Summer is here, and that means vacation time! For some families, close-by trips will do, while others choose to explore new destinations and old favorites further afield. And if you decide on driving to your chosen spot or renting a car when you arrive there, it’s a good idea to learn local traffic tips to avoid driving the residents crazy.
For those renting cars, utilize the people at the rental desk. They likely live in the area and will know about traffic patterns, areas under construction, peak rush hour times, areas to avoid, and even simple shortcuts. Ask questions about the specific area you are staying in; their local knowledge could prove invaluable.
For those driving their own cars, make sure your car is in the best possible condition for a long-distance drive. Next, check out local traffic laws in your destination. While the rules of driving are pretty standard throughout the US, there are often small differences that would be helpful to know.
For example, in Florida, you can make a legal u-turn just about anywhere, provided there isn’t a “No U-Turn” sign posted. In New Jersey, making lefts on major roads usually involves having to take a jughandle rather than simply turning left. You will know a jughandle is coming up by noting signs, such as “All Turns from Right Lane” or “U and Left Turns.
A simple Google search of driving laws in the state or city you are vacationing in should give you all the information you need to stay safe and get where you’re going. It will also keep you from getting pulled over or ticketed, which nobody wants when they are on vacation.
Being a tourist on the road can be frustrating for you, your passengers and the cars around you. Here are some basic tips to keep in mind:
- Use your GPS the right way. Punch in your destination before you leave and give everything a read through. Yes, the point of a GPS is to guide you, but sometimes those directions come up just a little too late. Alternately, have a passenger be in charge of reading the directions out loud to you so they can let you know when turns are coming.
- Don’t panic about missed turns. If you miss a turn or are in the wrong lane of the highway when the turn comes up, just go past it and take the next turnoff to correct the mistake. Do NOT try to cut across multiple highway lanes, attempt to back up on a busy road (that includes using the shoulder for backing up) or stop dead in traffic to try to figure out how to turn. Not only will this upset other drivers, but it’s also very dangerous and can cause an accident.
- Pay attention to speed limits. Speed limits differ from road to road, and maximum speed limits on highways and freeways vary from state to state. Find out what the limits and max limits are where you are going, and stick to them.
- Use a hands-free device/system or put away your phone. Tickets and penalties for cell phone use while driving are getting more and more expensive. At the time of this article, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Washington DC, and West Virginia all prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. It’s hands-free devices only in those states, and other states are likely to follow suit before long.
- Absolutely no texting while driving. It’s dangerous—according to the latest statistics, nearly 400,000 traffic incidents have occurred from the practice, resulting in almost 3500 deaths. Remember, you are driving on unfamiliar roads. So don’t ever risk it.
- Try to avoid rush hour. If at all possible, try not to be on the road during times of heavy traffic. It will make your life far easier if the roads are clear, and you are also less likely to anger other drivers if you need to slow down, pull over or make a fast (but safe) lane change. Vacations don’t need road rage, right? This tip helps you avoid that.
Safe vacation driving is easy. Just pay attention and know the local laws, and always be a courteous driver for those in and out of your car. Or just use Lyft or Uber! Save on the gas and let someone else handle the road.