UK Guide to Driving in the USA - 'Fly Drive' Orlando Vacation Packages 

Orlando British Visitor Guide


Making a Turn

Left
The Free Right
Traffic Lights


Getting your car:
at MCO
at SFB

 
 
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Driving in the USA 

a 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.

Then try to find out as much as possible from your booking agent about exactly where your Hotel or Rental Home is, in relationship to the Airport. We can help - mail me -

Preparation

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

Your first 'drive' will be from the Airport to your accommodation. Many tour operators leave it until you arrive to give you the directions.

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.

My Map, Rooms & Villas Locators 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. Try this link to a list of Guides & Maps publications available from Amazon.

US Visitors - can find a selection here.

There is also a 'Top-Down' Map System that can give you an idea of where places are.

Plus, check out the 'Flashing Maps' for an over view of journeys from the Airports.


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.

You can use on-line mapping systems to help. Note that they don't often show the 'best' route just the quickest. Use Airport codes in their system as 'Place name in North America' - MCO (for Orlando International) & SFB (for Sanford) - at 'Get Directions To Here' link at top right.


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. Check out the 'Getting the Car sections of the MCO or SFB Pages for more Parking Brake information.

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.

Having said that, some {especially those arriving via. Orlando International Airport (MCO) and staying near I-Drive} have no real choice but to use The Beach Line Expressway (it's not as busy as the Interstate). The two most reported problems with Freeway Driving are - that stretches can be busy at all time of the day & night and 'undertaking'.

Getting busy?

As an example from Sanford Airport (SFB) -The journey via. I4 to locations West (not South - the Freeway is traveling South by the compass, but West to Tampa as far as the whole is concerned) will initially be quiet for a few miles but the traffic will build up as you travel over Downtown Orlando and then on towards the International Drive exits, the joining of The Bee Line Expressway , the Lake Buena Vista exits, getting more quiet down towards US Hwy 192 and out into the country for US Hwy27 in the Clermont area.

From Orlando International (MCO) North exit {Black Signs} - Immediately after leaving the airport you will be on The Beach Line Expressway SR-528 . This is a cross Orlando highway going from I4 out to the Space Coast (Atlantic Ocean side) via. the airport. So, although it's busy, it's not that bad. You will need to go this way if you are staying on International Drive as there is no viable alternative via. MCO's South exit.
It is a main artery for Interstate 4 and does speed up travel to all areas of Orlando.
I4 gets busy directly after it's junction with The Bee Line SR-528, It's the weight of West bound traffic meeting the Lake Buena Vista exits for Walt Disney World that causes the slow down.

Traffic on US freeways is no worse than traffic anywhere else - it's just that you could do without the hassle. Mail me for some help if you think you need to... just ask, I'll do what we can.

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 bloomin 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 Travel Company or Car Rental Company will almost definitely instruct you via. SR-417 The Central Florida Greeneway. Click here for my Directions. An overview of Arriving at SFB is here...

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.

Click here for my Directions, for all areas other than International Drive. International Drive is so close to MCO via. The Bee Line Expressway that it is not worth the bother of going all the way round. The Beach Line is not exactly a Freeway. It's a Toll Road and a bit quieter than the Interstate. An overview of Arriving at MCO is here...

Mail me if you need help or a second opinion.. just ask, I'll do what I can.


Note - If you came to this page from another link - you may want to give it a full read...



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)

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 (my map), you will come this way returning from Belz Mall back to your temporary 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... (use you browser 'Back' button to get back to here)

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.  My 'Top Down' Map... Street Level map here...
 


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.

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!

Take a look at this Traffic Lights example too...



Turning Right at a Traffic Signal - 'The Free Right at a Red Light' Rule.

You may turn right 'against' the Traffic Light in Florida, 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!

Check here for the official word...

Take a look at my Traffic Lights example too...



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 here and follow the links to Driver License Handbooks Index.

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


Alternatives

Arrange a transfer to your Hotel or Villa and collect the car tomorrow.

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.

A few Villa Rental companies run a Shuttle Service to your destination and have the car waiting there for you. There aren't many that do and I know of no major UK Package Agent who uses this system.

or... Book a Hotel on International Drive - see the International Drive Trolley Bus System page for more info on 'Not driving in Orlando'



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


Don't miss the - Arriving pages... They will guide you thru the Airports and onwards towards your destination...

Work with the best San Diego Drunk Driving Defense to ensure you get a fair judgment.

 

Information on this site is provided 'as is'.
We apologies for any omissions or errors. E.& O. E. 
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