Driving a car in the USA

There are many ways to travel in the United States. Many cities have buses, trains (also called “subways”), trolleys, or streetcars. Anyone can ride these vehicles for a small fee.

In some places, you can buy a card good for several trips on subways or buses. You can also pay for each trip separately. Taxicabs, or “taxis,” are cars that take you where you want to go for a fee. Taxis are more expensive than other types of public transportation.

How do I get a driver's license?

It is against the law to drive without a driver’s license. You must apply for and get a driver’s license if you want to drive. You get your driver’s license from the state where you live.

Check with the state office that issues driver’s licenses to find out how to get one. These offices have different names in each state. Some common names are Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Administration, or Department of Public Safety. You can find these offices in the blue pages of the phone book or get more information at http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Motor_Vehicles.shtml.

Some permanent residents already have a driver’s license from another country. You may be able to trade this for a license in your state. Check with your state office to see if you can do this.

Should I buy a car?

Owning a car can be a convenient way to get around. In the U.S., you must also pay for car insurance, registering your vehicle, and licenses. Heavy traffic can make driving difficult in some cities. Think of all the costs and benefits before you decide to buy a car.


• Drive on the right-hand side of the road.

• Always have your driver’s license and insurance card with you.

• Always wear your seat belt.

• Use proper seat belts and car safety seats for children.

• Use your car’s signals to show if you are turning left or right.

• Obey all traffic laws and signals.

• Pull over to the side of the road if an emergency vehicle—police car, fire truck, or ambulance—needs to pass you.

• Do not pass a school bus when its red lights are flashing.

• Do not drive if you have been drinking or taking drugs.

• Be very careful when driving in fog, ice, rain, or snow.

→ TIP: A driver’s license is used for identification in the United States. It’s a good idea to get one even if you don’t own a car.

If you do not know how to drive, you can take driving lessons. Many public school districts have classes in “driver education.”You can also look under “Driving Instruction” in the yellow pages of the phone book.

→ TIP: Hitchhiking is not common in the United States. In many places, it is illegal. For safety reasons, do not hitchhike and do not give rides to hitchhikers.


For bus travel: Greyhound 1-800-229-9424 or http://www.greyhound.com.

For train travel: Amtrak 1-800-872-7245 or http://www.amtrak.com.

For air travel: There are many airlines in the U.S. Look in your phone book yellow pages under “Airlines.”