Tips to safely drive in large cities

Friday evening rush hour traffic on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in New York, June 4, 2021. (Sasha Maslov/The New York Times)

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Friday evening rush hour traffic on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in New York, June 4, 2021. (Sasha Maslov/The New York Times)

Visitors to large cities often marvel at how drivers traverse urban roadways. Non-city dwellers may white knuckle their way through crowded city streets, all the while wondering how anyone could handle such a stressful experience on a daily basis. Though suburban or rural residents may never master the art of city driving, they can embrace various strategies to make city driving safer and less stressful.

  • Take a small vehicle if possible. Rural and suburban roadways may be built for SUVs and other large vehicles, but that’s not often the case in cities. A feeling of claustrophobia contributes to the discomfort many drivers feel when driving through cities. Some may be worried that their SUVs or trucks will hit parked cars, while others may prefer to be closer to the street so they can easily see pedestrians. Drivers who can choose between an SUV or truck and a smaller vehicle like a sedan may find that they feel more comfortable driving the smaller vehicle inside city limits.
  • Pick and choose your driving times. The National Safety Council says morning rush hour in most cities is typically between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., while afternoon rush hour begins around 4 p.m. and lasts until 7 p.m. Drivers nervous about city driving may benefit by avoiding cities during rush hours. During rush hour, city streets may be overcrowded with commuter buses, taxis and ridesharing services, and professionals anxious to get to work or get home after a long day at the office. That can make city driving especially stressful. If possible, avoid these times.
  • Stay in your lane. The automotive experts at Edmunds.com note that switching lanes will only trim a negligible amount of time off your trip. Those extra few seconds or even minutes are not worth risking an accident. Slow drivers tend to stick to the right lane in cities, though drivers who stay in the right lane should recognize that experienced city drivers who want to make right turns may be aggressive with other right lane drivers who they feel are moving too slowly. Do your best to ignore aggressive drivers and resist the temptation to drive significantly below the speed limit, even when you’re in the right lane.
  • Don’t take turns and crosswalks for granted. Suburban and rural drivers may not give a second thought when approaching crosswalks. But city crosswalks are often filled with pedestrians. That requires a little extra patience and attention when turning or driving through a yellow light within a city.
  • Be mindful of cyclists. Many large cities have established bike lanes to encourage more people to bike to work. Cyclists move more quickly than pedestrians traveling on foot, so always make sure to check sideview mirrors before turning to ensure speedy cyclists are not coming up behind you. In addition, never swerve into bike lanes, as cyclists have every right to be on the road.

A few simple strategies can help drivers calm their nerves about driving within city limits.

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