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United States of America (USA) - Driving

Which Side of the Road?

In the United States of America people drive on the right-hand side of the road.

Right of Way

When entering a road where there is oncoming traffic, then the traffic on the road has the right of way. At yield signs one must stop and wait for any oncoming traffic to go before continuing.

Types of Roads/Standards of Roads

There are dirt roads which are not subject to standards, but these are usually found only in rural areas. There are paved roads all over the country and these roads will all have signs dictating any speed and weight restrictions.

Speed Limits

When in a neighbourhood, the speed limit is normally 35 mph. City streets all have clearly marked speed limit signs. The speed limits will vary depending on the city, state and road. Most interstates will have a speed limit of 70 mph, though in some states the maximum limit is 65mph.

Road Signs and Traffic Lights

The most frequently seen road sign is a stop sign. All traffic must stop for these signs until it is clear that there is no oncoming traffic. Another frequently seen sign is the yield sign discussed above. There are speed limit signs that dictate the maximum speed allowed on the road. There are signs that will notify drivers of any weight restrictions for certain roads or bridges. There are also signs that alert drivers of any work being done on the roads and what the speed limit changes to in the work areas.

Traffic lights can be found in cities and rural areas in the USA. When a traffic light is red drivers must stop. When the light is yellow drivers may proceed with caution. When the light is green drivers may go. There are also sometimes flashing lights at some intersections. If the flashing light is red then drivers must come to a complete stop before continuing. When the light is flashing yellow drivers must slow and check that the intersecting road is clear before continuing.

Legally Required Equipment

In some states there are certain requirements that vehicles must have in order to be street legal. California in particular has an emissions test which vehicles must pass before being legal to drive. Mississippi also has what is known as a vehicle inspection sticker. These can be obtained for $5 at a location that will inspect the vehicle for things like cracked windscreens or faulty equipment.

Accidents and What to Do if One Occurs

When an accident occurs, all drivers and passengers involved must wait for the police. When the police arrive they will first check for injuries and call an ambulance if necessary. Then they will ask what happened and fill out an accident report. Drivers will exchange insurance and contact information. The drivers may leave the scene of the accident only when the police officer tells them that it is okay to do so.

Types of Driving Offences and Penalties

There are many types of driving offence. One can be penalised for driving too fast; on the wrong side of the road; if the lights are not working; driving in the rain with no lights; going too slowly (in certain states); driving while drunk; driving under the influence of drugs; driving with an open container of alcohol in the vehicle; not stopping for red lights or stop signs; and many more. All of these penalties involve paying a fine and in some states points will be deducted from the license of the offending driver. Some of these penalties involve going to jail, for example driving while drunk or driving under the influence of drugs.

Toll Roads

There are generally at least one or two toll roads in every state. Most have toll booths where a driver stops to pay the toll before continuing. In certain states the toll roads are used by commuters on a daily basis and they will have the option to purchase a pass for a certain amount of time. The driver will display this pass on their windscreen and go through a special lane in the toll area where they do not have to stop.

Current Traffic Information

Current traffic information can be acquired through certain smartphone apps, which are usually provided by local television companies. There are also different radio stations in each state that a driver can tune in to for updates about current weather and traffic conditions. In certain cities drivers can view current traffic conditions on the internet by accessing the local traffic cams.

Fuel Costs

Fuel costs in the United States are high; currently the average price for a gallon of petrol (gas) is around $3.30, although this is subject to change.

Rush Hours and Congestion

Most rush hours are between 7-8 AM and 5-6 PM Monday through to Friday. When travelling during these times expect congestion.

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