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Comprehensive guide to driving in the USA

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Comprehensive guide to driving in the USA

This guide is intended to cover a large number of questionable points regarding driving in the USA (And in American Truck Simulator, by extension).

Some information may not be accurate for Canadian laws/signs/signals.


PRIOR WARNING: There are many images in this guide, and some countries may have blocked some websites which these images are hosted on. (imgur, individual state .gov sites, wikipedia/wikimedia)


I know there is another forum guide (Link) on the American road laws and general knowledge, but it has not been updated since 2016 and no longer represents enough of the information needed to safely drive in ATS with it's vast road network and number of current + future states.


§1. General rules

§2. Signs

§3. Intersections

§4. Advanced Intersections

§5. Passing areas/Lane markings

§6. Traffic lights

§7. Specifics to TruckersMP

§8. Speed

§9. Weigh Stations + Max weights


§1. General Rules



The USA follows many similar road rules to other countries, and as such is respectably easy to drive in if you are from another country.

However, there are many major and minor details that may not be directly obvious as they may be USA specific and as such need some explaining.


1. The USA drives on the right side of the road.


2. White lines are always to your right, and yellow lines are always to your left. There are some exceptions to this (Roadworks, temporary lines, etc.)


3. You may make right turns on red lights, after coming to a full stop, unless there is a sign saying otherwise. This also applies to left turns on red lights, it going from a one-way street to another one-way street.


4. Headlights must be used during inclement (bad) weather/after sunset. Some states require all vehicles to have headlights on all day during winter, or if your windshield wipers are on.


5. While not required, it is a very respectable action to move over to a left lane when you see a vehicle entering an interstate, as it makes the road safer for both you and the other driver, meaning they will not have to come to a complete stop and will be able to safely gain speed.


6. The USA uses MPH and miles as measurements of distance and speed, with a few exceptions.



§2. Signs



There are many different signs the USA uses, and each sign can mean a different thing depending on the context of the area in which it is placed.


1. Color based sign designations/shapes.


Each type of sign has it's own unique color and shape, and it is good to know this information.


2. Speed limits:


This sign is the posted speed in MPH, they may be seen alongside the road and are generally in 5 MPH (~8 km/h) increments (from 5 MPH (~8 km/h) to 80 MPH (~129 km/h) is generally seen.)

There are also a few places in Texas with 85 MPH (~137 km/h) speed limits.


3. Warning signs:

These signs are yellow, and may contain 1 or more pieces of information or recommendations.

For example, a sign like this warns you about a right turn with an intersection present partway through the turn:


There are also signs such as this, generally posted under signs warning about turns, showing you a possible recommended speed for the turn:


It is not required to follow this posted speed, but you should keep in mind that it will signify how sharp the curve ahead is.


4. Signs in construction zones/roadworks:

These signs are always orange, and may contain either warnings or required actions, such as speed limits.



Required action:



5. Guides/Information:

Signs that are guiding you in a specific direction are green, while signs that are informational are blue. There are some exceptions to this rule, such as historic districts or roads.

Directional signs:


As you can see, there is an arrow pointing which side the exit is on. In some of the USA, there may be exits or entrances to interstates from the left side, in which case there will be signs saying there is a "left exit" ahead, and signs showing merging traffic from the left.


Some signs will show you which lane you need to be in to continue a certain direction, and which roads lead where. In the image below, both lanes will split ahead and go in different directions.


You can also see above the standard, country-wide Interstate sign. A short fact to help your navigation - Interstates traveling East-West are even numbered (0, 2, 4, 6, 8 ), while Interstates travelling North-South are numbered odd (1, 3, 5, 7, 9)

So, for example, I-84 (Interstate 84) travels East-West, while I-95 (Interstate 95) travels North-South.


I will explain each of these signs below:


Far left sign:

HOV lane - Only buses and vehicles with 2 or more people may use this lane, generally trucks are not allowed even if they have 2 passengers, however this can depend state by state. Traffic usually travels well over the speed limit in these lanes, and you can usually only enter/exit the lane in very specific places, to prevent people from using it for short overtaking intervals.


Left sign:

This sign is showing that two of the lanes below will go West via Interstate 84 towards hartford.


Right sign:

This sign is showing that one lane ahead will only exit, and you can go East or West from that lane via Interstate 84 or Interstate 291, towards Boston (East, I-84) or Windsor (West, I-291)


Far right sign:

This sign is showing the exit directly under the bridge, you could take this exit to get onto Silver Lane or Spencer Street, and you can see the exit is to the right.



6. Informational signs:


These signs show information which you may find useful, and may show anything from whether or not the exit ahead has food, parking, or hotels/motels. They may also show "attractions" for the area, which may be theme parks or historic districts.


7. Other, non-conforming signs:

You may also encounter white signs that are square or rectangular in shape. These signs will give you either information or tell you about actions that are/are not allowed.

Example 1, No turn on red light:


Example 2, No left turns:


Example 3, One way:



8. More obvious signs:





9. Weight limit signs:


You will see signs similar to this on any road which there is a weight limit depending on the type of vehicle. The above sign shows the max overall weight of a vehicle in US tons (different from metric or imperial tons), but you may also see signs stating the max weight per axle, or max weight for any vehicle.


It is important to keep in mind there are many more signs the USA uses, however, these are the most common and useful ones.



§3. Intersections



The typical 4 way intersection in the USA looks like this from above:


As you can see, each direction has 1 or more turning lanes, and there is a traffic light for each direction.


Now, for an example of the potential chaos of a typical US intersection, and why you must respect traffic signals.

Without lines showing potential directions of travel:


With lines showing potential directions of travel:


As you can see, there are many possibilities when it comes to where a car could be at any point in an intersection.


An important note: In the USA, turning traffic generally does not have priority over oncoming traffic.


§4. Advanced Intersections



There are some very unusual intersections coming into popularity across the USA for their safety and/or improved traffic flow, but navigating some may be confusing your first time.


Diverging diamond:


As you can see, this intersection places drivers on the opposite side of the road, because it prevents drivers from having to make left turns in front of traffic moving in the opposite direction. This type of intersection prevents head-on accidents, and is usually accompanied with various traffic lights and areas which you must yield.



§5. Passing areas/Lane markings



For a lot of information, I recommend referencing this site, as there are many different types of lane markings in the USA.



Passing areas:


On the left is shown lane markings which mean a vehicle may pass in either direction, on the right is shown markings depicting which side may or may not pass.

If the dotted line is on your side, you may pass.

If the solid line is on your side, you may not pass.



Most of the USA implements turning lanes for both major and minor roads at intersections. You may cross double yellow lines to turn into a company or off of the road, however you must yield to oncoming traffic.



Some parts of the USA also implement passing in a lane with oncoming traffic having priority. These roads are generally falling out of use, as they can be very dangerous for drivers.

A "Reversible Center Lane" (shown above) is a type of road where traffic may flow in either direction on the center lane, most states have signals or times in which a lane can be used in one direction or the other.


Here, you can see an example of a road with one yellow line down the center.


A single yellow line down the center of the road is treated the same as a double yellow line, and you should generally not pass on these roads, unless there are markings depicting otherwise, or to pass service/very slow vehicles (mail trucks, stopped garbage trucks, street sweepers, tractors, etc.)

The reason for the use of single yellow lines is to reduce the amount of paint needed for the road, this is both good to save money and the environment.


End of passing zones:


As you can see here, at the end of a passing zone there are two signs posted "No passing zone" and "Do not pass". If you cannot complete an overtake/pass before reaching these signs, then it would be unsafe to continue to try past this point, as oncoming traffic may not be able to see you over a hill, or it may be a passing zone from their side of the road ahead.




§6. Traffic lights



The USA uses many different shapes and sizes of traffic lights, however they all follow the same principles:

Red on top, Yellow in the center, and Green on the bottom.

Comparatively to European traffic lights, the lights in the USA only light up one at a time, meaning you will not see a yellow light on at the same time as the red light.

There are also turning arrows, such as this:


They are sometimes accompanied by signs saying "Left/Right turn signal".


There are many different combinations of traffic lights and turning arrows across the USA.


Example 1: The left turning arrow goes from green, to yellow (or skips yellow entirely), and then turns off.

Answer: You may still turn left, however you you no longer have priority as oncoming traffic has now received a green signal and may cross your intended path.


Example 2: The lights over the lanes going straight have a green light, and the arrow is red.

Answer: You cannot continue through that turn, because the action of turning is currently not allowed.


Example 3: The turning arrow is flashing green/yellow.

Answer: If the arrow is flashing green (typical for Canada), it means you should hurry through the turn, as it will soon turn red/off. If the arrow is flashing yellow, you may turn, but you do not have priority over oncoming traffic (Also typical for Canada).



Flashing single red/yellow lights:

These are almost unique to the USA and Canada, and aren't too common.


A single flashing red light means you must treat the intersection as a stop sign.

A single flashing yellow light means you must continue through the intersection without stopping, but with caution. These are usually used when an intersecting road may have low visibility in either direction.



§7. Specifics to TruckersMP



If you make a mistake or think you did, you should apologize to others in the area/at the intersection/road, as most people will understand that some intersections/roads can be complicated at a first look for anyone who has never used those intersections before.


If you see another person make a mistake at an intersection, you should not insult or laugh at them, but instead you should explain to them how the intersection works, so they won't make the same mistake in the future.


In TruckersMP (currently), it is completely within the rules to run stop signs and drive through red lights as long as nobody else is in the immediate area. This is also true for overtaking regardless of lane markings.


Some aspects may be different for TruckersMP's events. (Real Ops, Official convoys, etc.)



§8. Speed




In the USA and Canada, speed limits are often not strictly enforced.

You will typically see car traffic in 65MPH (~105km/h) limited areas traveling as fast at 75(~121 km/h)-80MPH(~129 km/h).

However, this is not the case for trucks. Trucks are generally held to following speed limits with much stricter enforcement, and the fines for trucks are much higher than for cars.


Most large trucking companies in the USA and Canada will govern their trucks from anywhere between 60 MPH(~97 km/h) and 75 MPH (~121 km/h).


There is no legal requirement in the USA for trucks to be fitted with any type of speed limiting/governing device, unlike the EU.

This is not the case for some provinces in Canada requiring trucks to be fitted with 105 km/h (~65mph) speed limiters/governors.


A simple conversion table for speed (rounded):

25 MPH = 40 km/h

35 MPH = 56 km/h

45 MPH = 72 km/h

55 MPH = 89 km/h

65 MPH = 105 km/h

70 MPH = 113 km/h

75 MPH = 121 km/h

80 MPH = 129 km/h


Some states have differential speed limits, meaning trucks may have a lower speed limit than cars. (For example, California has a statewide maximum for commercial vehicles of 55 MPH, while cars may travel up to 70 MPH.)



§9. Weigh Stations + Max weights



The majority of the states in the USA allow for up to 80,000 lbs max weight in any vehicle, however some states have either lower or higher limits.

There are weigh stations in nearly every state in the USA, as the government wants to prevent damage to roads and infrastructure from overweight or improperly loaded trucks.


You must not drive past weigh stations if you are told to pull in, as you will get a fine if you decide to drive past.

Many weigh stations include places for vehicles to park, and to access them you must first go through the weigh station and then do a sharp right turn to face the opposite direction of which you entered the weigh station area.

You will not be fined by passing through a weigh station if you do not need to.


You are able to get permits to carry weight over the state's maximum, however most states still require you to have a maximum weight per axle. This is not simulated in ATS.



Everything documented here is as of February, 2021. Images may expire and some of this information may become inaccurate. All images used are either CC, or free to use for non-commercial purposes. Some images taken from Google Maps.

Map data ©2019 Google

If anything is wrong, or you would like to know some information not listed or need a better explanation, feel free to reply or DM me on the forum.

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My Discord: P h o e n i x#3587 24H4oa0.jpg Driving since 18 WOS: Haulin'! (2006)

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