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A beginner’s guide to driving a car in the US

  • By Sam Taylor
  • Published 10 April 2014
  • Revised 18 March 2016
A beginner’s guide to driving a car in the US
  • By Sam Taylor
  • Published 10 April 2014
  • Revised 18 March 2016
A beginner’s guide to driving a car in the US
  • By Sam Taylor
  • Published 10 April 2014
  • Revised 18 March 2016
Car driving in Florida is essential if you want to travel further afield than the main theme parks or down to the Keys or the Kennedy Space Center. It’s best to arrange a hire car before you leave. There are a few other tips that we think might make your driving easier.

Make sure each driver has photographic ID and licence and keep it with you at all times. Insurance is a legal requirement and is often best arranged when booking your hire car. Consider collision damage waver (CDW) or loss damage waiver (LDW) to avoid unpleasant surcharges in the event of a crash. There are mixed feelings about glass and tyre cover, which many companies will try to add on at point of collection. You might also find that your breakdown service has a reciprocal arrangement with the AAA or similar. Most cars are air-conditioned, which is essential in summer.

Americans drive on the right, so cars are left-hand drive. Get your passengers to remind you gently each time you set off. Most hire cars are automatics. If you choose a manual, take it easy until you learn not to wind down the windows instead of changing gear! Cruise control comes into its own on the long, straight highways where driving is a pleasure.

Driving in USA

Speed limits are lower than the UK in general – maximum 75mph on interstates, with 55mph more usual on highways and as low as 15mph in school zones. Watch out for signs and it’s useful to know that turning right on red is not only legal (provided there’s nothing coming) but expected.

Seatbelts are compulsory, as are child seats and your car hire company can provide these – again easily arranged before you go.

For your safety, it’s best to keep out of non-tourist areas, especially at night. It’s well worth investing in hiring a satnav, or free maps are also available from car hire companies. Although you’re on holiday, be aware that drink-drive laws are just as stringent in Florida as at home. Penalties are harsh, so best not to drink at all if driving later. It’s illegal to use hand held phones while driving.

The advantages of driving in the States are clear. Wide, well-maintained roads, huge car parks with wide spaces, cheaper fuel and spectacular scenery. Arrange the practicalities before you go and you’ll find it’s a breeze.

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