I've been driving in the UK for nearly 10 years, covering around 20,000 miles or 32,000 km a year. I've driven across Europe without issue as well. So I'd like to think I'm an experienced driver.

However, I'm going to do Route 66 for my honeymoon in 3 weeks and I'm concerned that different states have different rules regarding the basics of driving.

For example, in the UK if you're at a set of lights and it's red, you can't move until it's green. I've heard that in some states if you're indicating to turn right at a set of red lights - as long as it's clear - you can turn right regardless of the light. But I don't know if this is accepted across the rest of America or not. I also know that in Canada you can't park against the flow of traffic, but you can do that in the UK.

It's a difficult question to ask in some ways as I'm relying on someone to know the specifics of UK driving and how that compares to US driving. But I'm keen to not annoy other road users while visiting their country, as well as not being pulled over by the police for doing something I thought was acceptable in one American state isn't acceptable in another.

Edit: While on the face of it this question looks to be a duplicate, it isn't. There are differing rules to driving in the UK than compared to Europe. For example, in France you're obliged to carry 2 breathalysers in the car with you (not a requirement in the UK), you're not allowed to have your sat nav indicate where speed cameras are in France (not an issue in the UK) and in Luxembourg you're not allowed to carry petrol in your car even if it's in a jerry can. Also there are references to some states but nothing concrete, where as I'm specifically asking in regards to those states that Route 66 passes through.

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    -1 for asking a travel question without visas in it! No really, it's a good one! +1 Aug 14, 2018 at 8:12
  • There's also this turning to the left street in intersections (not a u-turn), where you can go in the middle of the road and wait for the opposite road to clear. I find this confusing. Aug 14, 2018 at 8:13
  • @NeanDerThal We have that in the UK. It makes sense really because you're in a position where you can join that road quickly and safely. If you're waiting at the lights to then cross the junction then it takes you longer to get there, and in that time it may become unsafe for you to do so. If that makes sense? Aug 14, 2018 at 8:18
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    @mickburkejnr so at least one item is off the list.. Aug 14, 2018 at 8:19
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2 Answers 2


This isn't a complete list but here are a few things I found in my many road trips in the USA.

  1. Right turn on red. In my experience, this is allowed everywhere EXCEPT where signs say otherwise. However, you MUST stop before turning.
  2. Pedestrians don't get their own time to cross on a crossing. In the UK when pedestrians cross all traffic is stopped. In the US cars can still be turning, EG doing a right turn on red, they will be driving through a pedestrian crossing on green. Obviously, pedestrians have priority here, so wait until they have crossed.
  3. Undertaking. In the UK you can only overtake on the right, in the US they will overtake in any lane including the right (what would be the left in the UK)
  4. Compared to the UK, US Highway/Interstate exists arent as well signposted, you may see something saying "Exit in 1 mile" then nothing until the slip road itself.
  5. On the whole, in the UK motorway exits have quite long slip roads, this isn't always the case in the US.
  6. Exit numbers aren't sequential like most UK Motorways but relate to the distance along the road, IE exit 300 and exit 310 are 10 miles apart not 10 junctions.

Also, US petrol stations will be a bit odd, for starters their diesel and petrol pumps are the other way around (black for petrol, green for diesel) and on the whole, you won't be able to use pay at pump, you will need to go into the gas station before fueling pay. If you overpay it will be refunded to your card (or cash if you used cash to pay).

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    Regarding #3, yes, it's not out of the ordinary to have someone pass you on the right on the highway. But I would counter that if they are doing so, it's because you are in the wrong lane - keep right unless you're actively passing someone. Aug 14, 2018 at 13:04
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    @Fattie Many pumps ask for the billing zip code with pay-at-the-pump. Foreign cards won't work on these terminals. (There is a workaround for Canadian cards, sometimes - the three numbers in the postal code with 00 or 11 appended, e.g. S4T 6A4 would be 46400 or 46411 - the suffix depends on the bank.) Aug 14, 2018 at 13:18
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    There are entire cities/counties which disallow right on red -- like New York City. So while it's broadly allowed in all states, there are caveats. (Eg in Maryland if there's a red turn arrow it's not allowed either.) Aug 14, 2018 at 13:20
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    that's quite true @JimMacKenzie. Conversely you will be astounded to hear that - sit down for this - the PIN actually works sometimes now on some pumps in some US regions.
    – Fattie
    Aug 14, 2018 at 13:28
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    @NuclearWang you are right you should try and keep left as much as possible, however in some places that isnt always easy, when I was driving around LA the way roads were joining and splitting off all the time made it more difficult to keep left. However the point I was making was to expect it, as its quite rare in the UK even if you are in the wrong lane.
    – JenniP
    Aug 14, 2018 at 13:34

It's all no big deal.

It's very relaxed in the US and you won't have the slightest problem.

Rules (FWIW - not much) are State-based, not national.

But when Americans (by the tens of millions) drive through other states than the one they live in, they are in exactly the same position as you. Nobody cares and it's a non-issue.

As you say in some states you can turn right on a red, and in others you can't. It's a non-issue that might come up twice on your trip.


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    Actually, right-on-red is legal (unless otherwise posted) in all 50 states and Washington, DC, and has been for a long time now. New York City is the only major exception, where right-on-red is illegal (unless otherwise posted). Aug 14, 2018 at 13:01
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    And that's "right turn on red AFTER STOP". If you don't stop first, you could possibly get a citation for running the red light.
    – shoover
    Aug 14, 2018 at 13:31

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