Driving rules in the USA differ from state to state within the country. Each state enacts its own rules and regulations. Though most of the traffic rules are similar to that of other countries, some of the road signs and stop lights may be different. It is recommended that the driver understand the traffic rules specific to the state in which he/she is driving in.
Vehicles are driven on the right-hand side of the road in America.The following are the common road rules across the USA
Obtaining a Driving License In USA
- The minimum age requirement to obtain a driver’s license in
USAis between 14 to 17 years. Age specified as minimum requirement varies from state to state.
- Licenses are issued to the driver from the State in which they live.
- Driving licenses are classified into many types – Unrestricted for normal drivers, Hardship licenses for minors between 14-15 who are forced to drive to school or work due to hardships at home, Provisional for minors between 14-17 years of age, Chauffeur licenses, Motorcycle licenses, and Handicap Permits.
- Drivers under 18 have to attend an education program and are required to complete a specific number of lessons behind the wheel.
- Minimum age to obtain a commercial driver’s license is 21 and, for driving school buses
Speed limits in USA
The speed limits are set by the different states. They vary depending on the type of road, vehicle and time of the day.
Most of the states have a speed limit of 55 to 75 miles per hour on major roads and 55 to 65miles per hour on secondary road networks. Exceeding speed limits result in heavy fines and severe punishments.
Road Signs in USA
- Stop signs, red and octagonal in shape, requires the driver to stop completely before proceeding forward or crossing the intersection ahead.
- Yield signs, red or yellow and triangular in shape, indicate that the driver has to wait till the oncoming traffic is cleared before progressing.
- Black X in a yellow circle with RR written in it indicates a level crossing with or without barriers. ‘Only’ or ‘Exit Only’ signs above lanes indicates that those lanes do not continue on the freeway and it is compulsory for the driver to take the exit.
- Dashed or broken white lines separate lanes of traffic moving in the same direction.
- Yellow lines on the road separate traffic lanes moving in opposite directions.
- Lanes separated by solid double yellow lines prohibits crossing in both directions.
- Broken yellow lines allow for passing cautiously, the driver being fully aware of the oncoming traffic.
- White lines on the edge of the road guide motorists in poor visibility.
- On double-lane roads, the right lane is used by slow moving traffic and the left lane is used for passing.
- Carpool lanes are offered on some ring or peripheral roads. Carpool and heavy vehicle lanes are mostly the far left side lanes.
- Traffic stop lights run in the red-yellow-green sequence.
- A green filter light, in addition to the main signal, indicates that one can drive in the direction shown by the arrow irrespective of other signs.
- In some suburban areas, red flashing lights indicate approaching traffic lights.
- ‘Delayed green’ signs at stop lights show that the green light opposite will change first.
- Flashing red light means that the motorist has to stop and a flashing yellow means that he may progress forward without stopping if the road is clear.
- Right turns at red lights are allowed legally unless otherwise specified. At some busy junctions,there are sign boards saying ‘No turn on red’. Either way, caution has to be taken while turning.
- Major intersections, in some cities, have green-arrow signals indicating left turns.
- Headlights are to be used when visibility is reduced to less than 500ft., mostly after sunset and in bad weather.
- Full beams have to be dipped for oncoming traffic within a 500ft. range and also when following a car within a 300ft. range.
- Driving with park lights on is not allowed.
- Driving with headlights on during daytime is legal.
- Hazard lights can be used to warn other drivers of an accident, obstruction or traffic jam on freeways. In some states it is illegal to use hazard lights when the vehicle is in motion.
- Use of hazard lights to signal other vehicles of approaching police control, radar, etc., is illegal.
Road Safety Rules in USA
- All states require drivers to wear seat belts while driving. Children under specified ages have to be seated in a special car safety seat. Older children should be buckled securely in their seats. Some states require all passengers in the vehicle to use individual seat belts.
- Usage of mobile phones for talking and texting is illegal in all states. Hands-free devices may be used. Use of hand-held navigation units is also illegal.
Driving rules in USA
- Overtaking in the USA is known as ‘passing’. Overtaking can be done only in legal passing zones which are indicated by a broken yellow centerline or a solid line.
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal in all states of America. This law is applicable to farm machinery and horse-drawn carriages as well. This rule if violated incurs fines, penalty points and imprisonment.
- At traffic circles or roundabouts, vehicles coming from the left have priority over the vehicle entering the roundabout. Vehicles entering the roundabout face a Yield sign which implies caution.
- Signals or indicators are to be used always to turn even if there is no vehicle in the near vicinity. When indicators fail arm signals can be used.
- Pedestrians have the legal right of way. Once they step onto the crossing where there are no traffic lights, cars have to stop completely allowing them to cross.
- Cyclists and motorcycle riders use the main road in states where separate bike lanes are not provided
- Children alighting or boarding school buses are given priority over all other traffic. Motorists are supposed to stop 20-25 feet behind the school bus. Yellow flashing lights on school buses indicate that they are about to stop. When they stop red flashing lights come on.School buses with flashing red lights cannot be passed until the lights stop flashing and the stop arms are down. Violation of this law is taken very seriously and motorists can be fined up to fined up to $1,000, imprisoned, subject to do community service, and receive up to five penalty points on their driving license
- Hitchhiking and picking up hitchhikers is not permitted in most of the states. Vehicle insurance becomes invalid in such cases.
- Use of car horns should be minimal and used only in cases of impending danger.
Parking Rules in USA
- Parking is prohibited on the sidewalk, at intersections, in front of drive-ways, within 15 feet of a fire hydrant, in a bus-stop, near a curb painted yellow or red, in tunnels or on bridges.
- Parking on the street warrants reading all the signs near the parking spot. Parking without a permit or zone sticker in designated parking spaces for residential areas attracts a fine.
- Meter violations – Insufficient cash in the meter or expiry of meter timing before the vehicle is moved will receive a ticket. Permissible timings can range from 10 minutes to 2 hours.
- Parking on private property, on snow emergency routes, under ‘No Parking’ signs and in handicap parking zones without permits, results in the vehicle being towed by the police.Towing rules and regulations vary from state to state.
These are general guidelines drivers should be aware of prior to driving in the USA. It is the duty of every driver to observe the laws of the land and to pay all fines incurred. Non-compliance will result in non-renewal of the vehicle registration.