A Brit’s Guide to Driving in the USA

Update: Click here for information about car travel to the Circuit of the Americas

A cross-country is possibly one of the coolest things you can do in the USA. In fact, the country is so big that even if you aren’t planning on visiting more than one state, you should have a car to get around.

However, there are many differences between America and the UK that go beyond the obvious driving on the wrong side of the road. (In this case just try to remember that as long as you the driver are in the center of the road than you are going the right way.)

Four-Way Intersections

You will often see four-way intersections in the USA. These should be treated with caution, as they are the most frequent sites of an accident on American roads. The rule you must remember when tackling a four-way intersection is that all cars must stop, no matter which way you are coming from. The car that arrived first has the right of way in order of arrival. If two or more people get to a four-way stop at the same time, then the person on the right should go first, and it should follow clockwise from there. If you see traffic lights at the intersection, continue ahead or turn as the lights indicate.


Fuel prices tend to vary by state and can run anywhere from $2.50 – $4.50 a gallon. Remember that because you will be purchasing by the gallon or every two litres, the cost of filling up will be significantly cheaper than in the UK.

Driving Licence

Your UK Driving licence will be valid in the United States for up to one year. Bear in mind that producing a provisional driver licence will result in a small amount of difficulty with the police should you be pulled over. It is also a good idea to use a driver licence or photo ID that is easily recognisable. If you have lost or gained weight, aged several years or dyed your hair since getting your license, you might want to consider getting a new one or carrying a separate photo ID.

Toll Roads

There are multiple toll roads in the U.S., especially along the east coast. Usually the cost will range anywhere from fifty American cents to $2.50. Drivers in Central Texas may encounter the tolls roads Loop 1, State Highway 45, State Highway 130 and 183A. SH 130 is closest to the Circuit of the Americas and the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, and has been approved for an 80 mph (129 kph) speed limit!. Texas toll road maps and rates

Speed Limit

While the speed limit does vary per state, it will generally be around 65 miles per hour in most of the east coast. Less populated states will have a higher speed limit; for example, Texas has an average speed limit of 65-80mph. However, many of the busiest roads in states such as New Jersey and New York are limited to 55 miles per hour.

Renting A Car

Many car rental companies will not rent to someone who is younger than 25, despite the fact that the legal driving age in the USA is 16. If they do rent to you, expect to pay a high premium for insurance. If you are traveling with a group, have someone who is between the ages of 25 and 45 sign for the car.

Road Rules

Undertaking is legal in the USA, although you should be careful to avoid getting in an accident when this occurs. School zones with flashing lights require that drive the posted, reduced speed and you are not legally allowed to pass a stopped school bus with flashing lights. Seat belts must be worn at all times and children who are 5 or under should use a car seat. It is also illegal to pick up hitchhikers in most of the USA. Try to remember that the road rules will change per state. However, the basics of driving will remain the same. As long as you drive safe, avoid aggressive driving and remember that in some cases, things will be different, you should be fine.

Content provided on behalf of PassSmart.com, “the best new site for UK learner drivers and driving instructors.”

Visiting the U.S. or Canada? $50 off a weekly (5+days) rental, full size car & larger!

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