Driving and Road Safety

Driving Tips in the USA for New Drivers & Tourists

Master this essential driving tips in the USA, including road etiquette, traffic laws, and safety guidelines to ensure a smooth and enjoyable driving experience across American roads.

Embarking on a road trip across the USA is a fantastic way to explore. However, it’s crucial to remember that each state has its own unique driving laws. To ensure your journey is safe and enjoyable, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with these regulations. Start your trip off right by understanding these universal rules that apply throughout the US.

Driving in the U.S. as a non-citizen

You might need both a driving permit from your home country and an International Driving Permit (IDP) in some U.S. states. 

If you are a citizen of another country and live in the U.S. full-time, you might be able to get a regular state driver’s licence. This process typically involves providing proof of residency, passing a written and practical driving test, and paying a fee. 

Learn about IDPs and how to get one before you visit the U.S.

Prior to your trip, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with IDPs and the process of obtaining one. This knowledge will ensure a smooth driving experience in the U.S. 

Many countries around the world recognize an IDP as a way to prove who you are. It lets you properly drive in a different country. 

  • Not every state in the U.S. requires an IDP. Some states, such as California, Florida, and New York, require one. Check with the motor vehicle departments of all the states you want to drive in to see if they require one. 
  • You need an IDP before your trip. The U.S. does not give IDPs to visitors from other countries. 
  • Get an IDP by calling the motor vehicle department of the country where you got your driver’s licence. They will guide you through the process, which usually involves filling out an application, providing a copy of your driver’s licence, and paying a fee. The IDP is typically issued within a few days. 
  • To rent a car in the U.S., you need both your license and an IDP. Before you rent, make sure you know the rental company’s rules and other needs. 

Driver’s license if you are living in the U.S. as a permanent resident

You can get a driver’s licence from the state where you live. 

  • The length of time you have to live in the country before you can get a driver’s licence varies in each state. 
  • Call the Department of Motor Vehicles in your state to find out what kind of ID you need and how to apply for a licence. 
  • In the U.S., you can drive anywhere with a state driver’s licence. However, driving without the necessary permits or licenses can result in fines, vehicle impoundment, or even arrest. It’s crucial to ensure you have the correct documentation before driving in the U.S.

Driving Tips in the USA {Rules and Regulations}

General Rules

  • All riders in all cars must wear seatbelts.
  • Little ones need to be in safety seats or booster seats. It is dangerous for babies in car seats to sit in the front seat looking forward, so they can’t be put there.
  • These are high-occupancy lanes (HOV), which are marked by signs and a white diamond form on the road. During certain hours, you can only drive if there are two or more people in your car.
  • If a vehicle is stopped on the right side with its lights flashing, you are forced by law to move over in many states. This also applies to service vehicles like tow trucks, police cars, and emergency vehicles.
  • If the cops stop you, pull over to the side of the road, leave the car running, roll down your window, and don’t get out. Also, remember to bring your driver’s license and proof of car insurance or security plan.
  • Obey the speed limit and follow all traffic signs. Use designated parking areas, and don’t park in unauthorized places. Always buckle up when driving.

Speed Limits

The US does not have speed limits that apply across the whole country, making it difficult for drivers who want to visit more than one state. Watch out for signs and pay attention to how fast other people are going. Just keep in mind that radar is used in many places (often with signs to let people know), and if you drive too fast, you might get a ticket in the mail.

Driving Tips
  • Most towns have speed limits between 25 and 30 miles per hour unless it says otherwise.
  • Interstates and freeways have speed limits between 65 and 80 mph.
  • When the yellow warning lights are blinking, 10 to 25 mph (16 to 40 kph) is the speed limit in school zones when kids are present or when pick-up and drop-off times are in effect. Every time a school bus flashes its red lights, cars going both ways have to stop. These rules are followed in the letter.

Overtaking, Turning, and Parking Rules

  • When passing, always go to the left. If the car in front of you goes left, you can pass on the right (in some states) if you are on a road with two or more lanes going in one direction and no sign says you can’t pass.
  • On a red light, you can make a right turn unless a sign says otherwise. Before you turn right, you have to stop and let other cars go by.
  • If the curb is painted yellow or red or the parking spot has two straight white lines, you can’t park there. If the parking spot has blue lines on it, it’s a wheelchair spot, and you need a special note to park there.
Tips in the USA

Right of Way

  • Stop Signs: You must stop completely before the white line and let other cars go through any stop sign. The first driver to get to a four-way stop with four stop signs goes first. One car to the right goes first if two or more arrive at the same time.
  • Traffic Lights: If there is no sign and only the red light is showing, you must stop and let traffic go before going forward (the same as a stop sign). If there is no sign and only the yellow light is flashing, you need to be careful and slow down (the same as a stop sign).
  • In a roundabout, drivers who are entering must give to drivers who are already in the roundabout.


You have to pay to drive on some roads and bridges. These are called toll roads or toll bridges, and you can find a lot of them in states or places with a lot of people.

If you know you will be driving on toll roads, a toll payment transponder can be added to your rental car much more quickly. You can also pay in cash.

Toll roads generate revenue for the maintenance and construction of roads and bridges. Drivers pay a fee, either through a toll payment transponder or in cash, to access these roads. This helps ensure that the cost of upkeep is covered and allows for improvements to the transportation infrastructure.


To get cops, an ambulance, or fire help, call 911. If your car breaks down or you have any other problem that isn’t life-threatening, you should contact the police or state patrol.

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