Between traffic signs, pedestrians, and weather hazards, drivers have enough to worry about behind the wheel. That is why motorists need to be extra cautious when driving in densely populated areas and cities. Even a minor accident could be hazardous and raise auto insurance rates. Urban environments present many additional obstacles and dangers on the road, and an inexperienced driver could find city streets overwhelming. Instead of stressing about these new challenges, drivers unfamiliar with the city should read these tips to get comfortable with cruising around the concrete jungle.
Avoid tunnel vision by scanning the whole environment
While it may seem counter-intuitive for drivers who are familiar with the open road, city driving requires your undivided attention. Urban centers are crowded and traffic flow can be dense, so 360 degree awareness is necessary to avoid scrapes and collisions. Pedestrians fight for room on sidewalks and cyclists pedal quickly between the curb and ongoing traffic. Some pedestrians may not pay attention as they cross busy streets, and it is ultimately up to the driver to stay alert and slow down for them.
According to J.D. Power, the best way for drivers to avoid unexpected obstacles is to monitor their speed at all times. It may be tempting to step on the gas when given a stretch of open street, but it is always better to proceed with caution. Drivers should assume that someone might jump out into the street at any time. Yellow lights should be approached with caution, as native city drivers and cabs often try to run through the light before their signal changes.
Directions and sightseeing plans should be addressed beforehand
Too many drivers make it a habit to look at online maps and directions behind the wheel. This might be slightly safer in less populated areas, but the city is not the place to be focusing on anything but the road ahead. Directions should be found ahead of time and all maps should be read by a friend in the passengers' seat. When traveling alone, it is best to try and memorize directions, if the trip is relatively short. At the very least, drivers new to city streets should look into voice navigation systems that will allow them to keep their eyes on the environment.
Some cities have driving laws specific to their area. Relay Rides recently highlighted quirks particular to New York City that all driving tourists should note. While it is legal in most parts of the country, turning right on a red light is illegal in the Big Apple. Drivers should also avoid blocking intersections unless they want to pay a $90 fee.
When going through major cities on a road trip, landmarks and tourist attractions will likely account for a large portion of the schedule. Because these areas are infamously crowded, drivers need to plan their approach long before getting behind the wheel. J.D. Power reminded drivers that parking can be easy if lots and garages are researched in advance, although they should expect to pay top dollar to find a convenient space.