A driving license in the U.S. is very important, since many cities are spread out and may not have adequate public transportation. A driver’s license is considered a form of national identification in the U.S.
Valid French License?
-- A French driver’s license is only valid for the first three months upon arrival. However, always check with the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices, as this varies from state to state.
-- If you have an international driver’s license, it is only valid if you are visiting, not living in the country.
-- Certain U.S. states have reciprocal agreements with France or other countries on driver's licenses, which facilitate getting a U.S. license.
How to get a license
The local Department of Motor Vehicles processes all license requests. Non-U.S. citizens must have proof of birth date, and usually a social security number, and proof of legal immigrant status. You should always check the state website, since requirements vary from state to state. To actually get your license, you must pass a written and driving test. Most states furnish you a study guide or driver’s handbook, explaining the rules about driving in America. The written exam will be based on the handbook. If you pass your written and driving test, you will generally be issued your license immediately.
Driving in America
-- You should always respect the speed limit, since the police are quite vigilant and more present than in Europe. There may be hidden radars on the highways to monitor speeds. Generally, speed limits range from 55 miles per hour (mph), or 88km/h, to 85 mph, or 136km/h. In the city, speed limits can vary from 20 mph to 40 mph. Look at each sign carefully to make sure you are going to right speed. Most states will deduct "points" for moving violations, which will add to your insurance costs. Drunken driving regulations are stringent and can lead to immediate loss of license.
-- Unlike in France, in the U.S. traffic lights are situated high above the street, often at the far side of an intersection, and not to the side. Be careful, and always stop before the white line. In most areas of the U.S., you may turn right at a red light after stopping. A blinking orange light means that you must slow down and proceed with caution, and a blinking red light means you must stop before going on.
-- Incoming traffic from the right does not have the right of way like in France and most of Europe. When you come to a ‘Stop’ sign, you must come to complete stop for at three seconds. If you are at an intersection with several ‘Stop’ signs, each car must go in the order they came.
-- Certain highways have a specific lane on the very left for carpooling (when there is more than one person in the car) for High Ocuupancy Vehicles (H.O.V.). If you are alone during hours when they HOV lane is active (usually during rush hours), you can be fined.
-- When a school bus (usually large and yellow) stops, and a flashing ‘Stop’ sign comes out, you must come to a complete stop, even if the school bus is on the opposite lane/oncoming traffic. This signifies that there are children getting on or getting off the bus.
-- The road system in America is made up of highways, expressways, and freeways (usually like national rouds in Europe). Beltways are the equivalent of France’s “boulevards périphériques,” and interstate highway like “autoroutes.” Some highways, usually called turnpikes, require paying tolls.
-- Gas stations are generally more frequant than in Europe and funtion in the same manner. Most cars use unleaded, which translates as “sans plomb.” Gas in the U.S. is measured in gallons, 1 gallon = about 3,8 liters). Diesel fuel is avaiable but used much less than in Europe.