The USA is a large country and you will notice that when you’re driving for hours to get from one place to another. When renting a car for a roadtrip, you need to know which regulations to follow when you’re on the road.
You will need a car to visit the most popular or beautiful places. Only the large cities like New York City, Washington DC or San Francisco have a good public transportation system.
Every state has it’s own regulations
Keep in mind that every of the 50 states has it’s own traffic regulation. Even though there are differences, most regulations are the same. When renting a car you can always ask if there are specific regulations you need to know. If you will be driving through multiple states, you can check this before you leave.
Important regulations you should know
It is allowed to turn right on a red traffic light unless there is a ‘no turn on red’ sign. Before you turn you have to make a full stop and yield to the other traffic.
On an interstate you can pass other traffic on the right side.
In the USA you don’t have to yield to traffic coming from the right. On an intersection without traffic lights or yield signs it’s ‘first come, first leave’. When multiple vehicle arrive at the same time, cars will enter the intersection one by one, continuing clockwise.
It is not allowed to pass a school bus when it stops to let children out. When the bus stops and turns on the flashing lights all traffic must stop, also in the other direction when there is no road division.
A seat belt is mandatory for drivers and passengers in the front.
Not only the regulations can be different, also the sign can look different. Here you have a small overview of some of the traffic signs.
The speed limit in most states is 65 mph (about 110 km/h) except when signs indicate a lower or higher limit. Many people drive up to 5 mph faster, without any repercussion. But in busy areas or city centers the limit will be enforced with high fines.
The US highway system
The US Highways are a national system of roads that cross the entire country. Highways are indicated by a white shield with black letters. These highways used to be the most important way to travel. In time the highways became less important as they were replaced by the faster Interstates to cover large distances. The most famous US Highway is Route 66.
The United States has a large system of Interstates and roads managed by the government. These roads are comparable with the highways in Europe. The Interstates that run from north to south have odd numbers and start with I-5 on the Pacific Coast, till I-95 on the East Coast. All Interstates from east to west have even numbers and range from I-8 at the Mexican border to I-94 at the Canadian border. Interstates are indicated with a blue sign with a red band on top.
There are a lot of toll roads in the USA. You have to pay to use these roads, even if you drive a rental car. Most rental cars are equipped with an automatic toll registration system.