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#937110 by FLYERZ
01 Aug 2017, 06:28
Hi all

Off to the West Coast for the classic road trip in a few weeks. Due to one of our party having to pull-out last minute due to work commitments I will now have to pickup some of the driving responsibilities. Never driven in the US or an automatic and would appreciate an tips particularly from anyone who driven along the west coast.


Appreciate the replies as always

FLYERZ
#937111 by pjh
01 Aug 2017, 07:23
FLYERZ wrote:Hi all

Off to the West Coast for the classic road trip in a few weeks. Due to one of our party having to pull-out last minute due to work commitments I will now have to pickup some of the driving responsibilities. Never driven in the US or an automatic and would appreciate an tips particularly from anyone who driven along the west coast.




As to the automatic;

1. Try not to be the person who first picks the car up, particularly if you're doing so straight after the flight.
2. You have to train yourself to use only your right foot
3. Find somewhere to practice a little
4. Here's a good thread of tips (some of which I'd forgotten about)

As to driving generally;

1. Remember that (unless specifically forbidden) you can right turn on red at lights if you can enter the stream of passing traffic safely (i.e. same as our give way). This does mean that if there are two lanes in your direction at lights you should try to avoid tucking yourself in to the lane nearest the kerb if you are intending on going straight ahead as you'll block vehicles that want to turn right
2. On long straight roads there is a tendency to speed. Don't.
3. On the freeway there is (generally) not the lane discipline you see in the UK - i.e. moving to the right (our left) - and it's acceptable to pass on both sides
4. In the cities there are generally lanes dedicated to cars with more than one occupant
5. In some cities you are supposed to stop if an emergency vehicle is travelling with a blue light (even if coming toward you)
6. Don't expect to go anywhere quickly if in LA
7. If travelling up the West Coast on the coast road allow plenty of time as it is twisty and turny, and wear sunglasses. Watch for low light glare at sunset.
8. Find somewhere to practice a kick down to get something of an equivalent to changing down a gear, otherwise the automatic will be sluggish on anything that has a vague slope to it.
9. Be aware of school buses. If stationary and picking up / dropping off passengers you can't overtake them (I think)

Don't worry about it; once in the groove it can be fun. I'm far from the world's (our even our family's) best driver and I got the hang of it in a couple of days - to the extent that the first thing I did when we returned from our first trip was stall our car as I'd forgotten about the clutch.
Last edited by pjh on 01 Aug 2017, 07:29, edited 1 time in total.
#937112 by dickydotcom
01 Aug 2017, 07:29
Most common mistakes for a first time drive in an automatic is to try and put the left foot on the clutch pedal.
Only there is no clutch pedal so you put it on the brake. And the car stops very quickly. (been there done that)
I have a tendency to get too close to the nearside for the first few miles. I do it every time until I get accustomed to the fact that I have the full width of a car to my right.
Park brake is often a foot pedal rather than a lever.
It is certainly worth spending ten minutes before you set off to get familiar with the controls.
You can turn right on a red light when safe to do so.
Have a great trip.

Dick D
#937115 by Darren Wheeler
01 Aug 2017, 08:50
Top tip on the freeway/Interstate etc.

If you see an emergency vehicle with its flashing lights on, highway maintnenace vehicle or even just a broken down vehicle on the (hard) shoulder, make sure you move out a lane or slow right down. In every state except Washington D.C. it is an offence not to do so. The police take great exception to it and you'll get a ticket.
#937117 by Smid
01 Aug 2017, 09:10
Not a driver, but stop signs probably should be mentioned.

It's kind of the US equivalent of traffic lights in local areas. If you see a stop sign, you should come to a complete stop. Not slow down. Stop. Then go through some sort of weird yielding order. Allows sense at junctions. But brits might just slow down...
#937118 by pjh
01 Aug 2017, 09:11
Smid wrote:Not a driver, but stop signs probably should be mentioned.

It's kind of the US equivalent of traffic lights in local areas. If you see a stop sign, you should come to a complete stop. Not slow down. Stop. Then go through some sort of weird yielding order. Allows sense at junctions. But brits might just slow down...


That's why we have roundabouts.... :)
#937120 by ScoobySu
01 Aug 2017, 09:15
pjh wrote: On long straight roads there is a tendency to speed. Don't.


Hubby was ticketed for doing 69 in a 60 zone in Death Valley - the fine was $ 250. If he'd been ticketed for doing 70 + the fine would have doubled! Remember if pulled over to stay in the car until asked to do so.

I found driving surprisingly easier than I expected, although the gauging the width of the General Lee was interesting at times!

At gas stations most are pay at pump, which wouldn't accept our cards as we don't have a zip code. Most times we authorised say $ 30 inside the store and if we only filled up to $ 25 we were only charged $ 25. At some of the smaller stations there was a minimum card charge of $ 25.

This year I found a web site called "Gas Buddy" - pop in your location or where you want to fill up and it tells you the local prices and can then guide you to them. On the same street there can be big differentials - in Paso Robles Chevron wanted $ 3.50 a (US) gallon but we found $ 2.80 5 minutes away. Some stations also have a lower price for cash vs card.

But most of all enjoy!
#937121 by Francis007
01 Aug 2017, 09:17
Hi Flyerz

You have been given some great advice by DickyD and Pjh on driving in the U.S. so I don't think there is much more to add.

I have driven extensively in the U.S. over the years but all my thousands of miles have been on the East Coast between Boston and Washington D.C. rather than the West coast.

If I can add one small thing to the stuff that has already been said, one of the minor things I have found that hampers U.K. drivers to the U.S. is our mind set in always returning to the nearside lane as soon as we possibly can. We are conditioned as responsible drivers to do that in the U.K.

However on 2 lanes approaching traffic lights.....as PJH pointed out......and being in the nearside lane.....you can hold up traffic who have the authority to turn right.....against the red....if safe to do so.

A minor point I know but one I quickly learnt many years ago. So my 2 pennies worth is that although it might go against the grain, try and approach most traffic light in the outer of the 2 lanes.. Don't think there is so much aggression in the U.S on the roads and folks are generally more forgiving. They are on the East Coast I think apart from Boston ! where on my first attempt to drive out of the city centre, I made a minor error and was told " hey Buddy, if you cannot drive then get someone who can " :cool:

May I just tell you one story about driving in the U.S. and American cops. In 2008 we were attempting to drive back to Logan airport after a road trip in New England. We had done that for some years before but for some inexplicable reason I missed the ramp to the airport. It was rush hour, about 6 pm and the roads were absolutely manic. This was when the " Big Dig " was taking place !We were on a 4 lane highway and we could see Logan on the opposite side of the turnpike.

We thought our only option was to follow the flow out of the city for a few miles and turn off and make another attempt. We came to a set of traffic lights on red on the 4 lane highway. We were in the third lane. A police car cruised up in the fourth lane next to us. There were literally thousands of cars waiting behind us in 4 lanes for the lights and the same number waiting for the lights in the opposite direction. It was a crossroads.

I innocently leaned out of my window and politely asked the cop in the passenger seat if he knew a way to get back to Logan as we had missed the ramp. He asked if we were English ! How could he have known !!! :-D

He then got out of the car, walked across the highway, waited until the lights changed to green.....and then held up thousands of Bostonians who were trying to get home......and indicated to me to do a U turn....so we could be on the right side for Logan !!!!!!!

It was a wonderful and kindly thing to do and we will always remember it. Can you imagine a U.K. road traffic cop doing that !!!

I hope you don't think I have hi-jacked your post with my little story. I just thought it would show how driving in the States is fun.

May I finally ask who you are using to rent your car from. We have always used Hertz and they are generally pretty good. If you are a little concerned about your first time in an automatic, Hertz have a range of " prestige " cars that are mostly European models. The model of choice is guaranteed. So you could choose one of those and then take a test drive here in the U.K. with a dealership to see how you like it. Just a thought.

Have fun

Frank
#937123 by Traveller2
01 Aug 2017, 09:35
I'll never forget the first time I drove an automatic car in the USA. I spent a whole week kangarooing along because I didn't realise that I only had to use one foot and was trying to drive the car like a manual one!!! Not a great experience. I then got someone to show me how to do it and hey presto....thousands of miles driven all over the USA with no problem!

I have had a hire car in California where the handbrake was a foot pedal contraption near the driver's door.

One thing to remember on Interstates (motorways), is that your exit can be on either side of the road. If you are not sure what side you will be getting off, try and stay in one of the centre lanes until you see your exit sign.
#937124 by Eggtastico
01 Aug 2017, 09:46
I drive Automatics.
You need to press the break before turning the ignition on, moving the gear to Drive or Reverse or Park (remember to put it in Park & pull the handbreak when parking up!), etc.
This is so it cant be knocked accidentally.
There is usually a big gap where a clutch normally is to rest your left leg.
Breaking - you will get used to a soft touch quite quickly.
Autos also have something called a kick down. Your floor it & you will get a burst of speed from a standing start. This is really handy for junctions, roundabouts, etc.
I guess your car may have cruise control. pick your speed, set cruise control & it will keep to that speed until you turn it off or break.
Its quite lazy driving TBH
#937127 by whiterose
01 Aug 2017, 10:05
Remember to use only one foot for accelerator or brake by tucking your other foot back a little, just as a reminder till you're more familiar with an automatic. When you start off again after a brief stop, an easy way to remember which side of the road you're driving on is that as driver you should be nearer the middle of the highway. You can't always turn on a red light. If you can't there will be a sign saying No turn on red. Useful to know if you're the head of the queue. Not sure if this applies to the west coast, but in New Jersey there's a junction called a 4-way, where you MUST stop even if there's no vehicle in sight. If there are others, the first vehicle at the junction has right of way, then the second and so on. Anxiety-making till you get the hang of it.

I wonder whether you'll get so used to an automatic that you'll not want to go back to manual, bit like turning left on the plane?
#937128 by dickydotcom
01 Aug 2017, 10:59
whiterose wrote:Not sure if this applies to the west coast, but in New Jersey there's a junction called a 4-way, where you MUST stop even if there's no vehicle in sight. If there are others, the first vehicle at the junction has right of way, then the second and so on. Anxiety-making till you get the hang of it.

I wonder whether you'll get so used to an automatic that you'll not want to go back to manual, bit like turning left on the plane?


We drive in South Carolina and there are quite a few 4 way stop junctions near us. I love them. It just encourages politeness.
Automatics; I wouldn't have anything else. I got my first one in 1973 and haven't looked back.
Dick D
#937129 by Darren Wheeler
01 Aug 2017, 11:13
Get use to most rental cars being gutless wonders with soft suspension.

Most big hire depots at airports allow you to select your car from a line of the class you booked. Don't be in too much of a rush to select a car and go. Take your time checking the car for damage, especially the wheels and make sure you note it on the form. That's your protection when returning it.

I generally take something like a Nissan or Toyota. They tend to be more economical and have some more bells and whistles such as reversing camera, sat-nav.

If your booking allows, try to use the on-line check-in as this will allow you to go straight to the garage and avoid a potentially long queue for the desks.
#937130 by Eggtastico
01 Aug 2017, 11:29
Darren Wheeler wrote:
If your booking allows, try to use the on-line check-in as this will allow you to go straight to the garage and avoid a potentially long queue for the desks.


Or if you you are getting a Hertz - get an Amex Gold Card. 10% off & Gold Status + Queue jumping. + other perks like 2x airport lounge access. Free in the first year so well worth it!
#937133 by GeeJay
01 Aug 2017, 12:30
One or two extra tips:
Do not park on the ‘wrong side of the street’ except in one-way streets i.e always park on the right.
On very long inclines it may be advisable to turn off air conditioning to prevent the engine overheating.
Alcohol must only be carried in the trunk (boot) of the car. Simply having an opened bottle of alcohol inside a vehicle is an offence.
When approaching a turn-off from an interstate, the right-hand lane may make you leave the interstate. Ensure you are in the correct lane, well in advance, if you don’t want to leave the interstate.

Enjoy your trip!
#937140 by pjh
01 Aug 2017, 14:24
ScoobySu wrote:At gas stations most are pay at pump, which wouldn't accept our cards as we don't have a zip code. Most times we authorised say $ 30 inside the store and if we only filled up to $ 25 we were only charged $ 25. At some of the smaller stations there was a minimum card charge of $ 25.

This year I found a web site called "Gas Buddy" - pop in your location or where you want to fill up and it tells you the local prices and can then guide you to them. On the same street there can be big differentials - in Paso Robles Chevron wanted $ 3.50 a (US) gallon but we found $ 2.80 5 minutes away. Some stations also have a lower price for cash vs card.



Excellent advice. I'd completely forgotten about this. When we drove up to Seattle I recall there were petrol...sorry, gas...stations which you had to have a specific store card to use.

Francis007 wrote:I innocently leaned out of my window and politely asked the cop in the passenger seat if he knew a way to get back to Logan as we had missed the ramp. He asked if we were English ! How could he have known !!! :-D

He then got out of the car, walked across the highway, waited until the lights changed to green.....and then held up thousands of Bostonians who were trying to get home......and indicated to me to do a U turn....so we could be on the right side for Logan !!!!!!!

It was a wonderful and kindly thing to do and we will always remember it. Can you imagine a U.K. road traffic cop doing that !!!


That's a great story.


Traveller2 wrote:One thing to remember on Interstates (motorways), is that your exit can be on either side of the road. If you are not sure what side you will be getting off, try and stay in one of the centre lanes until you see your exit sign.


Also..what is the order of the destinations on the exit signs - is it top = furthest or top = nearest. I can't remember but I recall getting it wrong a couple of times.

whiterose wrote:Not sure if this applies to the west coast, but in New Jersey there's a junction called a 4-way, where you MUST stop even if there's no vehicle in sight. If there are others, the first vehicle at the junction has right of way, then the second and so on.


Yes, they are prevalant on the West Coast also,

whiterose wrote:I wonder whether you'll get so used to an automatic that you'll not want to go back to manual, bit like turning left on the plane?

[/quote]

For me, no. Much prefer a manual.
#937144 by walesflyer
01 Aug 2017, 17:17
You will be fine.... its actually much easier than you think. I had to do all the driving in Florida last year as hubby had only just come out of plaster the week before. The worst part was in and out of Miami airport. The rest of it was very simple, the speeds are lower, I found drivers generally very polite and patient. There are no confusing roundabouts and generally the road layout is clear and easy to understand. I would say just take your time and relax.

With regards to the automatic, just try and forget you have a left foot. I found it easier as especially when you first get in at the airport and start driving, you only need to concentrate on the road and can keep both hands on the wheel while you get used to driving on the otherside. I have lots of hire cars for work and I always request an automatic now.

Coincidentally, we are flying to SEA next TUesday for a West Coast road trip too... sharing the driving this time though!

enjoy!
#937152 by pjh
01 Aug 2017, 21:59
FLYERZ wrote:Thanks for all the replies, know I can always count on the v-flyer clan. Think I have quite an extensive list of tips now. Other than where stated what type of speeds limits do they follow?


Here you go.
#937154 by ColH
01 Aug 2017, 23:27
You shouldn't worry about it. Automatics are easier. That's the point. There is generally a nice foot rest for your left foot, just use that. Many cars have the gearstick on the side of the steering column, but it's easy. The gear you are in almost always shows up in the instrument panel. Foot on brake, turn key, move to R or D, release parking brake (may well be a small pedal way over on left at the right height to turn your shin), release foot from brake slowly, you will probably find the car starts moving without any pressure on the throttle. The is great in a jam, but remember in a tight space. Then it's just right pedal to go and left to stop. When you pull up, put it into park (P) and put the parking brake on and turn off with foot on brake pedal again. I switched because of a problem with my left leg that means I can't use a clutch and get a blue badge many years ago and I've not missed a manual since.

I have never found a problem switching right/left side of road and have driven in many states. The four-way stop roads are confusing at first but fine. One thing I'd say about main roads is don't leave too long a gap. I know that sounds like bad advice, but any long gap and some sod will get in there! And on highways you can overtake in any lane so keep an eye on both mirrors, but it's second nature after a few minutes. Being able to turn right on red-lights is a great rule.

As for speeding - yes, be careful. Most people will go at up to 10MPH over the limit on quite roads possibly but if you blow the limit away you can get done and highway patrol/sheriffs hide behind signs and in the bits where you can u-turn. About 10 years ago we were driving from Phoenix up to Monument Valley, a long trip. A car was doing exactly 60 on a 65 road with overtaking lanes every few miles. I got to one and put my foot down to get past quickly, just as a highway patrol car came the other way. I forgot I had a 5l engine and off it had shot. Of course he did a u-turn and came up behind me with lights and siren. I pulled over as the annoying man cruised past laughing. He asked if I knew how quickly I'd been going. I honestly didn't know so guessed "80?" "No sir, you were doing 92. In the state of Arizona you go to jail for going faster than 90". Hmmm. We were flying home the day after. So he asked why there were no plates on the car - it was so new when we picked it up from Vegas airport there was a piece of paper instead. Then he asked for a license. "What's this?" "I'm English". Hmmm, "Can you step out of the car please sir?" "Yes sir, but I'm going to reach behind me, I'm just warning you in case you see me reaching for something because I'm disabled and I need a cane to walk on the road." At this point he just visibly gave up and gave me a written warning without a fine, etc. No more 92 for me!
#937162 by Eggtastico
02 Aug 2017, 09:07
forgot to mention about 'the creep'. Autos will go forward when in drive without pressing the accelerator - this is a design to help with hill starts, but on the flat the car will creep forward. This along with the Kickdown (burst in acceleration) or prob 2 of the things you would prob love to have in a 'shift-stick'!
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