It’s important to us at JUCY that you have a safe journey whilst travelling around the United States. Depending on where you are coming from, you may be experiencing driving on the right side of the road for the first time, or you simply need to understand the road rules in the United States.
We’ve prepared the A-Z of road rules to help you on your way!
The driving age is 16 in most states however JUCY has a minimum age of 21 for our customers. Unlike many rental vehicle companies, we do not charge any extra for customers 21-24 to hire from us. We also have no maximum age of hiring.
All states require drivers and passengers to wear a seat belt at all times when driving throughout the US. It’s not just a state law but also a requirement from JUCY. Children under 8 (or a certain height) must be in a car or booster seat and you can hire one from us. Find out more about specific state requirements here. Nobody puts baby in the er… front! Babies and small children are also not allowed to sit in the front seat.
Chances are you’re traveling with a buddy on your JUCY adventure and you may think about jumping in the car pool lane if you meet the requirement (usually two passengers, sometimes three) however on some roads thee are fees to do so. It’s worth noting that fines are high if you’re caught with a lower number of passengers in the car.
It’s inevitable that not all of these road rules will be common to you so we highly recommend that you drive with precaution and defensively so you can be alert to moves by other drivers and vehicles, particularly when driving between states when subtle rule changes can occur.
Much like in your own country, emergency vehicles of any kind have right of way and you must change lanes or slow down immediately to accommodate. Note this isn’t just the police, fire or ambulance services, but also tow trucks may be considered an emergency vehicle in some states.
You may wonder how fast food stops end up on a page about safe driving but we have received calls on occasion from people stuck in a fast food drive-thru. Our electric Penthouse vans are 8’3” and our flat-top models are 7ft. We don’t recommend going through any drive-thrus to avoid any unwanted charges. Better still, eat local – there are some amazing local eateries to be uncovered. Check Yelp for ideas.
When you’re ready to fill up, you’ll be expected to pay first before you pump gas. Some pumps have the ability to pay via credit card there and then, alternatively head inside to the cashier and they will assist. If you’re asked for a zip code just add zero’s to your own to make five numbers.
14 US states have an outright ban on using hand-held phones for calls whilst driving, some states ban all cell phone use and 46 states have a ban in place for texting behind the wheel. Keep it simple – just say no to texting and driving.
It is illegal (and uncool) to block intersections when you are in traffic and will result in a ticket if you are caught. Be cautious, especially in traffic jams when you can easily get caught out.
American roads can be confusing – a road name may be used twice or more in a city and something that seems close in numbers on a map may be some blocks apart. To plan each journey in your Champ we recommend you use a GPS to ensure you arrive at your destination easily and without stress!
Kids Zones and Buses
Around a school, the speed limit is usually around 20mph, usually with signs showing hours when the speed limits apply. Children are usually entering or exiting their schools around 6-9:30am and 2:30-3:30pm so pay extra attention around these times.
If you see a school bus with flashing lights (usually yellow and marked ‘school bus’) then you must stop in both directions and it is illegal to pass the bus. It may also have an arm that swings out to indicate it is picking up a young passenger. This is very strictly enforced across all states and the fines are steep so remain on alert around school buses.
In many areas on your road trip travels, you’ll come across bike lanes and bike safety zones where cyclists can wait for the traffic lights to change. You must not drive in the lanes or wait in the safety zones. It also pays to stay very alert to cyclists on the road as they may not always follow the road rules carefully.
Mountain driving, particularly if you usually drive around cities or flat areas, can provide an additional challenge to many and is tiresome. General rules include letting traffic coming uphill has the right of way, don’t hug the center line even though the roads are likely narrower and if you’re driving slower than the remainder of the traffic, pull over at the first opportunity and let it pass – it’s less stressful and you’ll have a scenery break!
We are happy for you to roam far and wide in your JUCY Champ but we do have a few smaller restrictions where you cannot take the vehicle. These are Alaska, the Yukon or North West Territories in Canada and we have a no-go zone for Mexico also. Note you can only visit the US’s hottest, lowest, driest point - Death Valley – from September 15th to July 15th.
If you’re pulled over by a police officer, state trooper or park ranger you must stop on the right side of the road as soon as it is safe to do so. You’ll be asked to provide your driver’s license, vehicle registration and insurance papers (you’ll find them in the glove box) and potentially your passport and rental agreement. Being considerate and accommodating of all requests may make the difference between a warning and a fine.
You must always park your vehicle going with the traffic on the right side of the road. Pay close attention to road and parking signs as many areas in some cities have different times and days that that that side of the road must be clear. Many parking meters now take credit cards so ensure you put enough on your meeting or you’ll receive an infringement.
Note the height restriction if you are entering a car park building as it’s easy to forget the Penthouse is on your Champ. Our vehicles are either 7ft or 8ft 3” and it’s marked inside your vehicle. Regardless of your level of insurance cover, there is no cover for damage to the Penthouse.
Unfortunately there is not one-size-fits-all approach to driving in the US as each of the 50 states have their own set of laws and regulations, but most often, the differences are minor. To get a breakdown on state-specific rules, check out the Governors State Safety Association website.
Right Turn on Red
This is often a new driving rule for many visitors. In many states, when you have come to a complete stop at a set of red traffic lights and the path is clear of pedestrians and oncoming traffic, you are free to turn right, even if the light is still on red. At certain streets, this may not be possible but it will be signposted that you cannot turn right on red. It’s worth checking before you enter a new state as not all follow this rule – for example New York City – but it’s helpful on moving traffic along if you can.
The speed limit in most states is 65 miles per hour (100 km/ph) except where otherwise indicated. There is usually a buffer around 5mph where the police won’t likely stop you but we recommend driving under or at the speed limit – what’s the hurry? Signs to reduce speed in road construction areas and school zones are strictly enforced and the fines are high. Radars enforce a lot of state speeding restrictions and if you are caught speeding by radar, we’ll pass on the infringement notice and a $50 admin fee to you upon receipt.
The speed limit on major highways and interstates is typically 55-75mph. The left lane is the fast lane and the right the slow so bear in mind your speed and find the right lane so you are not holding up traffic. Stay alert to traffic quickly crossing lanes, particularly in California and other metropolitan area where the right lane is usually used for up-coming exiting traffic and people move across to reach their exit.
Driving tired is considered as dangerous as drunk driving so it pays to be mindful of how much sleep you have had before driving long distances, particularly if you’ve just arrived at our branch after a long-haul flight. If you do have to keep moving, stop often, drink plenty of water and snack on healthy foods to keep you alert.
Under the Influence
Drinking alcohol and driving under the influence is strictly forbidden across all 50 states in the US. All states define driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at 0.08 or above as a crime but there are more specific laws and fines per state. Check out the state specifics here. We highly recommend a zero blood alcohol limit when driving.
Flashing headlights when passing another vehicle is not used in the US and may result in another driver thinking you have road rage.
Where Am I Going?
The US is huge but they have a great system of numbering their extensive system of highways and state roads so you can always work out which direct you are heading – though hiring a GPS is a safer way to ensure you’re going to get where you’re going! All interstate roads running east to west are evenly numbered from the I-8 near Mexico to the I-95 near Canada. All major interstate highways running north to south are odd numbers, running from the I-5 on the Pacific Coast to the I-95 on the Atlantic.
With 6.5 million roads to explore, it is not surprising that some of them come with toll roads and express lanes. The express lanes typically work with a transponder attached to the windscreen and are used by residents. Where possible, look out for the cash lane where you can pay immediately. If you do drive your JUCY Champ through one these booths, we will be sent a bill and this will be passed on to you, along with an administration fee. Please let us know on drop off if this has happened.
There are very few roundabouts in the US – a 4-way intersection is more common. All directions will have a stop sign and drivers must proceed in the order from which they enter the intersection at a complete stop. If you and another vehicle arrive at the same time, you yield to the vehicle on your right. You must come to a complete stop, each and every time you see a stop sign.
Called pedestrian crossing or crosswalks in the US, these are generally placed on busy roads or where it is too unsafe to cross without assistance. In many states you must stop or yield to pedestrians when they are in any portion of the zebra crossing, though some allow you to legally pass when the person is on the other half of the cross walk.
We hope this has helped you in your preparation for your JUCY road trip. If you need any support whilst on the road, please call us on 1800-650-4180 to speak to our dedicated operations team.