Life in the United States: Driving
An online audio/visual driver's training course with narration is available at: http://www.virtualdriveofamerica.com
American Road Signs
Test your knowledge of American road signs with this fun on-line game: http://www.quia.com/de/nhsign.html
How to Get a U.S. State License
Au Pair in America requires every au pair to have a valid home country driver's license in order to participate in the program. Au Pair in America also requests that every au pair obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP). If you are allowed to drive on your home country license in the state you are living in, you must carry both your home country license and your IDP at all times. As legal IDPs are only available in your home country, if you have arrived in the U.S. without an IDP and your home country license is in a language other than English, you must carry an official translation of your home country license with you. Your home country license, along with an IDP or English translation of your home country license, may be sufficient for you to drive legally in the U.S. when you first arrive. Please confirm this with your host family and/or the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). However, Au Pair in America strongly recommends that you obtain a local state driver's license as soon as possible. Requirements and testing procedures vary from state to state. To find the requirements for your state, follow the link to the DMV for your state. Start by clicking here.
- Start early and take your time.
- Accelerate slowly, especially on hills
- Drive slowly to avoid having to stop while going up a hill, as it will be hard to start again.
- Don't make any sudden turns or stops.
- Be sure that the mirrors and windows are always free of snow and ice.
- If you skid, try to steer in the direction the car is sliding to regain control.
- The changes in temperature sometimes cause potholes in the streets. If you don't see the pothole in time to steer around it, apply the brakes before hitting the pothole and release them just before you reach the pothole. If you keep the brake on as you hit the pothole, it will do more damage to the tire.
- Try to keep your gas tank at least half full.
- If your wheels spin on ice, switch to low gear, even on automatics.
- Leave extra space between you and the car in front of you.
- Remember that bridges and exit ramps are icier than roads.
- Ask what kind of brakes your car has and how to use them in case of a skid.
Wet Weather Driving Tips (from www.nyAAA.com)
- Summer rainstorms can quickly reduce visibility and create dangerous driving conditions.
- In stormy conditions, it is more difficult to see other vehicles, road signs and the road itself. It is critical that motorists take steps so they can see and be seen.
- Drivers should regularly clean their windshield and windows, on both the inside and outside. Drivers who smoke should take extra care to make sure their interior windows are clear of a buildup of smoke residue.
- AAA also suggests that motorists regularly check that headlights, taillights, brake lights and turn signals are working properly.
- As soon as rain begins, AAA recommends drivers turn on headlights and windshield wipers. Many states require headlights to be turned on when it is raining or if the visibility is reduced to less than 500 feet.
- When visibility is so limited that the edges of the road or other vehicles cannot be seen at a safe distance, it is time to pull over and wait for the rain to ease up. It is best to stop at a rest area or other protected location. If the roadside is your only option, AAA recommends pulling off as far as possible, preferably past the end of a guardrail. Keep headlights on and turn on emergency flashers to alert other drivers.
- In addition to reducing visibility, rain creates slippery roads that require motorists to use extra caution. AAA suggests that when driving in rain, motorists slow down and increase the distance between vehicles to compensate for reduced tire traction.
Recommended items to have in the car in case of emergency:
- Jumper Cables (these can be unsafe if used improperly, so be sure you know how to use them)
- Reflective triangles
- Bag of sand or kitty litter (to help if stuck in ice, snow)
- Small shovel (for snow)
- Extra windshield solvent
- Blankets and extra clothing
- Nonperishable food items and water (e.g.. snack bars)
- Cell phone (do not use a cell phone while you are putting gas in the car; it can start a fire)
- List of emergency telephone numbers on a card in the glove compartment (if you are a member of AAA, list that info too)
- Snow brush and ice scraper
Entering, exiting and traveling along a freeway or highway requires different driving skills than driving in town. Please review the safety tips here.