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Driving America – The Survival Guide

San Francisco’s Chinatown, courtesy of the Travel Channel

Vicki Arkoff survives drunk roller-skaters in Los Angeles and has some good advice about honking in New York. Don’t do it.

If you’re planning on driving in one of the USA’s notoriously difficult driving cities, you’d better buckle up, buttercup. There’s almost nothing more American or more romantic than hitting the highway for a classic road-trip (to with, Route 66 and the spectacular coastal 101) but in the most-travelled  cities, it can be another story.

The Travel Channel series America’s Worst Driver gives ample evidence of just how scary it is out there on the urban mean streets – especially for tourists trying to navigate unfamiliar maps, inner-city congestion, confusing street grids, intimidating freeways, and dangerous vehicles manned by locals more interested in texting than driving.

America’s Worst Driver puts lead-foots to the test on the streets of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, New York City, Miami and Dallas to compete in obstacle challenges that, thankfully, few real-world drivers would be normally faced with: balancing a five tier-wedding cake, for instance, while driving down the busy boulevards of Manhattan, and navigating through Dallas with a bucket of BBQ sauce and piles of ribs in the passenger seat.

Sound crazy? Not really. One surreal day in Los Angeles I was in a collision with a hit-and-run driver. Police caught him after a high-speed chase and discovered he was drunk … and wearing roller skates.

Nevertheless, exploring the U.S. by car is one of the most-favoured travel experiences. So here’s a city-by-city survival guide with insider driving tips provided by each city’s finest: the police department street patrols who know their town’s road hazards better than anyone.

Boston, Massachusetts: Be watchful of winding, narrow and one-way streets. Unlike most other major cities, Boston is not based on a grid system.

Chicago, Illinois: Expressways in Chicago have nicknames, so be sure to know which name belongs to which expressway so you can check the local traffic reports.

Dallas, Texas: Drive in the middle lanes. Make sure to avoid driving in the outside lanes, because the city highways have exits from both the left side and the right side of the road. Driving in the outside lanes often forces you to exit, whether you want to do so or not.

Los Angeles, California: Read the signs! Parking in a posted anti-gridlock zone during rush hour will get you a hefty fine and your car will most likely be towed by the time you get back to it, even if it’s just five minutes.

Miami, Florida:  Watch out for accidentally driving in the “HOV” (high occupancy vehicle or carpool lane), which are often not well marked.

New York City, New York: Don’t honk! Some areas forbid the sounding of a car horn, with a fine of US$100 for violators. This is usually found in areas with a large number of residences.

San Francisco, California: Have some cash on you. You have to pay a toll to drive across the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge when you are heading into the city.

Seattle, Washington: If you can’t figure out which direction you are going, look at the street names. In Seattle, most roads running north and south are labeled “Avenues” and those going east and west are labeled “Streets.”

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