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There are the usual confusing driving rules, then there are the New York driving rules. When you drive in New York, you had better learn the driving rules fast enough because new drivers are not exempted from obeying the traffic laws or the penalties that breaking them invite.

New York is unlike many other cities because the streets seem to be heavy with traffic at any given time, and throngs of daring pedestrians will cross the streets at short notice.

For these reasons, the New York drivers have learned to be quite aggressive to cope with the hectic situation. They speed and quickly cut lane where possible and will do all it takes to get past you.

As a new driver, this can be hectic and overwhelming. If you slow down to figure out something, impatient taxi drivers honk at you all at once, which can be confusing.

Through all this, you still must drive cautiously, remaining calm all the time so that you do not get on the wrong side of the law. By the way, always avoid any annoying driving mistake that could invite a ticket. Every city has its unique rules, so certain driving laws only apply in New York City.

Below are the most significant rules you have to mind while driving through New York City:

1. Mind Your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)

While drinking and driving are illegal in any state, the threshold of what is considered Driving Under the Influence is high in New York. Because of the massive human and vehicular traffic, even a minor road accident in New York can be an inconvenience that slows hundreds or thousands of people who have to wait for the scene to be cleared. That’s why anything that may result in an accident is frowned upon.

For that reason, your Blood Alcohol Content should not exceed 0.08 percent if you are a driver, or your license could be suspended for three months as you attend alcohol education classes.

2. Expect Expensive Tolls

The tolls in New York can take a toll on your pocket because they are expensive. However, there are toll-free bridges, like those in Manhattan or Brooklyn. The best you can do is to be prepared for any eventuality. Also, remember that some tolls only do cashless transactions. If you are not prepared for that, your license plate is photographed, and the toll bill is mailed to your address.

3. Smoking

You should not smoke in your car if any passenger is a minor (under 18 years) because you will be fined even if it is your first offense.

4. Wear Seat Belt

The police can pull you over for not wearing a seat belt as primary, and slap you with a fine of $50. Always wear your seat belt because it costs nothing to do so, yet costs something not to.

5. No Using a Handheld Device While Driving

Do not use your cellphone or any other handheld device when you are driving in New York. You cannot talk on the phone while driving unless you are using a hands-free system.

It would be best if you did not text while driving; it is considered a primary offense, so it is enough to get you pulled over because it falls under the distracted driving category.

6. Speed Limit

You should not exceed 65 MPH if you are driving a car in New York. On the other hand, the maximum highway speed for a truck is 65 MPH. It would help if you had an eye on the traffic laws in every area you drive through.

7. Watch the Pedestrians

As you drive, bear in mind that a pedestrian can cross the road anytime at the crosswalk or away. Whether the law is on your side or not may mean little if you knock down a pedestrian. You will have to stop and explain two or three things to the police, and you may not have the time.

The best bet is always to play it safe: avoid trouble if you can. Turn the other cheek where possible, let that drunk or reckless pedestrian have his way, and save the day by waiting.

8. Watch the Road Signs and the Turn Signals

How you make turns in New York is also determined by the time, so don’t be surprised if a road sign at an avenue informs you that you can’t turn left in the evening or morning. There are hours when certain intersections are congested, so the police have to limit the number of cars that turn that direction.

On your part, always watch out for what the next road sign is proclaiming to be safe. If you make an illegal turn, you get a ticket.

Moreover, have a keen eye on the traffic light and avoid moving when the light is about to change otherwise you may end up stranded in the intersection, another crime that invites a hefty penalty.

There are signs that warn you not to block the box, which is the intersection. Just obey the warning to avoid having to explain yourself to an irritated New York police officer.

9. Honk If You Must

Do not honk for the sake of it because aimless honking is unlawful in New York. As you are going to find out, nearly every taxi driver is probably oblivious to this law. But never mind them; it is best to do the right thing, especially when you are new in the game.

Your honking might attract the police to your car, and you never know what other mistakes you could be committing that they would want to pull you over for.

The point is, you may want to register your displeasure by honking at other cars that cut your lane, but just remember honking adds to the noise pollution, so it is not encouraged in New York.

10. Don’t Park in Any Empty Space You Find

Parking space is generally a nightmare in New York. The available parking spots are at a premium and, even then, they may not be available during certain hours of the day or days of the week.

What was a parking space yesterday could be not today. So when you come across an empty block, you had better first wonder why there are no cars parked there. Do not consider yourself lucky for finding it because there could be a notice somewhere announcing a heavy penalty for trespassers.

Most parking garages will let you park for no more than thirty minutes, after which the charges skyrocket per hour. You could spend $40 a day for parking alone. In a month, parking may cost more than your rent.

If you park illegally, you most likely get a ticket, the same if your meter runs out. Worse, your car could be towed away.


Driving in New York is no mean task, and you should pat yourself at the chest if your car comes out without a dent or scratch at the end of each day. New York is simply a small space that is over-packed. To maneuver, you have to learn survival tactics.

An underage (18 years) is not permitted to drive in New York, so never put your underage child on the wheel even if he is a good driver. To get more acquainted with what is expected of you as a driver, you may need to research more on the New York traffic laws.

Want to become the best driver on New York roads? Train with the best first. Enroll for quality driving lessons at Pierre Paul Driving today.