Basic US Driving Laws

Driving in the US is a both a rewarding and disciplining experience. The various laws governing safe and responsible use of highways are enforced strictly, and it is never a good idea to break even minor laws such as using a carpool lane as a normal passing lane. Follow all road signage, stop the car fully when directed, and do not honk unnecessarily- some cities forbid the use of horns. Additionally, it is vital that your vehicle is insured, since court penalties for even minor damages and scrapes can be exceedingly high.

That being said, let’s go over some of the basic driving laws in America.

Right handed driving

All traffic drives on the right side of the road, that is, the left side is reserved for overtaking. This ought to be easy enough for most people from Europe and several Asian countries, but can be quite confusing for those not used to this rule. Although rules for turning at junctions may sound confusing, simply follow the signs – RIGHT LANE, MUST TURN RIGHT, means just that. Remember to signal while changing lanes, even though few Americans do it. It will help you do away with any mistakes that you make while turning at junctions. As always, follow the traffic signals, since they provide the easiest guides about turning and deferring to other drivers.

For unsignalized intersections, a simple rule of first-come-first-served is applied. The cars get to cross the intersection in the same order in which they approached it. At a red light, you may be able to turn right, but only if it is not expressly prohibited by a “NO RIGHT TURN” panel.


To reach a shop or any place on the other side of the road, you will have to make a U-turn. This could prove to be difficult for beginners, since traffic is approaching from the opposite direction, and the asphalt portion on which you can make a U-turn is marked only at intervals (it is not continuous). You must take care to slow down before making the turn, and wait until the opposite incoming traffic thins out sufficiently for you to safely enter the stream. Don’t undertake this maneuver on roads where a “NO U-TURN” sign is present.

Speed Limits and School Zones

You must be wary of the legal speed limit for driving. A general speed of 55 mph to 65 mph will be suitable for most long-distance drives, whereas a speed of around 35 mph is safe for inner-city areas. As you move towards residential areas and school zones, you have to be extremely careful!

During the times schoolchildren are likely to be on the roads, orange flashing lights will signal you to reduce your speed, typically from 15 mph to 25 mph. A sheriff is likely to be observing motorists during this time, so follow all the rules and keep your speed low!

These were some of the most common things you should know before driving on US roads. DMV approved traffic schools and online traffic school courses go over all of these laws and several other ones. Remember to avoid obvious blunders such as drinking and driving, attempting to speed away from the police, not wearing seat belts, and other lapses in judgment. The laws are there to make American roads safe, so follow them!