America is a super diverse country. For every big city, there are many more small towns full of people who are used to navigating dirt roads and two-lane highways. In comparison, driving in the city can feel like a terrifying obstacle course in which people would rather not participate.
If you’ve never driven on big city roads, then you might be wondering what you can do to prepare yourself for them. Thankfully, we’ve compiled this super-helpful list of tips to help you have a fear-free experience on the road. Read on to find out what they are!
1. Be Wary of Rush Hour
Every big city has a rush hour (or five). Rush hour is a time of day when traffic is particularly heavy because residents are travelling to or from work or school. You may also find that there is a secondary rush hour when people are headed into the city for dinner and drinks.
The problem with driving during rush hour is that it’ll take you a lot longer to get to your destination and drivers in rush hour traffic are usually in a hurry and thus don’t have time for slower or inexperienced drivers. There is also a higher likelihood of car accidents during rush hour.
If you are new to city driving, avoid rush hour if you can. Not only will you save a lot of time and stress, but you’ll also save on gas mileage and wear and tear on your car.
2. Right on Red?
Are you used to turning right on red?
Turning right on red in some cities could land you in hot water. For example, in New York City, you are not permitted to turn right on red unless there is signage up specifically stating that it is permitted. Other cities prohibit unprotected left-hand turns during certain times of day, like parts of Los Angeles.
Brush up on traffic laws where you’re going so you don’t wind up with a ticket. They’re much more expensive in the city, and if you fight it, you’d have to come back to the city to show up in court.
3. Stick Shift Is a No Go
Stick shift is a fun way to drive a car when you’re out on the open road. When it comes to city driving, however, a stick shift can serve as a handicap.
Big cities tend to have spurts of stop and go traffic that occurs throughout the day, and can even occur in the middle of the night. This means that you’ll be constantly upshifting and downshifting your car and you could potentially even stall out in the middle of the lane, creating an even bigger traffic jam.
If you have the option, use a car with manual transmission for all of your city driving.
4. Stay in Your Lane
No, really, stay in your lane.
Stop and go traffic can make it look like one lane is moving faster than the other. You’ll be at a standstill in your lane and notice that the lane right next to you is moving along.
This makes it super tempting to try to cut into the other lane to get ahead. Don’t be tempted, though. Switching lanes during stop and go traffic doesn’t actually save you very much time in the long run, but it does make it much more likely that you’ll get into an accident.
Instead, pick a lane to drive in and stick to it. If you need to get off the freeway, start gradually moving over to the right lane a few miles before your exit.
5. The Left Lane Is the Fast Lane
A good rule of thumb to keep in mind when you’re driving in the city is that the left lane is usually the fastest lane and the right lane is the slow lane.
People who drive in the left lane are usually seasoned city drivers who feel comfortable traveling at highway speeds (or above) on major freeways and highways. If you’re a more reserved driver or if you are a driver who is still getting used to your surroundings, then you should avoid driving in the left lane unless you’re moving toward a left lane exit or freeway interchange.
6. Always Use GPS
You might know your way around the city like the back of your hand, but it is still advisable to utilize GPS services whenever you head out on the road.
This is for two reasons.
First, many GPS apps like Google Maps have live traffic updates and can help ensure that you leave early enough to make it to your destination on time. A 30 mile drive might only take 30 minutes under normal circumstances, but if there is rush hour traffic, then you need to leave much earlier.
Second, since traffic jams and accidents are a frequent occurrence on city roads, having a GPS app up when you leave your house or hotel can help you avoid them. You’ll find that the app will reroute you to make your drive as short as possible.
7. Know Where to Park
There are lots of places to park in the city. There are also a lot of places where you cannot park.
Plan ahead by scoping out the parking spots near the place you are going to visit. Sure, there may be a lot of parking lots, but some may be more expensive than others and some lots may be restricted to permit holders. Knowing where to go to the park will save you a ton of stress.
You can also find a parking spot ahead of time and pre-pay for it so you know it’ll be available when you arrive.
Are You Ready for Driving in the City?
Driving in the city might be a new experience for you, but it doesn’t have to be a frightening one. Remember to stay alert — don’t get distracted by text messages or phone calls. Coming prepared with a GPS system that can help you navigate the worst of traffic jams will help you minimize your stress about your trip.
Are you looking for more helpful content that’ll help you navigate your life effectively? If so, you’re in the right place. Check out the rest of our blog for everything you need to know!