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UK Florida Driving Guide in the USA - 'Fly Drive' Disney Vacation Packages.

Florida Driving in the USA


First Time USA Drivers Guide


It is almost impossible to even 'get to the shops' without a car in the USA...
You can see by the size of the car park of even a small Take Away, that 'a car is essential'. Most holidays to the USA are of the 'Fly-Drive variety'. This means that somebody will have to drive a car…
Are you prepared for this? Don't panic, the mechanics of it are actually easier than you may think!

If you have never driven in the USA before, read through this section and get to know the differences. You will be in a strange place, getting lost at home is bad enough, getting lost here can be easy to achieve and unpicking a mistake, difficult - to say the least.

Let's try to help...

Before we begin…
Read and understand The Florida State Drivers Handbook here...

If you have kids with you, note the section on Child Restraints.

You can get Florida driving directions from most area airports from the Windsor Palms website 

Preparation

Don’t forget your Drivers License and any vouchers or paper work about Car Hire (Rental) that your Travel Company or Agent has given you.

Your first 'drive' will be from the Airport to Windsor Palms.

Obtain directions before hand, if at all possible, and study maps for as long as you can before you depart. Get an idea of where you are going.

Google or MSN maps will help you with some of this prep-work. A Paper Guide can be handy, not as good as these sites, but using the two together may give you more confidence. Of course you could also upgrade you car to include sat-nav.

Nominate a co-pilot as your right hand person. (literally Right hand, remember you will be on the Left of the car)

Go over and over your directions trying to get a mental picture of where you are going.


Keep alert. Don’t drink on the plane if you have to drive.

U.S. Drink Driving law is very strictly enforced and you will be charged if caught and spend a night in the cells. Not a good way to start the holiday!

UK Visitor Specific

The most obvious difference with driving in the USA is that they drive on the Right hand side of the road and you do it from the Left side of the car.

You may be familiar with driving your own car on the Continent and, if you have done this, you will know that strange feeling of being on the wrong side of the road.

It felt unusual and maybe scary for a while but your car had a familiar set-up and you can get used to driving in the gutter although overtaking was ... well, interesting.

The biggest difference to this is that in the US you will be on wrong side of both the road and the car.

You will be used to judging the greater distance on your left side but now the width of the car will be on your right.

The arm you lean out of the window is the wrong one (it does balance the suntan), the gear change (shift) is on the right, the person to scream at / talk to, is also over there and it’s an automatic...
 

Have you ever driven an automatic?
Always have the Parking Brake 'On' when you put the vehicle into 'Drive'. Just in case the engine is reving or the tick-over is set too high. Otherwise the car may jump forwards...

The Parking Brake may be a foot operated pedal on the far Left of the wheel well.

Only use one foot (the right one!) for operating the Accelerator (Gas) and Foot Brake pedals. You should keep the left foot well over to the left or tuck it up against the seat.

There is a slight (but only slight) possibility that when you have to stop quickly you will instinctively stab at the non-existent Clutch pedal with your left foot. Possibly hitting the Brake pedal with way too much force.

This was worse in older cars that tended to have long Foot Brake pedals, not so bad nowadays. Keep that left foot well away!

Most automatics will 'creep' at tick-over without the Brake. You can move slowly forward or backwards by just releasing and applying the Brake pedal.

Use this technique in slow areas, Car Parks etc, and only use the accelerator to finally pull-away.

Gently though or you will get that tire screeching sound! (especially on polished Car Park floors)

 

Freeway Driving


Most people are wary of Freeways in the US until they are more used to driving on the wrong side of the road.

It is recommend that all British First Time USA Drivers pick Routes that avoid Freeways and The Beach Line Expressway if at all possible for your Arriving Drive.

The two most reported problems with Freeway Driving are - that stretches can be busy at all time of the day & night and 'undertaking'.

Traffic on US freeways is no worse than traffic anywhere else - it's just that you could do without the hassle.

Undertaking


The other drivers on Freeways can bring about the other problem - undertaking!

It's not illegal in the USA to overtake on the 'inside'. That's the right hand side...

With all the other distractions, it can be scary.

As you get to the busier areas, you get lots of locals literally zooming by on all sides! Changing lanes in front and behind in a seemingly random ballet.

Making a decision to stick to the lane one from the right (a theoretical slow lane) doesn't work as the width of the freeway changes from 3 to 4 to 5 lanes at various points. At exits, sometimes two lanes exit, sometimes only one. Sticking to the left and keeping your foot down will only end up with you going too fast... Here you will also encounter the few American drivers who have no respect for the Speed Limit.

You have to be on-top of what you are doing.

It's all quite exciting when you are used to it - but after an 8 hour flight?

From Sanford Airport {SFB} (Charter and Holiday Airlines), your Car Rental Company will almost definitely instruct you via. SR-417 The Central Florida Greeneway.

From Orlando International Airport {MCO} (British Airways, Virgin, and internal USA transfers) their instructions may take you out to the Beach Line and Freeway or you may be instructed to go via SR-417 The Central Florida Greeneway.

 

Lane Position


Experience has shown that most UK drivers drive far over to the right hand side of a lane. Watch out for this phenomenon especially when you are in a lane with traffic or parked vehicles, to your right. You may not be as far away as you think.

 

Traffic Lights (Signals)

Florida Driving Tips from Orlando Internalional & other regional airports


This aerial shot shows a typical approach to Traffic Signals. Note how the Left lane turns Left and the Right lane turns too. The two centre lanes go straight on.

This is International Drive crossing Universal Blvd. heading South, you will come this way returning from International Drive Premium Outlets Mall back to your Windsor Palms home.

Note the traffic lights in the sky, hung on a wire diagonally across the junction. At some (like this one) the light for the Right lane can be a good distance away, all the way across the junction. You don't need this light though - you can make a Free Right Turn.
The Left turn lights are in the middle of the road and much closer.

Looks like there are lot's of cars with slight oil leaks in Orlando...

Turning Left at a Traffic Signal.

Turning Left at a Traffic Light (Signal) can be a little un-nerving the first few times.

Most major road junctions will have a Left Turn Lane controlled by a Left Turn Light. It may be up in the air but should never be so high that you can't see it through the window from the front row of the grid (sorry).

If the road you are turning into is a dual carriageway (divided highway) just don't forget to be in the right lanes after the turn.
That's all the way across the first set of lanes on your left and the dividing bit. If pressured there is a tendency to go left round the kerb, like back at home - this will end up with you facing a line of cars pointing at you.

Go all the way across and then turn left into the empty road with cars going 'away' from you... Take your time - don't panic.

The first major turn Left at a Traffic Signal for British Visitors visiting the Kissimmee area is likely to be at this light at Celebration Ave. and US Hwy 192.

 

Here is an example -

This is North Bass Road heading North (exit from Wal-Mart Kissimmee and Country Creek, Creekside, Waterford Subdivisions) at it's junction with US Hwy 192 'Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway' going East/West. Left is West, Right is East.

Orlando Driving For UK Visitors travelling to Windsor Palms Resort

 

Approaching to turn Left in the Left lane. Note - this a Left Only turn lane. The one on the Right is for Straight Ahead and Right.

Driving in Florida Tips For UK Visitors on their Disney Vacation

 

As we approach, the Left lane turn light is Green, the Straight Ahead and Right Turn lights are also Green, sometimes they will be Red while left alone is Green (as in the picture above) and vica versa.
Just wait for the left turn light to turn Green before moving.

The Van, two cars in front just went Left, as the light on the Left of the Yellow Line is lit and the arrow on it shows to turn Left. The opposite of this light is holding all other traffic from crossing the junction.

Though this picture doesn't depict oncoming traffic from the opposite side of the intersection. This is the most dangerous part. You must yield to oncoming traffic coming across the intersection towards Wal-Mart. (see the silver car coming toward us  in the previous image)
Some will be going straight across your path, and some will be making opposite turns to go Eastbound on US192.

If you're going Westbound and therefore making a Left turn onto US192, you must first yield to the 'straight ahead' traffic that may be coming your way. Usually, this will entail a 'brief' stop in the middle of US192, before even completing the turn...

Many turns have dashed lines that guide you into the correct lanes. But, if they don't the line of 'dripping oil' will guide you in all but wet weather.

Once you get used to it, take your time and start watching for Traffic Lights in the sky.
It's a doddle!

Turning Right at a Traffic Signal - 'The Free Right at a Red Light' Rule.
You may turn right 'against' the Traffic Light in the USA, but only if the coast is clear.

You must come to a complete stop first...

Cars in front of you may go through the Red Light and turn right. This is normal and you should do the same.

Don't be pressured by people behind you...

Take it easy and make sure nothing is anywhere near you coming from the left before you move.

Move away smoothly and purposefully. Once you start, don't stop - you shouldn't have gone if it wasn't clear to do so...

If the light is Green, just go. (obvious)

If  you just sit there, people behind will sound their horn at you!

But don't be pressured, the light will change soon anyway. Be safe - not sorry!

 

Rules & Regulations

All these things can seem daunting, but fear not, they can all be absorbed by you brain in a very short space of time.

Thank goodness the pedals, are at least, in the right order.

You can study the Driver License Handbooks by following the link above.

They will tell you many things -including the 'Free Right at a Red Light Rule'...

 

Alternatives

Arrange a transfer to Windsor Palms and collect the car the day after.

This takes even more more time and may not solve any real problems. Unless you are really tired.

Use a 'Follow Me Service' - the experience is that they are so expensive that most Brit's simply will not pay the amounts they charge.


Enjoy your driving experiences... and Don't panic.