Driving Tips for Florida Roads
There is a lot that goes into planning a vacation. And if you choose to visit the greater Orlando area, one of the most important things to consider is your means of transportation. Unlike a trip to New York or Chicago—where subways and taxicabs are everywhere you turn—the preferred way in Orlando to get from here to there is by car.
This does not mean you have to drive in order to have an amazing vacation in The City Beautiful. You still can. And you will. Whether or not you drive. However, if you do plan to get behind the wheel, here’s a checklist of tips about driving on Florida roads.
General Tips for All Our Visitors (Domestic and Foreign)
1. Renting Your Car
Car rental is the best bet for short-term visitors. There are many different car rental agencies available at either the Orlando International or the Orlando Sanford airport. In order to rent a car, drivers must be 21 years of age or older (it is important to note that drivers between the ages of 21-25 will have to pay an additional charge to rent a vehicle).
2. Paying Your Tolls
There are a number of toll-roads throughout the State of Florida (including across Central Florida). However, not to worry, because most car rental agencies offer programs that allow their customers to utilize the TOLL-BY-PLATE option (this means that any and all tolls and service fees incurred on Florida’s roadways can be automatically charged to the same credit card used to rent the vehicle).
3. Wearing Your Seat Belts
All drivers and front seat passengers are required by law to always wear seat belts (backseat passengers under the age of 18 must wear them too). It does not matter if you are driving from Tallahassee to Miami or merely backing into a parking space, you must wear your seat belt at all times.
4. Protecting Your Children
All children three years of age and younger must be secured in a car seat. Four- and five-year old children must be secured in either a car seat or a seat belt (it is the driver’s responsibility to secure each child).
5. Parking Your Car
Street and metered parking is available throughout the Orlando area, but make sure you pay attention to any hours of operation. Always park in the same direction as the flow of traffic. Remember that parking facing the opposite direction than the flow of traffic may result in a fine.
6. Turning on Red
It is legal to make a right turn at a red light in Florida. But remember to come to a complete stop before you make the turn. Also, make sure there is not a “no turn on red” sign posted.
7. Paying Attention to Street Signs
The majority of street signs—including speed limit signs—are posted on the right side of the road. Street signs are color coded and generally the shape of a sign signifies its meaning.
8. When to Use Your Headlights
You must drive with your headlights on from dusk until dawn. You must drive with your headlights on during rain and fog.
9. Understanding Florida Weather
Driving in the rain also means low beams on, hazards off. Keep in mind that weather in Florida is highly unpredictable for the majority of the year. For the summer months—July and August in particular—it generally rains everyday between approximately 2 PM-6:30 PM ET.
10. Never Drink and Drive
The State of Florida has strict laws for drunk driving. The law prohibits driving any type of vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or above. If you plan on having alcohol as a part of your vacation festivities, please appoint a member of your group as the designated driver or take advantage of a ride sharing service and leave the rental car back at your vacation resort home.
Tips for Our International Guests
4. More 4-Way Stops, Less Roundabouts
4-Way stops are a lot more popular in the United States than roundabouts. Though the occasional roundabout pops up from time to time in Florida, you will be much more likely to see a 4-Way stop. Remember that rolling stops are illegal and may result in a ticket. A good rule of thumb at a stop sign is to stop and “count to 3” before proceeding through the intersection.
5. Pay Before You Pump
If you want to pay to fill up your rental car at a gas station, more than likely you will have to pre-pay before you pump. This is very common and there is no problem to get your change from the attendant if you overpay (e.g., if you pay for $35 worth of gas but your tank is filled after you pump $30).
1. Driving on the Right
As obvious and surprising as this might sound, this is the most important tip to remember. It is also worth noting that this is not only important while driving, but also when watching for pedestrians at cross streets or when you are, in fact, the pedestrian in question. You might also consider practicing turning your head and looking left then right, instead of the other way around.
2. Do You Have ID?
The only ID you need in order to drive in Florida is your documentation of identification from your native country (i.e. driver’s license). An international driving permit is not necessary.
3. Mile Versus Kilometers
Remember, Americans don’t use the metric system. Therefore, please note that everything is miles and inches, not kilometers and centimeters.
Hopefully this little checklist can serve as a helpful guide for what you might encounter as soon as you land, rent, and start your engine. The main thing to remember is to always use the same amount of common sense and street smarts that you always do back home. Orlando is a wonderful city with lots to do and plenty to see. So stay alert and drive safe, because it’s time to jump in the driver’s seat and hit the open road.