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Old 10th February 2009, 10:28   #1
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Default An Indian in New Jersey! - Questions about driving in the USA

Hi All,

I just came in here at NJ. And would be sticking around for some time (hopefully).

I am a pretty decent Indian driver with none whatsoever experience with driving on the right side of the road. I have driven in SE Asia a lot of times but nowhere in Europe or US.

Questions:
1. Do Indians find it difficult to adapt to opposite side driving?
2. I have a valid Indian driving license with a IDP, do I need to appear for GDP including road test to get a license here?
3. Anyone in NJ from Team-Bhp who is willing to share contact of good driving school here?
4. Any tips for a first timer (in terms of driving on the US roads and all)

Thanks!
Sid
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Old 10th February 2009, 11:28   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sids911 View Post
....
Questions:
1. Do Indians find it difficult to adapt to opposite side driving?
2. I have a valid Indian driving license with a IDP, do I need to appear for GDP including road test to get a license here?
3. Anyone in NJ from Team-Bhp who is willing to share contact of good driving school here?
4. Any tips for a first timer (in terms of driving on the US roads and all)
1. Yes. It takes a while to get used to for two reasons.
i) The bulk of the car is now on the right side of you.
ii) Driving on the other side of the road! This can get extra confusing at junctions, roundabouts, and especially when your fatigued, stressed or tired.

Always be extra extra cautious and never be over confident (or even "confident" for the first few months!).

Take extra care on new/unfamiliar roads.
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/1021620-post72.html


2. http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/route-...dp-thread.html (The International Driving License (IDL) / International Driving Permit (IDP) Thread)


3. No idea, but see this : http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/team-b...nj-ct-usa.html

4. Be extra extra careful. Get good insurance.

Go to the website for NJ's DMV and download the driving manual. READ IT THOROUGHLY before even touching a car!!!!! Some things are very different from driving in india.

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/intern...countries.html (Driving Etiquette in different countries)

Misc:
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/shifti...1-us-back.html (To US and back)


Goodluck,
R
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Old 11th February 2009, 01:15   #3
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If you are a decent driver, you don't need a driving school. Just drive carefully, exercising extra caution at intersections etc, be conscious always that you are now driving on the right side of the road. You will progress ultimately to the stage of unconscious competence, but will take some time to get there.

Get a GPS, a good one at that. But having a GPS should not mean that you don't observe at all. Treat it as a secondary help device, else you will never learn your way around the place.

Observe your mirrors, traffic signals, stop lights etc. In India, you could probably afford to miss one of those, but here it can be costly.

btw, the title should have been "One among the score of Indians in NJ"
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Old 11th February 2009, 02:46   #4
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Another important thing to remember-give yourself time in getting used to the system,before you go for the actual license exam.
Learn slowly,but learn well.
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Old 12th February 2009, 12:50   #5
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Some tips about driving in NJ
1. Indian license WITHOUT IDP is valid for first 3 months.
To get NJ driving license, you need to clear just a written test if you have credit card style Indian license. But if you have booklet like old style license, you will be required to give written as well as road test.

2. Get a driving license or at least a state ID, it serves as ID card at ALL places in US. no need to carry your passport around.

3. NJ roads and drivers are known to be one of the worst in the US. Especially, the NJ turnpike (I-95/I-80) near Jersey City/Newark/West NY area is quite intimidating for a first time driver In US, especially because of the huge lorries which zoom past you at 80-90 mph. As you go closer to New York City, the roads start getting more confusing, and you need to be especially alert as to where the lane you are traveling in, goes to. So practice on smaller roads before you take on the interstates.

4. Don't bother searching for a driving school. There aren't any decent ones. Most driving schools charge a bomb ($40-50 an hr). If you are a decent driver in India, catch a friend or colleague who has US driving experience, rent a car on a weekend and go driving You should be fine.

5. Follow rules. Speed limits are quite strict. If you are over the limit by 5 mph, its OK, but anything more than that ensures a ticket with some points (which in turn affects your credit history, which results in more insurance , more interest rate when you buy your own car etc etc, its a long cycle which bites you back at every step of your life )

6. One more important thing Indian drivers should keep in mind in US, is that, lanes on roads are present for a reason. You absolutely MUST follow lane discipline. If you are in a wrong lane at an intersection,you should go where the lane arrow tells you to go. Dont change lanes halfway through intersection. Same goes for interstates. Get in the acceleration lane or deceleration lane well before your are about to join or leave the expressway. Cutting lanes on expressways can be fatal.

HTH.

Last edited by abhijitaparadh : 12th February 2009 at 12:54.
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Old 12th February 2009, 21:48   #6
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Point #2 above is very true. If you are planning to stay in the USA for any length of time do get a driving liscence or ID (same thing without the driving part) from the DMV. It will be useful.

Other points to keep in mind :

- When merging onto the highways, use the onramp to come up to speed. ie, accelerate on the onramp till atleast 50mph (or more) depending on the general speed of the traffic BEFORE you merge. If you're going slow and try to merge it will cause problems!

- People merging onto the highway always have right of way (In heavy traffic situations, it goes alternately/interleaved - except in cases where they have signals on the onramps!(california).)

- Besides the "not stopping for stop signs" one other very dangerous situation (and a common urge for RHD drivers) is:

If youre trying to take a left turn when you come to a signal, and there is only a general green light (no arrows) - you tend to keep going with the flow and continue into the left turn at the same speed without worrying about much. (...like how it is in india)

Except, if you do the above you will probably cause a fatal accident. You are supposed to LOOK before taking the left (if you stop, do so before turning your wheels left). Take the left ONLY when there are no cars coming - since they have right of way.

Sometimes if you're trying to make a left and the signal is JUST opening or closing, the people on the opposite side of the road will let you go.


- Another difference, in india - flashing your lights means "get out of my way, im not stopping". In the USA it means "you go first" (eg. at a stop sign etc).

cya
R

Last edited by Rehaan : 12th February 2009 at 21:49.
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Old 12th February 2009, 22:20   #7
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Adding to Rehaan's suggestions do follow these as well and though my experiences and suggestions are with Bay Area DMV, these are some general traffic principles followed in almost all the states.

1. Some "right of way rules" that you need to follow

a. A driver approaching an intersection must yield the right-of-way to traffic already lawfully using the intersection.
b.
At intersections not controlled by signs or signals, or where two or more drivers stop at STOP signs at the same time and they are at right angles to one another, the driver on the left must yield the right-of-way to the driver on the right
c.
A vehicle entering a roadway from a driveway, alley, private road, or any other place that is not a roadway, must stop and yield the right-of-way to traffic on the roadway, and to pedestrians.
d.
If drivers approaching from opposite directions reach an intersection at about the same time, a driver turning left must yield to approaching traffic going straight or turning right.

2 . School Bus:
When a stopped school bus flashes its red light(s), traffic approaching from either direction, even in front of the school and in school parking lots, must stop before reaching the bus. You should stop about 20 to 30 feet away from the bus. You can identify this bus by a "SCHOOL BUS" sign, the red lights on top, and its unique yellow/orange color.

Before a school bus stops to load or unload passengers, the driver will usually flash yellow warning lights. When you see them, slow down and be prepared to stop ----> I was once booked for stopping too close to the Bus
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Old 12th February 2009, 22:49   #8
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Arrow immigration clarification.

Quote:
Originally Posted by abhijitaparadh View Post
2. Get a driving license or at least a state ID, it serves as ID card at ALL places in US. no need to carry your passport around.
No actually, that's not true. The Driving Licence / State ID will serve as an official ID in most places but it isn't an immigration / status document.

This means that a Police Officer will accept the DL / State ID as an identification document but an Immigration official will not accept it as an exception for a passport (with your US visa) or green card.


sids911 -> You're used to driving in India.
An alternative if you don't want to go to a driving school: There are certain individuals who run a sort of mobile driving school. You can hire them and their car for around $70 for 3 days (atleast that was the rate in 2002 ). They'll familiarise you with the rules in your state (NJ), and take you around a route similar to the one you'll be taking on your driving test.
Look up craigslist or ask around if you have any friends in nearby Universities. They'll guide you to such an individual.

Last edited by aah78 : 12th February 2009 at 22:53.
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Old 12th February 2009, 23:22   #9
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It will be very difficult to pass the driving test without having atleast done couple of sessions with the "mobile driving" school.
Alternative is that you practice a lot before you give driving test.
When you give written test you can show your Indian license, and they will issue you a temp license which is as good as the normal license.

Coming to driving, the left to right shift is not too difficult to adapt to. Drive in areas with less traffic to get used to it.
Points to note.
1. When you come down a one way street, and make a left turn on a 2 way street, your instincts will kick over and you will invardently face oncoming traffic. So be careful on one ways. Driving on one ways is simple, but when the one way ends, its tough
2. Speed. Yes speed is a big issue. We are simply not used to driving 70 miles/hour except on empty roads. Over here even with lots of traffic on road, everybody is going at 65 75 mph on freeways. And pileups do happen. So make sure you have adequate braking distance. If you rear end someone on a freeway, its usually a chain reaction and if you are the last guy in the pileup, your insurance has to pay for everybody else.

3. Do not slow down while overtaking. Speed up. The 18 wheeler won't change lanes just like that like they do in India. ditto for lane change. My instructor told me clearly, when you are changing lanes you do it in a way that the guy in front of who you are coming to, does not have to slow down, so when changing lanes, try matching speed with the lane you are getting into. Most freeway merges have adequate runup space so that you can get upto 50-60mph(The speed at which the slow lane, i.e. the righmost lane is going)

4. Crosswinds. Many parts of freeways go through sections which are very very windy, and at high speeds it means you have to wrestle the steering to keep your car in lane, so be very very careful on freeways

5. Pedestrians. They have right of way. Period. Even if its not a crosswalk, and even if its a jaywalker who jumped on the road, you stop. At a crosswalk even if the pedestrian is on other side of the road, you wait till he crosses over. Some instructors fail you in the test if you start when the pedestrian is 90% crossed. Has happened to my friends

6. And last but not the least, when your driving test appointment comes up, make sure you drive around the DMV as much as possible. Get acquainted with stop signs, crosswalks, tricky turns, esp where there is only one green light(no separate green light for left turn), and left turners have to yield to through traffic. Read up the handbook, it has everything
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Old 13th February 2009, 12:10   #10
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My 2cents here (adding to the good suggestions here)
+ If possible ride as a passenger for a few days (in taxi etc) and observe carefully the driving style, rules, merge ramp into highways, exit from highways, stop / yield rules...
+ would be good to read up NJ driving rules book
+ For LHD and RHD, here's what worked for me from the 1st drive
* Driver is always towards the road median (away from kerb of the road) irrespective of LHD orRHD
* When needing to take a turn, the driver remains away from the kerb side of the road and towards the median. If you use this criteria, you'll always turn in the right direction :-)
* Like someone said before, initial days, one needs to concentrate doubly. Turning onto the wrong way may cause a big head-on accident. One can't be too careful till it becomes natural.
+ Keep more distance from the car in front of you (esp on higways) - you can easily see what is observed by cars around you. There are also rules for distance vs speed in the driving rules book.

Happy driving.

Last edited by lancer_rit : 13th February 2009 at 12:12.
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Old 13th February 2009, 13:51   #11
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Default Driving lessons are must

Whether you are a good or bad driver, taking 1-2 driving sessions is a must do activity in order to get the license. When DMV examiner is taking your driving test, they follow few perticular steps -
They will take you through left turns, right turns, changing lanes etc.
If you make a mistake, they mark it on your scorecard. I guess, 7-8 minor mistakes are allowed (they won't fail you) but more than that and you are failed. Not a single major mistake is allowed (e.g. Not taking a left turn from left side turning lane or not stopping at STOP sign)

It's important to follow these minor details - e.g. when you change a lane, always look in the mirror, then over the shoulder and then change the lane. The driving school instrutor will teach you these things. Let him know that you know the driving and the intent is to learn how to drive safe and according to rules in US.

What I found in my 4-5 years of driving in US is - these rules are made to make driving safe and as long as you are following all the rules, probability of an accident is much less.
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Old 18th February 2009, 00:12   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sids911 View Post
Hi All,

I just came in here at NJ. And would be sticking around for some time (hopefully).

I am a pretty decent Indian driver with none whatsoever experience with driving on the right side of the road. I have driven in SE Asia a lot of times but nowhere in Europe or US.

Questions:
1. Do Indians find it difficult to adapt to opposite side driving?
2. I have a valid Indian driving license with a IDP, do I need to appear for GDP including road test to get a license here?
3. Anyone in NJ from Team-Bhp who is willing to share contact of good driving school here?
4. Any tips for a first timer (in terms of driving on the US roads and all)

Thanks!
Sid
Honestly a good driver is a GOOD one basically because of his road skills. IMHO even a monkey can wield a steering - only proper road sense is the saving grace there. So the answer to your questions are:

1. Personally i did not have any problems driving out there. The only advice is to keep your eyes and ears open while you are in a cab/car someone else is driving. Get some proper inputs regarding turning, lane changing, traffic signals, speed sense etc. You need to know the laws very well before you get behind the wheels. It took me exactly 9 days (4 hrs of driving around in a senior colleagues car overall) to understand the basics. I was driving around in a white Nissan 350Z in Orange County,CA where the roads are easier in comparison to NJ. Specially the turnpike and exits - exercise caution, yeild (NJ guys are crazy - they never yeild like they do in CA) and get a good GPS system - you will get lost initially. But a word of caution do not follow the GPS rigorously. Only time I managed to get close enough to an accident when I was followign the GPS and it was pitch black on the highway and almost failed to notice the divider at 90 miles/hr. Scary.
2. For 3 months you can get away with an Indian license - its valid in CA, NJ, etc. i.e. as long as you are on a B1 visa - the Indian license (in english) in cc form will do (the booklet does not work). You need to be carrying the passport if you are there for short term and driving.
3. Dunno - just check the local yellow pages - intially my boss suggested that I get a 4 hr crash course from a driving school there- but 300 USD for a 3-4 hrt crash course seemed too much. So 30 hrs later I was behind the wheels of a sports roadster with 300 bhp inside. Just learn from what you see on the roads and ask questions to poeple like how t o turn, where to turn, how to yeild, where to yeild, how to change lanes, signals, proper highway speeds, overtaking, etc. Read the info from the DMV website of those proper states. CA has a well detailed pdf wjhich you can download and read.
4. The best part is you cannot be fined if caught speeding if you are there for short term. (Seriously ) They dunno where to send receipts - thats what the cop once told me. But excercise caution - do not get into an accident or even if you do carry insurance papers etc with you - maintain etiquette and exchange insurance information in case of an accident. Always take a company rented car - they have a built in insurance with Hertz, Avis etc. Borrowign a car and takign insurance on a daily basis is expensive. And never ever get into a hit and run situation. And please don't ever hit a human out there - you will be in for great trouble if you do

Practice safe driving - have fun (you got the best roads there) - know your limits - every car is different, know the limitations of the car - every road is different (CA is different from NJ) - keep a GPS.

And when you do learn how to drive properly do take a mustang/Nissan 350Z/Dodge and drive on the freeway or the interstate. Soak in the roar of the engine and the exhaust note. You will love it.
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Old 23rd February 2009, 16:43   #13
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@ Sids..

I used to live in Washington DC area and the following are what I followed.

1. Learn the rules, get used to the other side of the road by sitting as a passenger (not as a driver). And trust me, it is not at all difficult. BUT let me quote one thing from Rehaan.
Quote:
This can get extra confusing at junctions, roundabouts, and especially when your fatigued, stressed or tired
2. Respect pedestrians.
3. Dont be a Michael Schumacher when the Green turns Amber! Slow down and stop the car.
4. Keep the car within the speed limits.
5. Keep a safe distance with the vehicle in the front.
6. Stop and Proceed! Make it a habit.

And I hardly saw someone following (including Indians) the above points in NJ and NY.

Cheers!
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Old 23rd February 2009, 17:08   #14
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Quote:
Rehaan : ii) Driving on the other side of the road! This can get extra confusing at junctions, roundabouts, and especially when your fatigued, stressed or tired.
A simple adaption that helped me get used to the other side of the road : Follow the vehicle in front of you, esp in the turns. If you stick to that, you should not easily end up on the wrong side of the road.

To add a bit to what TSK said about the 18-wheelers : they will not change lanes at will, and most times you will be the one over-taking them. But :

* Note the message at the back of that truck where it says "This truck makes wide Left (or Right) turns). DO NOT pass it during a turning.

* If the truck is overtaking you instead, honk / flash once after he is clear ahead of you. Read somewhere that the trucker would appreciate such a hint.

Last edited by condor : 23rd February 2009 at 17:09.
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Old 23rd February 2009, 23:08   #15
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Although i didn't find it difficult to pick driving in the US i had a tough time getting the license. I failed the written test once and twice failed the driving test. A friend of mine who had nil experience in driving got the license without any difficulties. The one thing that i learnt was whatever we consider here as best practices here (in India) are not necessarily correct. for ex every time i got to a junction i braked and slowed down, even though the signal was green. The inspector promptly noted those instances that and informed me later.

Last edited by nemo : 23rd February 2009 at 23:10.
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