There are different scenarios where you might want to learn how to drive in a big city like D.C., New York, Atlanta, or Los Angeles. You might be a teen who’s preparing to get your learner’s permit or license, or perhaps you’re the parent of a teen, and you’re about to help them learn how to drive, and you reside in a big city.
You might be traveling to a big city from a smaller city or rural area, and you could be nervous about the challenges city driving can bring that you don’t face at home.
Another scenario where you might want tips for driving in a big city is if you’re planning to move and you’re wary about how the rules of the road might vary from what you’re used to.
Regardless of the specifics of your situation, the following are things to keep in mind when it comes to driving in a big city.
Watch Out for Cyclists and Pedestrians
When you’re driving in a big city and you’re not used to it, you may be primarily focused on the other drivers, but there is something that can be more important to watch out for—pedestrians. In addition to pedestrians one of your main areas of focus should also be on people riding bikes.
These aren’t necessarily issues when you’re in a smaller town or city or in particular driving in a rural area.
In cities, there are pedestrians and bikes everywhere.
First, look for crosswalks, which tend to be much more common in big cities. Know that pedestrians always have the right of way when they’re at a crosswalk.
As far as cyclists, while they are supposed to follow the same traffic laws as vehicles, that doesn’t mean they always do.
Give yourself plenty of distance, and make sure you know if there’s a bike lane to the right of the street you’re on—avoid ever veering into a bike lane.
If you’re driving in a big city, there may also be people hailing taxis or waiting for their Uber. Make sure you are careful of people who are on the side of the road or who are getting into vehicles.
Choose the Right Size Vehicle
If you’re moving to a big city, you may need a new vehicle, and if you’re traveling to a big city and you’re going to rent a car, look for one that’s an appropriate size for the roads you’ll be on.
Most city drivers have smaller cars than what you’re used to, and that’s because it makes not only driving but also parking easier.
When you’re choosing a vehicle to buy or rent for city driving, features like parking assist can come in handy as well.
Give Yourself Time
Whether you’re teaching a teen to conquer city driving, or you’re teaching yourself, always give yourself plenty of time.
The worst thing you can do in an unfamiliar or stressful driving situation is feel rushed on top of everything else.
If you have enough time to get where you need to be, it can help you avoid panic and think clearly if you find yourself in a challenging situation.
Maintain a Gap
When you’re driving in a big city and particularly if it’s unfamiliar territory, it’s easy to feel out-of-control, and that can lead you to panic which can lead to other issues.
You can’t control everything happening around you, but you can control your vehicle.
With that in mind, try to make sure you keep enough space in front and behind you as well as all around you.
This gives you more control over what’s happening with your own vehicle and also some leeway if someone does something hazardous or unexpected around you.
Time of Day
If you’re not experienced at driving in a city or you’re teaching a teen to drive, think about the time of day.
If at all possible, try to drive early in the morning before people start heading to work, or perhaps in the afternoon.
Rush hour is usually anywhere from 7 to 9 a.m. and then 4 to 6 p.m. in most cities, and these are going to be the worst times to try and drive if you’re not used to the city.
Finally, do your best to stay calm no matter what big city driving throws your way. The calmer you are, the better it’s likely to go. Focus on paying attention and don’t become overly emotional or develop road rage.