Traveling the USA by car is very easy. Most traffic rules are similar to those in Europe. However, there are some important differences to be aware of. On the next page you will find the most important US road signs.
According to AAAAA, Americans like to drive a lot, and the road network, which is around six million kilometers long, is correspondingly well developed. The fastest variant for long-distance journeys are the “Interstates”, which are comparable to our freeways and are denoted by an “I” and a number. If you are traveling in the USA, you should also know which point of the sky you want to travel to, because on driveways the road number is followed by the point of the compass, e.g. e.g. “I-75 N”. The north-south interstates are odd-numbered, from I-5 along the Pacific coast to I-95 on the Atlantic coast. The interstates running east-west are even numbered – from I-10 (Florida – California) to I-94 (Boston-Seattle). Before the interstate system was introduced, major interstate routes were state-owned. To this day, these highways are the most important main traffic routes away from the Interstates. They are labeled “US” with a number – something like US-66. Minor roads are state roads that have the state abbreviation in addition to the road number (e.g. “NY3”). There are also county roads. “Turnpikes” or “tollways” are toll roads. It is advisable to always have small change ready or to buy a “tollpass” from the car rental company.
Compliance with the prescribed maximum speeds is strongly recommended. The maximum speed on freeways has been regulated differently in the individual states for several years. In some states there are no longer any restrictions on the interstates. The speed limit applicable to the relevant road type (Interstate, US Highway, State Roads) and section of road is identified by road signs (in miles per hour/mph). You should strictly adhere to these regulations, since offenses (also by foreigners) will be severely punished. The maximum speed limits are generally 75 miles/hour (mph) (= 121 km/h) in western states and 70 mph (113 km/h) in eastern states. Some states, especially in the Northeast, allow a maximum of 65 mph (105 km/h), in Hawaii the maximum speed is 60 mph (97 km/h). A small portion of the road network in Texas and Utah allows a speed limit of 80 mph (129 km/h). It is essential that you always pay attention to the (changing) signs and follow the regulations!
Speed checks are not uncommon. The parked police cars are mostly well camouflaged. The US sheriffs don’t take a joke when speeding – this also applies to tourists. Turning is prohibited in built-up areas, in inner cities and on streets with a solid single or double line. Oncoming traffic is separated by yellow center lines in the middle of the road, multi-lane, one-way roads have white dividing lines. A solid line must not be crossed. The lane change on multi-lane roads must be indicated by flashing. In many states it is also allowed to overtake on the right, but this should be avoided for safety reasons.
Parking at curbs marked in yellow is prohibited (reserved for emergency services), as is parking closer than 3 meters to a fire hydrant or driveway. “No Standing” and “No Parking” – Stopping or no parking signs should be carefully observed. One should only park where it is clearly permitted. Violators will have a tow bar, “Denver boot” or “Denver shoe” attached or the vehicle removed. Releasing a towed car not only means wasting time, but also costs money unnecessarily.
Traffic lights are often not located at the side of the road, but high up, in the middle of the intersection. The traffic lights immediately change from red to green and only light up yellow when changing from green to red. A flashing yellow traffic light is a warning, a red flashing light is a warning to stop. Outside of major cities, you may turn right at a red light if you are satisfied that there is no traffic coming from the left or that there are no pedestrians crossing the street (some states only).
Anyone who encounters the well-known yellow school buses should note that oncoming traffic must also stop as soon as the school bus switches on the red flashing lights at a stop. This is intended to enable children to get on and off safely and to cross the street. It is imperative that you obey school district speed limits posted by a school district sign when the amber light on the sign is flashing.
If you are stopped by a police vehicle – this is the case when a police vehicle with flashing lights and/or siren is driving behind you – pull over to the right of the road, switch off the engine, roll down the side window and wait until the vehicle turns on Police officer approaches the vehicle from behind. It is advisable to keep your hands clearly visible on the steering wheel, because a police officer does not know good intentions.
In urban areas, you can reach the police, fire department or ambulance by dialing 911 in an emergency . In rural areas you dial 0 – then the telephone exchange forwards the call.
The gas station service in the USA is generally good, there are often gas station attendants who also carry out small services (top up oil, clean the windshield) without expecting a tip. Prices at service stations can be slightly higher than at self-service stations. In most gas stations you pay the amount you want to fill up before filling up.
Ttip: You should always refuel in good time, especially if you intend to cover long distances or drive to more remote areas. The suddenly empty tank in a deserted area is not only unpleasant, but can also be fined. The tank filling is measured in gallons, with one gallon corresponding to 3.78 liters.
Child seats in the US
Driving with children is only permitted if the vehicle:
1) is equipped with a child seat
2) the child seat is properly attached
3) the child is properly secured in the child seat
A baby or child up to 9 kg must be secured in a rear-facing Maxi-Cosi. Larger children – between 9 and 18 kg – must be secured in a child safety seat using both the vehicle’s seat belt and the seat belt in the child seat.
With a child over 18 kg, a booster seat for the vehicle or the vehicle’s seat belt can be used. drivinglaws.aaa.com/child-passenger-safety/
Helmets are compulsory for motorcycles: In the USA there are states with and without compulsory helmets and states with compulsory helmets with age restrictions:
States that require helmets: Alabama, Georgia, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington State, West Virginia
States without a helmet requirement: Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, New Hampshire
Age-restricted helmet-compulsory states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaiian Islands; Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming
The age restriction is handled very differently in the individual states. As a rule, it means that drivers under the age of 25 must wear a helmet most of the time, while “more mature” drivers can do without it.