Driving Safely in the USA

Make sure that you have a wonderful trip by complying with all of the rules of the road that apply to you. By understanding and following these simple rules, you’ll be making the most of your vacation and letting the journey unfold, with Mighway.

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Drivers Licenses & Age

The guest and any additional authorized drivers must be at least 25 years of age, with a valid driving license and identification from their country of residence.

Safety Requirements & Special Traffic Laws

In addition to certain licensing rules for RVs, each state also has specific safety rules required of RVs. Some of these safety rules are about when you are driving and others relate to safety requirements for the vehicle itself. Some basic rules to remember:

  • Always stay in the right lane, except when passing, turning or exiting the highway.
  • You can make right turns on red in most States, unless it is specifically posted that you cannot make the right turn on red.
  • You may also be required to carry certain safety items in you RV, depending on the size and type of vehicle you are operating.
    • This can include having safety chains, a breakaway switch and trailer brakes depending on the size of your trailer. Make sure you know and comply with the specific safety rules for your RV or trailer.

Seat Belt Laws

All passengers and the driver must be securely belted into a car when it’s moving. A fine applies if caught without a belt on.

Must Have Documents

You will need your driving licence, an international driving permit and all car rental documents. You should always have photo ID on you in the states.

Speed Limits

The subject of speed limits in the US is a complex one as they vary between states. They can be as high as 75 mph or down to 65 mph. Depending on where you are travelling to, you should check the speed limits before you travel.

Limits can also reduce around schools and hospitals as well as roadworks.Some states have minimum speed limits too.

Some states have minimum speed limits too.

The limits are generally strictly enforced and more often than not by radar trap.

On the Spot Fines

America does not employ the use of on the spot fines. Instead you’ll receive a ticket stating the offence and the fine payable. You’ll be told how you can pay it on the ticket.

Child Safety Rules

The US takes child safety in cars very seriously and exacting standards apply for the use of car seats and restraints for children.

Laws vary by state but for example, California law states that: 

  • Children under 2 years of age shall ride in a rear-facing car seat unless the child weighs 40 or more pounds (18kg) OR is 40 or more inches tall.
  • ​Children under the age of 8 must be secured in a car seat or booster seat in the back seat.
  • Children who are 8 years of age OR have reached 4’9” in height (145cm) must be secured by a safety belt.

Rules of the Road

There are a number of peculiarities to driving in the US and it’s best to be aware of them before taking the wheel.

Watch out for four-way intersections where all cars must stop. The car which got to the intersection first may go, followed by the next cars to arrive.
You cannot overtake a school bus if red lights are flashing on it.
Passing on the right is not illegal in America so watch out for this. It makes signalling before changing lanes all the more important.
If you are pulled over, stay in your car until the officer arrives at the window and keep your hands visible at all times.
Most cars in the US are automatic.

Towing Regulations

In the US there are no specific regulations for towing other than the vehicle being towed must be securely attached and you should make other drivers aware of what you are doing.

Speed Cameras

Radar traps are more common than fixed cameras. You can also be pulled over by a police car. In all cases, stay in the car until you are approached and keep your hands visible.

Using Mobile Phones when Driving

The use of mobile phones without a hands-free kit is forbidden in the US whilst driving.

Parking

  • The rear of the RV swings out wide and clips corners when making turns. Allow for extra room when parking, and keep an eye on where your RV is in the space. You may find it helpful to have someone outside to guide you. 
  • Remember, an RV will NOT fit in a parking garage.
  • Be careful parking on the side of a road for overhanging tree branches or street/traffic signs.
Paid parking
Paid parking can be in dusty lots, by meter or ticket machine in parking bays. There are usually plenty of signs to indicate parking restrictions.
Enforcement
Enforcement of parking is done by the police but sometimes by parking attendants. Clamping isn't as common as being towed and if you need to reclaim your vehicle from the car pound, you'll need to pay a fine as well as the release fee. You mustn't park next to a curb painted yellow as it's for emergency services only.
Disabled parking
The European blue badge scheme is not recognised in the US but find a place with a parking attendant and they'll do their best to find you a more accessible spot to park in.

Phrases

Americans use different words for traffic vocabulary than are used in other English-speaking countries so here are some of the different versions of things! Keep in mind, some words change in different parts of the US, so you might not hear all these, and some may not change, but it's useful to know the synonyms in case you do hear them.

Motorway – Freeway
Toll Road – Turnpike 
Petrol – Gasoline
Excess – Deductible (insurance)
Gearbox – Transmission
SUV – Sports utility vehicle
Boot – Trunk
Kerb (Edge of pavement) – Curb
Bonnet – Hood
Bumper – Fender
Indicators – Blinkers
Diversion – Detour

Traffic Lights

Traffic lights follow similar principles to those in Europe but the general advice is to remember that when traffic lights go from red to yellow this does not mean you should go, you must wait for green. If you see a flashing red light, this means stop. There are usually turn signals at junctions but in the absence of signals you can turn right on red as long as there are no cars coming from the right. You can never turn left or right on a red arrow.

Toll Roads

Many US roads have tolls on them but they’re not expensive. You can pay in change or in some circumstances use credit or debit cards.

Emergency

You can call the emergency services on 911.

In most states you can call 511 to get up to date travel information depending on where you are.

Look up where your country's embassy is located and their contact details before you set off. 

What to do in an emergency

If you break down, contact the number given to you by the RV rental representative.

If you are involved in an accident you can resolve the issue between you if it is minor but you should still call the police to come out to get a police report AND fill out an accident report. Take pictures if possible.

If the accident is more serious involving damage or injury, call the emergency services and your road assistance number. Exchange information with the other driver including your address and insurance details. If you can, take photos of the scene if you have a camera handy. If the cars aren’t causing a danger to others, leave them in position until the police arrive.

Motor Way (Freeway) Signs

The major interstate highways that travel from north to south are odd numbered, i.e I-5 along the Pacific Coast and I-95 on the Atlantic Ocean coast. Highways which run east to west are even numbered, i.e I-94 near the Canadian frontier and I-8 near Mexican border. You should be prepared for the fact that some motorways have six or even eight lanes.

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