Poeple that intend to drive in the United States must familiarize themselves with local, state and federal laws regarding driving. The best recommendation is to consult the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in the state in which you would like to drive. All U.S. states recognize foreign driver's licenses. In most cases, your license will be valid for up to one year after the date you enter the U.S. Consult the DMV in the state where you wish to drive to confirm the length of validity. Your foreign license is valid if accompanied by your passport.
Road Infrastructure in the US
Due to the long history of cars and driving in the United States, the country has a very detailed and well-established system of roads. You have the famous interstate system, freeways or highways (the term varies by region) which may require the payment of tolls, US federal highways, state routes, and rural roads. The United States is one of the few countries in the world that does not use the metric system. Therefore distances, speed limits, etc., are measured in miles per hour (mph). Try to keep this in mind while driving in the United States.
Since America is such a large country, distances are perceived differently there. For example, a European from Portugal may consider it an endless journey to drive from Porto to Faro (556 km), while to an American that is not even the entire length of the state of Florida (ca. 720 km). Consequently, highways cater to people driving long distances with many rest stops along the way offering not only toilets and gas stations, but also picnic areas, restaurants, and hotels. The American Automobile Association, better known as “triple A”, is a good club to become a member of for expats driving in
the United States. It provides roadside assistance, hands out free road and city maps, and usually has good offers for staying in hotels along highways.
Tips to drive in the USA
- Recognize that US drivers' abilities and skills are as diverse as its culture. Do not assume that other drivers will act the same. People often drive while using cell phones, read maps, eat, drink or groom themselves while driving and are often not aware of other vehicles.
- Keep off rural roads at night. In rural areas avoid driving on the highway at night, as you might run in to animals (fairly common).
- Be very careful passing and changing lanes, as you might meet another driver who isn't as careful. Flashing your high beams at a slower driver in front of you is illegal in most states and will only irritate the other driver.
- If you have still decided to drive in New York City, you should be aware that unlike nearly every other place in the U.S., you cannot make a right on red.
- People are everywhere in USA. While it might be illegal to jaywalk, people still do it, so keep your eyes out for people wherever you are driving, whether you're near a crosswalk or not.