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The open road.

Taking to the open road in the USA is a great way to get around. Although Americans may speak English, motorists may need to learn a new language when it comes to their hire vehicle - your auto has a hood not a bonnet and a trunk not a boot. You fill it with gas not petrol and your vehicle has a windshield not a windscreen!

Signposting can be poor, so you will need to have a map with you. Directions at junctions will give the road number and compass heading so it is wise to make a note of these before setting off on your journey. If you need to ask for directions, always ensure that you do this in a well-lit and built-up area or gas station.

Vehicles tend to be quite large in the US but the roads and parking spaces are all big enough to match. Most people drive an automatic vehicle, which contributes to the relaxed driving culture. It is important to remember that each state has its own driving laws. We would advise that you check with a representative upon collection of your vehicle for any specific state laws. Car hire is definitely the best way to travel round this beautiful country.

Read our United States of America travel guide.

Tips for driving in the USA

Driving licence

Whilst it’s not essential, it’s a good idea to have an International Driver’s Permit.

Which side of the road do they drive on?

Drive on the right, overtake on the left.

In most US states, right turns are allowed at red traffic lights unless there is a sign stating otherwise. You must first come to a complete halt and ensure the road is clear before proceeding.

At multiple junctions, the driver who arrives at the junction first has priority. If two or more cars arrive at once, give way to the right.

Seat belts

If fitted, seat belts must be worn at all times by all occupants of the vehicle.

Driving with children

Children under 4 cannot sit in the front seat.

Each State has its own rules and regulations about child seats.

Blood alcohol limit

The most common blood alcohol limit is 80mg alcohol per 100ml blood. Some states do vary so always check if you insist on having a drink.

Some states also include a lower limit of 50mg whilst other states limit this to drivers under 21. 

Can I use a mobile?

Different states have different rules but assume it is illegal to use a mobile (cell phone) whilst driving.

Reflective vests, triangles & other essentials

It is compulsory to carry a warning triangle in the USA. It’s also recommended you carry a reflective vest, fire extinguisher, and first aid kit.


Undertaking is not illegal in the USA. Be prepared for it and if you are constantly undertaken, move over.

Florida has recently passed a law that requires vehicles which have been undertaken to move over.

Stopped by the Police

If you are pulled over by the Police, stay in your vehicle with your hands clearly visible. Don’t make any sudden movements, lower your hands or try to pull anything out without being told.


Remember to check whether you need to pay for fuel BEFORE you fill up.

Horns and headlights

The use of a horn is prohibited in some cities so keep an eye out for signs. Horns should only be used in an emergency.

You must use headlights when it becomes dark. Some states require headlights to be turned on 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise.

Headlights must be used when visibility is low.

School buses

Always stop when you see a stationary school bus that has its lights flashing.

What should I do if I breakdown?

If you breakdown, call the supplier who will be able to advise you further. It is recommended you contact ourselves at the same time to ensure you follow the correct procedure.

What should I do if I have an accident?

If you’re in an accident, you MUST notify the Police and the car rental provider and get an accident report for insurance purposes. Failure to do so may result in you footing the whole bill. It is recommended that you contact ourselves at the same time to ensure you follow the correct procedure.

Toll roads

The US has a number of toll roads. These are often found as you enter cities and usually charge a standard fee. New York, for example, costs $14.00, or $9.75 during off peak hours.