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Driving in the United States: Wikis


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Driving in the United States is similar to driving in Canada, but very different from driving in Europe. Many visitors do not expect to find the long distances between places which Americans are used to. It is not uncommon for Americans to drive more than an hour each way to work, and 77 percent of Americans drive alone to their jobs, while an additional 11 percent carpool[1]. Most states allow people to drive unnacompanied once they have reached the age of 16, and all states require that one obtain a driver's license before they may operate a motor vehicle. All states recognize each other's driver's licenses, and Canada will recognize an American driver's licence for a short visit.


The rules of the road

Although each state sets its own traffic laws, most laws are the same or similar throughout the country, and traffic keeps to the right.


Speed Limits

Speed limits are a hotly contested issue in the United States, with many arguing that limits are set too low while others are arguing that limits are set too high. Despite this, most drivers exceed the speed limit by 5-15 mph if the area appears to be free of police presence ("cops"). The speed limit on rural two-lane roads ranges from 50 mph in parts of the northeast to 75 mph in parts of Texas. On rural Interstate Highways, the speed limit ranges from 65 mph in the northeast to 80 mph in West Texas. All roads in the United States have a speed limit, but it is not always posted frequently (especially in rural areas).


Overtaking, usually called "passing", is legal on all four or more lane roads and on most two-lane roads with sufficient sight distance. On two-lane roads, one must pass to the left of the overtaken vehicle unless that vehicle is preparing to make a left turn, in which case the vehicle must be passed on the right. Passing on the left means that the overtaking vehicle must enter the oncoming lane. This should only be done in a legal passing zone, designated by either a dashed yellow centerline (indicating that passing is legal in both directions) or a solid line paired with a dashed line (indicating that passing is only legal for traffic adjacent to the broken line). A solid double yellow line indicated that passing is illegal in both directions. On roads with four or more lanes (including divided highways), vehicles may pass to the left or to the right of slower vehicles as long as the maneuver can be completed safely.

Seat belt use

Seat belt legislation is another hotly contested issue, as many drivers feel that their rights are violated by such laws. Despite this, 49 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws requiring seat belt use by at least all occupants of the front seat. The majority of states do not require rear seat occupants to wear seat belts, but it would be wise to check each individual state's law. In 24 states the seat belt law is considered to be only a secondary offense, meaning that a police officer can only ticket a person for violating the seat belt law if the driver has already been stopped for another reason. The effectiveness of seat belt laws varies considerably throughout the country, with some areas observing over 95 percent usage and others with less than 40 percent usage.


  1. ^ US Census Press Releases


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