Car Rental Tips: Drive Like a Local

Heading on vacation to a new destination? Check out for tips on unique traffic patterns, animal crossings, and weird laws you might encouter!

Part of what makes traveling an adventure is exploring a new destination. And while the change of scenery can be exciting, navigating unfamiliar highways and byways can sometimes be confusing. To help you meet these challenges, we’ve compiled a list of peculiar maneuvers to master, creature crossings to heed, a handy highway guide and helpful tips to reference, as well as some quirky local laws that may surprise you. Armed with these, you’ll be driving like a local in no time.

Peculiar Maneuvers

The Jersey Jughandle

If you’ve ever wanted to make a left turn in New Jersey, you’ve probably encountered the jughandle. Drivers visiting the Garden State may be puzzled as they wait for a green left-turn signal that may never appear. That’s because in New Jersey there are more than 600 jughandles — more than any other state. The jughandle requires drivers to make a right turn in order to go left. This means that drivers usually take a right-hand exit before entering a U-shaped stretch of road that ends with a traffic light at an intersection. When the light is green, drivers either continue straight across the intersection to complete a left turn or turn left for a U-turn.

The Jersey Jughandle

Blocking the Box

You’ve probably seen cars “block the box” before. It happens when a traffic light turns red and cars get stuck in the middle of the intersection, blocking traffic. Though it may happen often in other areas, blocking the box can cause major traffic issues in New York City. You may see signs posted at busy intersections that say “Don’t Block the Box.” This means that drivers should avoid entering the intersection when there isn’t enough room to proceed without blocking the intersection. Violators can face hefty fines for blocking traffic this way, so steer clear.

Blocking the Box

Strange Creature Crossings

Bear Crossings

These signs are very common in places with large black bear populations. You might see a black bear trying to cross the street in California, Washington or Oregon. Many black bears also live throughout the western states and along the east coast. It’s also worth noting that black bears are the most common, and most timid, bears in North America.

Panther Crossings

These animals mostly reside in the forests and swamps of southern Florida. In other parts of the country, panthers are sometimes called cougars or mountain lions. Chosen years ago as Florida’s state animal, panthers are now considered an endangered species. That’s why organizations are trying to help reduce the number of Florida panthers killed on roads every year.

Armadillo Crossing

If you’ve never seen an armadillo crossing sign before, you’re bound to see some in Texas, or the Gulf Coast states. The armadillo is the official state animal of Texas, but you may see one as far north as southern Missouri! Their armor might be strong, but it’s not quite sturdy enough to protect them on the highways, so keep an eye out.

Strange Creature Crossings

Handy Highway Guide

Have you ever wondered what kind of highway you’re on during your travels? Believe it or not, there’s an easy way to tell. Just look at the signs along the highway, also known as shields.

Interstate Highways

Freeways in the interstate highway system are usually marked with blue or green numbered shields.

U.S. Highway System

The U.S. highway system is part of an older system now maintained by state and local governments. U.S. highways are usually marked by white numbered shields.

State Highways

Each state also has its own highway system. You’ll know you’re on a state highway if you see signs that either mimic the shape of the state, or feature a state symbol like its flag.

Handy Highway Guide

Quick Tips on Speed

Slow Going

Everyone knows you can get cited for speeding, but did you know driving more than a few miles under the speed limit could earn you a hefty traffic ticket? At least 38 states have laws against driving too slow in the left lane of the highway, and 22 states actually classify the violation as a misdemeanor! Look for the posted speed limit and stick to it.

Keeping Pace

Standardized speed limits are still relatively new in the United States. It wasn’t until the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act in 1974 that speeds on interstate highways and access roads were restricted to 55 mph. That national speed limit was repealed in 1995, and 41 states have since raised speeds to 70 mph or higher. Texas is home to the highest speed limit: 85 mph. Before you travel, make sure you know the local laws. If you’re not sure, the Governors Highway Safety Association is a good resource.

Laws That Actually Exist

These little-known traffic laws will make you wonder what circumstances led to them being put on the
books. The following unusual actions are illegal in certain states:

  • Driving a motorcycle barefoot in Alabama.
  • Driving while blindfolded in Alabama.
  • Honking your horn at a sandwich shop after 9 p.m. in Little Rock, Arkansas.
  • Women driving while wearing a housecoat in California.
  • Screeching your tires for any reason in Derby, Kansas.
  • Honking someone else’s car horn in University City, Missouri.
  • Driving a camel on the highway in Nevada.
  • Leaving your car doors open too long in Oregon.
  • Vehicles traveling over 60 mph without a driver in California.
  • Driving a black car on Sundays in Denver.