Helpful Car Driving Tips for Beginners in the USA and Beyond
Molly Hitchens studied business for years before launching her career as a journalist and analyst specializing in original and innovative business planning. She shares her expertise through her work with The Idea Trader as well as through in-person speaking engagements at universities around the country.
Even after successfully graduating from driving school, driving on your own for the first time can be daunting, especially on a busy highway.
It is even harder for foreigners because the driving experience in America is different from most other parts of the world. In this article, we will discuss several car driving tips for beginners in USA as we recap some of the basic rules.
This article can also offer some helpful tips on how to be a more confident driver.
Speeding Is a Serious Crime in the USA
In America, speed limits are suggested by individual states as opposed to the federal government. Generally, states with vast freeways have higher limits than those with busier roads and larger populations.
However, speeding isn’t just exceeding the limit!
It also includes offenses like drag racing and driving too fast in unsuitable road conditions (like during winter).
Similarly, speed laws are more stringent in areas such as school zones and construction sites.
Tip 1: Maintaining stipulated limits helps you avoid objects on the road, adjust to curves, and extends your response time in case of emergency.
Overall, observing speed limits will keep you from jail time, added insurance costs, loss of your driver’s license, and hundreds of dollars in ticket fines.
Do you know the type of fuel your car uses? Apart from forcing you to drain the entire tank, the wrong fuel can damage a vehicle’s fuel injection system and lead to unprecedented expenses in repairs.
If you’re not sure, always remember that diesel engines are noisier than their petrol alternatives. And if you’re hiring a car, inquire the fuel type and octane rating from the rental agency. You can also check the fuel door, key, or dashboard for stickers.
If there are no clues, look at the label on the cap beneath the fuel door or try different fuel pumps to see the one that fits. In most cases, petrol nozzles are thinner than diesel nozzles.
Tip 2: Fuelling at US gas stations is no big deal. First, ensure your gas tank is facing the pump. If you’re paying cash, insert money into the pay station or give it to the attendant.
Alternatively, you can swipe your card and then proceed to select the fuel grade and pump the gas. Most gas stations in America operate 24/7, so you can fuel any time.
Are You Driving With Children? Understand the Rules
When it comes to traveling with kids, different states have different laws. For example, you must secure children with a seatbelt, booster seat, or child restraint depending on their age, weight, and height. Some states even dictate the positioning of the seat.
In Tennessee for instance, children under 1 year or 20 lbs. must be held in rear-facing seats.
Also, note that some states have declared it illegal to smoke in a car carrying minors. They include Louisiana, Oregon, Virginia, Arkansas, Maine, Puerto Rico, California, Vermont, and Utah. What’s more, most rental agencies prohibit smoking or impose a compulsory cleaning fee.
Tip 3: Check in with a legal representative to understand which laws apply to driving with minors in the state you wish to visit. Adhere by those rules for your own peace of mind.
Exercise Caution When Passing another Vehicle
Passing vehicles on the right in most states is illegal. However, exceptions are made when you’re preventing a traffic hazard, the car you’ve passed is turning left, or the road is wide enough for two lanes.
The following are instances when passing other vehicles is prohibited:
- When a school bus is picking up or dropping off children in front of you
- The roadway contains a “DO NOT PASS” sign
- You’re in areas with double or single solid yellow lines
- You’re not further than 100 feet from a level crossing or bridge
- The vehicle you intend to pass is nearing or beyond the speed limit
- When an approaching corner or hill obstructs your view of oncoming traffic
- You can’t pass the car ahead of you and make it back to your lane before encountering oncoming traffic within 200 feet
- You can’t overtake the car ahead of you and make it back to your lane before reaching double or single solid yellow lines
Tip 4: Ensure you always accord motorbikes and other vehicles equal lane width. So to say, don’t stay in the same lane with a motorcycle even though it can accommodate both of you.
Regulate Your Headlights
The law requires that you use your headlights from thirty minutes after sundown until thirty minutes before sunrise. You can also use daytime headlights to enhance visibility during hailstorms, snow, sleet, rain, or fog.
Daylight headlight sections are common in hilly areas with two-lane roads traveling in opposite directions. This is because narrow roads are usually darker.
Another requirement is that you dim full beams when you’re 500 feet from an oncoming vehicle and 300 feet behind it. It’s also illegal to drive using parking lights.
Most states require you to use headlights when visibility is at least 500 or 1000 feet. Others like Tennessee and South Dakota are more lenient and allow you to use lights when visibility is 200 feet.
Some states like California and Alabama even demand that you turn your headlights on whenever you’re using windshield wipers.
Tip 5: Headlights prevent collisions by making you more noticeable to other drivers. Use them whenever necessary. However, be mindful of your fellow drivers when using full lights.
Making a Turn on Red Lights
Unless otherwise indicated, you can turn right when you reach red lights. However, the red light serves as a common stop sign. Therefore, advance towards the stop line with a blinking indicator and come to a complete stop before making the right turn.
Though New York City is an exception to this rule, it still works in other parts of the US. Note that turn on red isn’t allowed in all intersections. Some busy junctions prohibit it entirely or allow it at specific times only.
In addition, turning on red isn’t mandatory so you can choose not to turn even if cars are honking behind you.
Tip 6: Look to the left to ascertain there aren’t any approaching vehicles or pedestrians crossing the road. Look at your side mirrors and blind spot on the right to ensure no cyclists or pedestrians are approaching from behind. If the road is clear, turn right without waiting for the green light.
In addition to these car driving tips for beginners in the USA, remember to observe basic traffic rules such as fastening your safety belt, keeping your phone away, and staying sober while on the road. Get behind the wheel, roll down your window and enjoy America’s beautiful scenery.