learn about the best way to travel to the "Big Apple".

Our Washington D.C. Access page has information about traveling to and around the city.

Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: © USATourist.com
Photo Description: Rural highway in the southwest of the United States.