Driving on an unfamiliar road can easily result in an accident, especially if the driver isn’t confident in his or her knowledge of the area. In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation has found that nearly 22% of large commercial vehicle crashes are due in part to this very issue. If you're planning to drive your car rental in an unfamiliar area during your upcoming trip, remember to be careful. Traffic laws and conditions can vary greatly from one city to the next, so it’s crucial that you remain alert and engaged while driving.
How to Boost Your Confidence Behind the Wheel
Here are a few quick and easy ways to alleviate stress when driving your car rental in an unfamiliar place.
1) Know the Local Traffic Laws
This is extremely important, especially if you’re traveling abroad. Knowing the laws will not only help you avoid a run in with local law enforcement, but it will also help you anticipate the type of traffic you might encounter. Some towns feature roundabouts, odd-looking road signs, or bizarre junctions. The more you know about these features, the easier it will be to prepare for them.
2) Pay Close Attention to Your Environment
In some places, having a herd of cows stand in the middle of the road is common among the locals, but strange for out-of-towners. Southern residents may not know how to handle an icy bridge, while urban dwellers may panic if they ever find themselves bumper-to-bumper with farm equipment. Understanding your environment will make it easier for you to anticipate the types of situations you might encounter. It’s also a good idea to tune into the local weather report before hitting the road.
3) Take Note of Landmarks
One of the best ways to build confidence when driving in an unfamiliar place is to familiarize yourself with an area map. During your travels, make note of prominent landmarks in relation to the streets on your map. This will make it easier for you to pinpoint your location and recognize important destinations. If ever you are forced to stop and ask for directions, be sure to enquire about any prominent landmarks that are in the area.
4) When in Doubt, Request a GPS
Most car rental companies now offer GPS units as rental accessories. And while they can be pricey, the additional cost could save you hours of frustration.
Common Road Rules
If you happen to get lost during your travels always remember to:
• Avoid Sudden Changes of Direction – if you miss a turn or an exit, stay calm. Continue to the next pass or exit in order to find a safe way to change direction. Trying to suddenly correct your car rental route may result in you performing an unsafe or illegal maneuver that could threaten the safety of your passengers or those traveling in vehicles around you.
• Signal Your Intentions – Using your turn indicator well in advance will notify other drivers of your intentions and make it easier for you to navigate through unfamiliar traffic conditions.
• Reduce Speeds – Extra time and patience is needed on unfamiliar roadways. Driving slower will give you more time to identify and respond to unexpected obstacles including curves in the road, fallen debris, animals, and potholes.
Driving on unfamiliar roads doesn’t have to be a nerve-wracking experience. Arrive alive – plan ahead and familiarize yourself with your travel surroundings.