It can be scary to drive in the freeway or interstate highways in America. Cars speed up like a torrent of flood, headed to places miles and miles away. In many parts of the USA, having a car is not a luxury, but a necessity if you are working or if you want to have the freedom to move around. I’ve written about how to buy a car here.
If you’re scared of the interstate, you will end up driving in the backroads where the maximum speed is between 25-45 miles per hour (mph), depending on where those streets are. If you go to the interstate, the minimum is 45 mph and the speed limit is usually 70 mph. Although I’ve found that in some interstate highways, cars can speed up to 80mph. One time, I had to drive from Nashville to Atlanta to apply for a Schengen visa. It was a 4-hour drive but man, all those cars were just zooming past me though I was driving at 72mph.
Here are some tips when driving on the freeway or interstate highways.
Make sure you have the basics.
Do you have a driver’s license? Is it current and not expired? That may seem like a given for all drivers. But some people are just chronically distracted that they may even forget to renew their license before it expires. Don’t get caught without a driver’s license because your car might get impounded and you may lose your driving privileges.
Is your vehicle registered? Same thing with a driver’s license. If your vehicle is not registered, then it should not be in the roads. How about car insurance? Do you have one? In the Philippines, a lot of people don’t bother with car insurance. But in the US, you are taking a huge risk if you do not have a car insurance. A car insurance protects you from bankruptcy in case you get involved in an accident. Even if someone hits you and runs, you may still be covered by your insurance for losses and other expenses resulting from the accident.
Different states have different rules for insurance coverage, but if you go with a reputable insurance company such as Geico, Progressive, State Farm, and others, they should know the minimum coverage that your state requires.
Practice on the backroads
Practice, practice, practice! There’s no escaping it. That’s the only way for you to become good at driving and handling your car. Don’t aim to go fast right away. Take your time and get to know your vehicle, its quirks, and the way it rides on the road.
Check Google Maps for nearby locations that are not too busy and practice there. On our first few weeks in Nashville, I looked for neighborhoods that were not too busy and that’s where I brought my wife for practice. And because our son was just 2 years old then, naturally, he went practicing with us, too.
Understand and follow road rules.
Review the basic rules of the road. Follow the traffic lights and street signs. Stop at intersections First-to-stop; first-to-go. For a Filipino driver used to the chaos of EDSA, this seems like a crazy rule but it’s amazing how it works in the USA. And if you see a school bus stop and it lets down the stop sign and the barrier, you should stop until all the kids have disembarked from the bus and have safely crossed the street. That’s the law!
Don’t try and guess the rules. The Department of Motor Vehicles of each state should have a driver’s manual that contains all the driving rules in that state. Download that guide, it’s usually for free. Review it, and more importantly follow it.
If you have a chance, practice driving in the Philippine Expressways.
Interstate highways are just like any expressway in the Philippines. If you have a chance, try driving in one of our expressways: Northern Luzon Expressway; Southern Luzon Expressway; Subic, Clark, Tarlac Expressway; and the Tarlac-Pangasinan Expressway.
But before you try that, make sure that you really do know how to drive in the highway and that you have an experienced driver with you.