There aren’t many places with more open roads and iconic highways than the USA. Think of the Pacific Coastal Highway or Route 66 and images of convertible Cadillac’s cruising along quickly come to mind, with many of us longing to emulate the famous scenes from American movies and television.
But before you attempt your ‘Thelma and Louise’ or ‘Easy Rider’ impression, make sure you’re up to scratch on what’s required to navigate the expansive highways of America. Take a look at our tips below to help you get the most out of your trip and avoid any sticky situations:
Get in the right lane
Quite literally. As most people are aware, they drive on the right in the States so don’t be that person driving the wrong way out of the rental car forecourt and straight into on-coming traffic. On the freeways, get used to undertaking (without indicator warnings!) as well as going wheel-to-wheel with the huge pick-up trucks that are favoured by the locals.
You’ll need a permit
An International Driving Permit (IDP) is required to drive in the U.S. It costs €15 and is available to Irish residents with a full Irish Driving licence. It’s valid for a year from the date of issue.
Big roads require a big engine
The interstates (motorway) in America can extend for miles without a kink in the road so it’s recommended that you hire a vehicle with plenty of oomph to make the journey smooth and comfortable. Something with a 2.0 litre engine (diesel or petrol) will suffice, but anything smaller than that may struggle.
Don’t forget your triangles
US law necessitates you have warning triangles in your car that can be placed by the roadside should you stop for any reason. Reflective jackets aren’t legally required, but are worth having as an additional safety measure. Also, make sure you have your driver’s licence, insurance documents and passport with you at all times.
Tolls and Petrol
Before entering a city in the US you will more than likely be met with a toll. The charge is a standard fee, depending on the time of day. For example, entering New York will cost you $14 during peak hours, and $9 off-peak. Despite this additional cost you need to account for, the good news is the petrol you need to get from city to city is much cheaper than at home, with both petrol and diesel priced at around 40p per litre.
If you happen to encounter a four-way intersection without traffic lights, priority is given to the car that arrived first, followed by the second, and so on. A slightly unusual rule that takes a little getting used to, it’s advisable you slow down when approaching an intersection and keep a close eye on when the other’s car arrived at the stop mark.
Red doesn’t always mean stop
If you’re at a red light and indicating right, you may be surprised to hear the car behind you honking you to move. Well, that’s because you can turn right at a red light as long as there is no oncoming traffic.