Driving Tips in the USA

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Travel Features >> Driving Tips in the USA

Driving Tips in the USA

February 24, 2011

Driving in the USA can be a very enjoyable experience and here are some tips to make it even more so. The roads are great, traffic disciplined and the countryside picturesque. For first time drivers, here are some basic rules of the road.

Driving is on the right side of the road. Gasoline is cheap all over the US, though prices fluctuate. Speed limits should be adhered to. These vary in different states but are in the range of 65 miles per hour.

Front seat passengers are required to buckle up in most states. Children below the age of 4 are required by law to ride in child safety seats.

Each state (and there are 50 of them) follows its own traffic laws and regulation, so if you are renting a car, be sure to get the lowdown on the regulations in the state rules from the car rental agency.

The first thing to do is to make sure your car is in good shape: have it tuned, check the tires and the spare and arm yourself with a good road map. If you are from a foreign country, make sure you have a valid photo license or an international license. It is not necessary to hold an International Driving License – all you need is a valid driving license from your home country that is readable (in English) and has a photo ID on it.

If you plan on driving extensively in the US you may consider becoming a member of the American Automobile Association (AAA). This can be very useful in case your car has a breakdown and you need to avail of emergency services. They also provide free maps and guides for most cities and all states within the US.

The road network is extensive and well maintained. Tolls are collected at certain interstates and highways and these go towards the general up keep of the road systems.
The Interstate highways are the fastest routes. Even-numbered interstates (e.g. I-90) are east west roads and odd numbered roads (e.g. I-91) run north south. The interstates normally have limited access and are well marked. Pay attention to the exits marked and be sure you get off the right exit. If you miss the exit, you may have to travel many miles before you can exit again. Study the road map before you set off on your trip and make a note, mental or otherwise of the route you plan to follow.

The state and local highways are marked US 1 and Rte 66 respectively. These are also well maintained roads but are more accessible. The interstates have well appointed services like gasoline stations, restaurants and rest rooms, at regular intervals.

Car Rentals

There are two types of car rental companies – national and local companies.
National companies have several branches all over the country and allow you to pick up a car in one place and drop off at another location; all of course, for an extra charge.

Local car rental companies service a particular city or state.
Most rental agencies require the renter to be over 25 years of age. In some cases companies do rent out cars to renters between ages 21-25 for an additional fee. A major credit card is normally necessary to rent a car. If you do not have one, then the rental agency will normally collect a hefty cash deposit that will be returned to you when you drop the car off.

An International Driving License is not mandatory for a foreigner to drive in the USA. Most car rental companies will rent you the car on the basis of a valid driving license from your home country as long as it is in English and has a photo ID on it.

Unlimited mileage is normally offered as part of the package; the gasoline tank is full when you take over the car and you are expected to return the car to the company with a full tank, unless your rental policy says otherwise.

Regarding insurance: you are strongly advised to take an insurance cover. The most popular one is CDW (Collision and Damage Waiver) and for an extra charge, normally $10-15 per day, one can save oneself a lot of hassles, in case of an accident. Some major credit card companies cover the CDW, if you use their card to rent the car with. Check with the car rental company or your credit card company, regarding this aspect.

It is advisable to make a prior booking if you want to rent a car. This will ensure you get the car of your choice.

Keep these pointers in mind and your eyes on the road. Happy motoring!

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