No amount of rural and highway driving will prepare you for driving in the city if you’ve never done it before. If you’re coming from a smaller town or city and planning to do a lot of urban driving, take the time to consider the sorts of challenges you might face and mentally prepare yourself for them.
Big cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, and Detroit are full of narrow lanes, complex traffic patterns, and unbelievable amounts of traffic. The drivers range from the experienced and aggressive local to the lost and confused tourist, and you need to watch out for all of them.
Here are a few tips for keeping you and your family safe as you explore.
Don’t Navigate on Your Own
As soon as you get into the city, you may be confronted by confusing exits and turn lanes, where a second of confusion or delayed reaction time could mean taking the wrong ramp and going miles out of your way before you can turn around and get back on track. It’s going to be hard to stay on track if you have to look down at your phone for every turn.
Ideally, you’ll have someone with you in the car that can take charge of navigating. That way they can look ahead while you focus on the road. Otherwise, be sure to set your phone or car’s GPS to provide turn-by-turn directions out loud.
Stay Alert and Look Forward
The biggest problem on city streets is the many moving hazards. You need to be awake and alert at all times because you never know when a car or a pedestrian will appear right in front of you.
Cars can come out of nearly any alley or garage, so you need to be watching out for them, even when there’s no cross street.
Get Help Finding Parking
There are few things more stressful than trying to find parking in the middle of traffic on a crowded city block. If you’re not comfortable trying to park on the street, there is always likely to be a garage somewhere nearby.
If you’re looking for an easy solution, there are many smartphone applications that help with parking as well. Not only will parking apps find you a spot for your car, but they may even give you a discount.
Watch the Calendar
Traffic in larger cities can vary widely depending on the time of day and other events going on in the area. Do yourself a favor and check for unusual traffic patterns before you hit the road.
Checking event calendars in the city will help you avoid the bumper-to-bumper traffic that comes with major sports events and conventions. Use your GPS to find a way around these special events.
Keep Your Cool
If you forget every other piece of advice and only remember one thing, remember to stay calm. It’s easy to start to panic and get anxious when drivers are rushing and honking around you and every intersection is like a puzzle. The best way to stay safe is to keep a cool head. Feel free to pull over and take a deep breath if it gets to be too much.