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Driving for the first time in Florida

Driving for the first time in Florida

Driving in a different country can be daunting. Driving on the different side of the road, new road signs and different rules. If this will be your first visit to the sunshine state, or if you have visited before but never hired a car, these helpful tips will guide you if you are cruising the highways for the very first time.

First Time Guide to Driving


  • 1 Do not forget to take your UK drivers licence with you, take both your plastic picture licence and your paper document. You should only need the plastic one but who knows, some jobs-worth may want both and it's a long way home to fetch it.

  • 2 Before you leave the hire car parking bay, make sure you are well aware of where all the light and wiper switches are, switching your windscreen wipers on to turn left is not very useful and to turn your car headlights off at night when it rains is not going to help much. Also make sure you have some change to hand for any toll roads you may be using.

  • 3 Always keep your licence with you when you are driving, you must also keep your car hire agreement and insurance details locked in the glove box. This is just in case the highway patrol wants a word with you? If this ever happens do not get out of your car, wait for the officer to approach you. Remove your licence from your wallet/purse before handing it to him/her, and do not worry they are very nice people

  • 4 Driving an automatic car for the first time is very daunting but do not panic they are extremely easy to drive. I always tuck my left foot under my right leg and back against the seat just to stop the temptation to use it at say Traffic lights or junctions by trying to engage the non existent clutch that is now a brake in an automatic car. You will soon get used to an automatic car.

  • 5Hire a Sat-Nav / GPS it will help you more than you think. Or look online where there are numerous maps to help you navigate the highways.


  • 6 To purchase more fuel you will need to pay for your Gas/petrol before you put it into the tank. Enter the gas/petrol station, pay the clerk how much you wish to put into your vehicle and then fill away. The pump will stop at your required amount.

  • 7 You must wear seat belts in the front of the car, Keep the kids in the back seats and buckled up at all times, use child safety seats for very young and small children. Your Car Hire Company will advice you before you go if you ask them for their recommendation.

  • 8 Traffic lights in Florida are suspended from over head wires. As you approach the lights get into your lane. If you want to go straight on pick a centre lane if you wish to turn left choose the outside lane near the centre of the road, most left turns have feeder lanes that allow you to stop and wait for your light to turn green.
    Left turns on main roads use a green arrow light system to indicate it is safe to turn left. Some left turns have as many as three feeder lanes, choose the middle feeder lane until you become more confident.
    Occasionally you may find left turns that are not controlled with feeder lights, please take extreme care when turning, do not get flustered wait for a gap in the oncoming traffic now approaching from your right and drive through with confidence.

    To turn right in America is very easy as you approach the lights move into the right lane. If the lights are red you must stop. Again your wheels must stop, but the good bit is if your way is clear “remember the traffic comes from your left hand side when you turn right” you can sneak round to the right despite the lights being red, just sitting there will only invite a sharp blast from the horn of the car behind wanting to turn right.

    The only time you will not be allowed to filter right is if you see a sign suspended next to the red light saying NO RIGHT TURN ON RED.

  • 9 You may see an AMBER FLASHING LIGHT at the side of the road, they are caution signs to warn you of Fire stations, Schools, Hospitals or Railway crossings, do as they say and be cautious.

  • 10Cross roads where two roads cross but each junction has a stop sign. This means no one has a right of way. You must first stop “no wheel movement” and then the first car that reached the junction has the right of way followed by the second car to reach the junction and so on. Americans are very courteous people.

  • 11Always use your headlightsat dusk, during fog or during heavy rain. When it rains and it will,slow down and be very careful, the roads always become very slippery when it rains; give more space between you and the vehicle in front.

  • 12U-turns, the one big thing I miss when I return from Florida. If you are driving and you want to turn into a Restaurant entrance, and you miss it, you have 6 lanes of traffic 3 in each direction with a central reservation down the middle of the road. No problem, do not panic stay calm, just move over into the left hand lane and when you reach the next left turn this could be a set of lights or just a slot between the central reservation, stop wait for the lights or wait for a safe gap in the on coming traffic, you can now do a U-turn, remain in the left hand lane. The only time you are not allowed to U-turn is if a sign tells you no u-turn. You can now drive back down the road past the Restaurant entrance if no left turn is available to the restaurant and do a second U-turn before driving back this time remembering to stay in the right hand lane and turn into the Restaurant.

  • 13Always take a pen out with you and if possible make a note of the section and bay number you have parked your car in. It will save you time when you return and help you find your car amongst the thousands of other cars parked in the car parks at the malls or at the theme parks.
    You will be prosecuted or fined if reported or seen
    1. If you are following a school bus that and it stops with its red light flashing and its STOP signal displayed then you MUST STOP even if it’s a three lane carriageway, all three lanes will stop. If you are approaching the bus from the opposite direction then you must also stop unless there is a central reservation of at least 5 feet or a physical barrier between the lanes.
    2. When you approach a stop sign you must stop , your wheels must not be turning.You can then and only then move off if the way is clear. But always give way to traffic from your right.
    3. Speeding. The American police hide and use hand held speed guns to catch you speeding, you won’t see it coming. You will receive an on the spot fine, this will be dependant upon the severity of the offence.
    4. Drinking and driving is a big no, they will throw the key away for this offence, and if the police find alcoholic drinks inside your car at any time of the day they will fine you. All alcoholic drinks must be kept in the boot out of sight at all times. The limit in Florida is one small beer so don’t bother drinking if you intend to drive.