I'm asking this for both pedestrians and for drivers.

I'm a visitor to Washington DC and would like to rent a car to travel to NY. So I'm eager to know whether there are any significant road rules changes in these two states which I need to be aware of.

  • 2
    No, there are no significant changes between DC and NY, except New York City where you wouldn't want to drive anyway ;) No Right on Red is the most notable restriction.
    – Johns-305
    Aug 29 '17 at 19:02
  • 4
    How do you define significant? The underage BAC level is 0.01 instead of 0.02 in New Jersey. School bus drivers may not use a mobile phone, even with a hands-free device, at any time in D.C. Trailers over 3000lb manufactured before 1971 are exempt from the brake requirement in New York. These are significant for some segments of the population, obviously, but not others.
    – choster
    Aug 29 '17 at 21:50
  • my advice is to avoid the road to Baltimore on the way to New York on all week-days after 3.30 - 7 p.m. This way you avoid the traffic. Dec 1 '18 at 12:55

While every state has its own traffic rules, most common situations are standardized, and you won't find much in the way of major differences.

You can consult the AAA Digest of Motor Laws for state-by-state summaries of traffic rules. Here are the pages for Washington DC and New York; you can lookup any other states you'll be driving through. One common difference between some states is the law on cell phone use while driving: you can see that the use of a hands-free device is required in both DC and New York and text messaging is prohibited. If you really want to study up, you can review the driver handbooks for DC and New York State.

One important rule, which you are simply expected to know, is that a right turn on a red light is prohibited in New York City unless there is a sign specifically allowing it. It is otherwise allowed elsewhere unless there's a sign specifically prohibiting it or a red arrow light.

Driving in New York City itself, particularly Manhattan, is generally not recommended for visitors. Besides its driving culture, parking will be a significant hassle and/or expense; you should read about the city's parking rules and determine where you plan to park before you go. This will usually be an expensive garage in areas tourists are likely to be interested in.

If your plan is simply to visit New York City as a tourist, as opposed to other parts of the state, I'd take the train (or bus, for a cheaper option) and scrap the idea of renting a car. A car will be a significant expense and hindrance for such a trip.

Oh, and if you find yourself driving through New Jersey, it's illegal to pump your own gas there (not that the police will come after you for it, but you'll be asked to stop because the station can, at least theoretically, be fined). Don't bother asking why; just let the attendant do it.

  • 2
    If he's driving, he'll also need to check the pages on Maryland, NJ, and Pennsylvania and/or Delaware (depending on the route chosen)
    – Kevin
    Aug 30 '17 at 1:02
  • 1
    +1 from me; the no pumping your own petrol one used to get me every time. As a motorcyclist, I really don't like other people pumping into my tank, so I had a lot of pumpside arguments. Fortunately, many of NJ's motorcyclists seem to feel the same, so mostly I was able to pump my own if I was quick about it.
    – MadHatter
    Aug 30 '17 at 7:11
  • 1
    @MadHatter - I've never had an issue with the motorcycle in NJ (I live in Philadelphia and often ride in central/north Jersey). Generally the attendant will hand you the nozzle without being asked, but I've never had one refuse if I ask. I've always assumed that their legal obligation ends with starting the pump.
    – kdgregory
    Aug 30 '17 at 12:24
  • It's worth noting that DC is considering changing the code so that right turns on red will no longer be legal. "Always in motion is the future." Dec 1 '18 at 18:43

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