Driving in the Big City…On Your Own

As a new driver, you know that the more practice you have behind the wheel, the better you will become at maneuvering around on familiar (and unfamiliar) streets. If you live in a suburb, you’ve probably had a little exposure to “big city” driving, but have either avoided it or have had no need to go outside of your little city or town. Eventually, however, you’ll want to or need to break out of your comfort zone and explore bigger and busier roads. Is it overwhelming? You bet. Does it have to be a bad experience? No way.

The first trip out on busy big city roads can be a sensory overload experience. You might feel like you’ve had more than a few brushes with death, but once you learn how to avoid an accident and what to do in the event of a car accident, you may be less likely to be in one. It’s true that new, younger drivers are more at risk of being involved in an accident, but by committing to safety and educating yourself, you don’t need to become another statistic.

Getting By in a Big City

Whether you reside on the West or East Coast or even in the Midwest, you will most likely be faced with big city driving at some point in your young driving career. In Los Angeles, according to the California Department of Transportation, there are over 5.8 million registered drivers on the road at any given time. In big cities like Chicago, drivers can expect to spend about 25% more time on the road due to congestion.

Despite overwhelming statistics, you can learn to navigate the big city streets and highways like a pro. Before you head out on the streets, consider these safe driving tips:

  • Know the Law: First off, make sure you know the rules of the road. If you are traveling in a state different from your own you may encounter different laws. For the most part, road rules are pretty general across the board. Brush up on them before you head out onto unfamiliar roads.

  • Avoid the Busy Times: While many cities are always hustlin’ and bustlin’, there are times of day when the roads are less busy (believe it or not). In L.A., for example, rush hour is between the hours of 7am-10am and 4pm-7pm. During these times, it’s almost guaranteed that traffic will be congested and dangerous, increasing your risk of an accident. Try to plan your driving trips during the least busy time of day.

  • Focus on the Road: You know how dangerous distractions can be while you are driving, but when trying to navigate on a busy freeway your focus is being challenged more than ever. You must keep your hands on the wheel, your eyes on the road, your cellphone far away from you, and always look in front, behind, and around you. Big city drivers are often notorious for being poor drivers, keep that in mind.

  • Understand and Share the Road: In big cities, other modes of transportation are used such as trolleys and/or light rail. As a driver, who has never shared the road with such modes of transportation, it’s vital to know how trolleys and light rail navigate through big cities. Additionally, always proceed with caution on complicated freeways and other street patterns such as one ways. These systems are built to make driving easier and safer, but if you don’t understand how they work, it might be a little daunting at first.

Driving in a big city for the first time can be exciting and scary, but if you take the time to understand the rules of the one ways, the freeways, the light rails, and look out for all the big city drivers, you will become a big city pro in no time.