Driving on the open U.S. road might give you one of the best unforgettable and rewarding experiences when you visit the incredible country. For example, you might take a road trip like Route 66, the Oregon Trail, the Deep South or call on the Pacific Coast Highway. Furthermore, the U.S. is expressly famous for its big, well-maintained and car-friendly roads with clear signage.  

If you are planning to go on a visit to the United States and drive across these beautiful country’s roads, let’s take a little time to read the informative blog below so as to know how to drive in the USA and tips for driving in the U.S. legally and safely. 

In today’s post, we have already shared a list of numerous important points, helpful tips and driving experiences regarding some basic traffic laws, signs and so on that you need to know before driving in the U.S. Let’s get started. 

driving in the usa
Tips for driving in the U.S.


1. State Laws


Be aware of the traffic laws divided into federal and state laws. Two types of laws may vary depending on the state you are in. The majority of traffic laws involve speed limits, age limits and drink or drug driving laws. For example, all traffic drives on the right-hand side, except for the US Virgin Islands.


2. Age Limits for Driving in the USA


Normally, you will be legally permitted to drive alone on a full driving license on the U.S. roads if you are at least 16 years of age. However,  age limits for driving may vary by state, therefore, let’s check a full list of legal driving ages by state to find out what age you can start driving.


State Learner’s Permit Restricted License Full License
Alabama 15 16 17
Alaska 14 16 16, 6 mos.
Arizona 15, 6 mos. 16 16, 6 mos.
Arkansas 14 16 18
California 15, 6 mos. 16 17
Colorado 15 16 17
Connecticut 16 16, 4 mos. 18
Delaware 16 16, 6 mos. 17
District of Columbia 16 16, 6 mos. 18
Florida 15 16 18
Georgia 15 16 18
Hawaii 15, 6 mos. 16 17
Idaho 14, 6 mos. 15 16
Illinois 15 16 18
Indiana 15 16, 3 mos. 18
Iowa 14 16 17
Kansas 14 16 16, 6 mos.
Kentucky 16 16, 6 mos. 17
Louisiana 15 16 17
Maine 15 16 16, 9 mos.
Maryland 15, 9 mos. 16, 6 mos. 18
Massachusetts 16 16, 6 mos. 18
Michigan 14, 9 mos. 16 17
Minnesota 15 16 17
Mississippi 15 16 18
Missouri 15 16 18
Montana 14, 6 mos. 15 16
Nebraska 15 16 17
Nevada 15, 6 mos. 16 18
New Hampshire 15, 6 mos. 16 17, 1 mos.
New Jersey 16 17 18
New Mexico 15 15, 6 mos. 16, 6 mos.
New York 16 16, 6 mos. 18
North Carolina 15 16 16, 6 mos.
North Dakota 14 15 16
Ohio 15, 6 mos. 16 18
Oklahoma 15, 6 mos. 16 17
Oregon 15 16 17
Pennsylvania 16 16, 6 mos. 18
Rhode Island 16 16, 6 mos. 17, 6 mos.
South Carolina 15 15, 6 mos. 16, 6 mos.
South Dakota 14 14, 6 mos. 16
Tennessee 15 16 17
Texas 15 16 18
Utah 15 16 17
Vermont 15 16 16, 6 mos.
Virginia 15, 6 mos. 16 18
Washington 15 16 17
West Virginia 15 16 17
Wisconsin 15, 6 mos. 16 16, 9 mos.
Wyoming 15 16 16, 6 mos.

Furthermore, most car hire companies might require you to be over 21 years old to rent a car if you are a visitor. 


3. Basic Rules For Driving in the U.S.


Here are some basic rules for driving that you need to know when visiting the United States: 

  • Drive on the right of the road (apart from in the US Virgin Islands)
  • Obey all posted speed limits.
  • Don’t drive if you are over the legal blood alcohol limit, in all states this is a blood alcohol concentration at or above 0.08 percent. Let’s check the charts of penalties for traffic offenses varying by state in the U.S.
  • Stop at all STOP signs 
  • Stop for stopped school buses with flashing lights and a stop sign
  • Wear a seat-belt if you are the car driver or seat passenger.

>>> Read More: DMV Lane Change for Drivers


4. Driver’s license


Unless you are in the U.S. for more than three months, you only need your valid driver’s license to rent and drive a car or rental vehicle. However, if your driver’s license is not in English, it is strongly recommended that you should get an international license before your trip to avoid any sudden problems. Be fully aware that the only state of the USA –  Florida – requires tourists to have an international driver’s license. 

Furthermore, if you want to rent a vehicle in the United States, your valid driver’s license from your country of residence, your international license if you have one, a credit card in the name of the principal driver and your passport will be required. 


5. One – way streets


Many one-way streets in American cities do not have “no entry” signs like you often see in Europe. It should be noted that one-way streets normally have a sign with an arrow which indicates the direction of traffic. 


6. Pedestrian crossings


Your vehicle must stop at a crosswalk to allow pedestrians to cross, otherwise you will get heavily fined roughly $200 for traffic violation. 


7. Speed limits


In the U.S., speed limits shown in miles per hour not in kilometers per hour are quite variable and depend on where you are driving (city, highway, etc.). In general, the minimum speed on highways is 40 mph (miles per hour) (64,47 km/h) and the maximum is 65 mph (100 km/h). Moreover, speed limits vary from 15mph all the way up to 85 mph on one rural road in Texas.

Let’s follow all posted speed limit signs, and learn more about what the usual limits are for different road types and locations in the state(s) you are driving in. 


8. Traffic Lights


driving in the us rules
You can move forward when the light is green

The U.S. also has used the traffic light system to control the traffic like almost every country across the world. Traffic light system includes red, yellow or green. These color means: 

  • Red – you must stop. Red signals a halt, thus you must stop when the light turns red. If you are the first car to arrive at the light, there will be a line on the road designating where you should stop; otherwise, you must halt in line with other waiting vehicles. A red light may not always prevent you from moving forward after stopping; for further information, read the section below on turning on a red light.
  • Yellow – you must come to a stop at the stop line. If you can safely stop, it is advised to do so rather than attempting to “beat the light” if you are traveling too swiftly to do so, for example, if you are about to cross the stop line and the light switches from green to yellow as you approach.
  • Green – you can continue to go safely. As the light changes from red to green, you can move forward. As you approach a light, if it is green, you may go. Nevertheless, if the light turns yellow, you must stop unless it is unsafe to do so.

>>> See Also: DMV Rules of the road


9. Road Types in the USA


Here is a full breakdown of different road types in the United States.


9.1. Interstate Roads


Interstate Roads referred to as roads that run across states can be compared to Motorways in the United Kingdom or the autobahns in Germany. These roads usually have at least two lanes with on-and-off ramps instead of stop signs or traffic lights.

Furthermore, the name of interstate roads will be kept in all states that they run through. For instance, interstates 50 runs through ten states, and is called Interstate 40 in all of them.

Speed limits on the Interstate are clearly posted and might vary from state to state. However, the maximum speeds might vary from 60 mph through to 80 mph. 


9.2. State Roads


State roads are unique to a given state. State Road 54 in one state will be distinct from a State road in a different state.

The speed restriction on state roads can range from 20 mph to 75 mph as they pass through towns, cities, and villages. State roads can be dual-carriageway or single-lane highways. Always verify your local state laws before driving, and follow established speed limits.


 9.3. County Roads


A county road is any road that is maintained by the local county authority, rather than the state or federal system. County roads are usually smaller, slower roads, and they have a “C” or “CR” designation, followed by a number.

They do vary in size and quality, from freeway sized right through to unpaved roads, depending on the area, traffic, and local county budget. Again, as they vary hugely in quality and size, speed limits on County Roads also vary tremendously.


10. Turning right on a red light


If the way is clear, it is accepted to turn right on a red light everywhere in the U.S., apart from intersections where it is strictly forbidden by a sign indicating “No Turn On Red”. 

In order to get a right turn on red, you have to proceed with the utmost caution as follows: 

  • At a red light, you must completely stop before the crosswalk or stop line when the pedestrian crossing light is turned on.
  • Then you can turn right on the red light if there aren’t any other cars coming and the way is clear when looking to the left. 


11. Green light vs. flashing green


Green light in the U.S. is broken down into the green light, and the flashing green. A green light informs you that it is safe to go. Meanwhile, when you are encountering a flashing green light, it means that you have the right-of-way to make a left turn. 


12. School buses


what are the driving rules in usa
School bus is stopped and its lights are flashing

For the children’s safety, you must exercise exceptional caution around school buses (yellow vehicles with a black line through the middle).

Whether you are traveling in the same direction as the bus or in the other direction, you must stop your car completely more than 5 meters from the bus when it is stopped and its lights are flashing.

You can continue traveling your route once the bus has moved forward and the flashing lights have stopped. If you break this law, you’ll pay a steep fine and have your license suspended.


13. Lane control signs


In U.S. cities, you should watch out for the signs indicating that certain lanes are required to turn right, turn left or continue straight ahead and be sure to obey them. 


14. Highway exit signs


In the U.S. highways, the exit numbers are always indicated at the top of the exit sign. These numbers correspond to the distance in miles along the highway. For instance, if your destination is Exit 62, you will be informed that you have 30 more miles to drive before your exit when you reach Exit 32. 


15. Parking


In some large American cities, parking can be a real headache. Therefore, let’s read parking signs carefully and be aware that parking days and hours might vary. Furthermore, don’t park in the opposite direction to traffic, otherwise you will get a traffic violation. 


16. Toll roads


Tolls are often required to keep roads in peak condition in the United States

It is strongly recommended that you keep cash in your car at all times, in several denominations ($1, $2, $5, $10), to make it easier for you to make quick payments.

It is usually a good idea to keep the toll receipt you get with you. A snapshot of your vehicle’s license plate will be captured if you try to bypass a toll booth without paying, and your car rental company will charge you for the fine it receives.

There are frequently many toll lines, but you must use the one where cash payments are accepted. Avoid using the prepaid card system known as a “EZ PASS” lane.

Federal or state highways, perimeter roads, and freeways are the three basic categories of highways in the United States. Turnpikes are a common name for toll highways.

You can quickly determine which toll roads you’ll be taking by conducting some research online before you depart. Simply type “toll highways in the United States” into your Google search engine.


17. Passing Other Vehicles


The process of passing another vehicle is broadly the same as in other nations. If there is a broken line (yellow or white) along the middle of the road and it is safe to do so, you are permitted to pass on a normal road.

On highways with many lanes, slower vehicles should stay to the right while quicker vehicles should pass to the left. Generally speaking, you should only use the fast lanes for passing and always stay to the right.


18. Buying petrol/ gas


drive in the usa
Buying petrol/ gas in the U.S.

Unleaded petroleum fuel, which is frequently referred to as “unleaded gas” or just “gas,” is used by the vast majority of cars in the US, particularly rental cars. Although diesel is an option, it’s often only used in trucks or other large cars, thus it’s not a common feature of commercial gas pumps.

When leaving the rental car agency, make sure to verify what sort of fuel your car uses (unleaded or diesel), and make a note if it needs a certain brand of unleaded; for example, some vehicles may be intended to run on premium unleaded gasoline with an octane rating of 97 or above.

Most of the time, purchasing fuel is a rather simple affair. The ability to pre-authorize a card, fill up the tank, and your card will be charged is almost universal among machines. Even though the office will be closed, petrol stations like this one frequently provide fuel around-the-clock.

Unless you want to pay with cash or a card inside, there is no need to step inside and speak to the attendant. If such is the case, you must specify a price with the attendant up front, pay that price, and then fill up. If you overestimated your needs, you can return inside to collect change for cash payments or it will be credited back to your credit card. Finally, do be aware that petrol prices vary wildly between states

In short, this article has just provided you with much valuable information on driving in the U.S. Let’s keep them in mind when you visit the USA. Furthermore, take it easy, don’t rush and enjoy yourself with wonderful destinations when driving. It is highly recommended that you should try to limit your driving to daylight hours so you can enjoy the scenery, save yourself from dangers, pick some fantastic road trip music to accompany you, and have a great time! Let’s follow DMV Test Pro to read more incredible blogs about driving in the U.S.