Driving In New York For The First Time

Are you planning to visit New York and drive for the first time? Full disclaimer; driving in New York can be stressful, especially considering the congested traffic, cyclists, and oblivious pedestrians. If you think that is challenging, wait until you try to find a good parking spot without getting a ticket.

Lucky for you, we’ll be discussing everything that you need to know about driving in New York for the first time.

Driving in New York

Acquiring a License

You can drive in New York with a foreign license. You don’t need to apply for the New York driver’s license unless you plan on being a resident. Also, if your license is not in English, you need to bring an international permit or a certificate of translation.

If you are planning to reside in New York, you need to acquire a New York driver’s license. For you to get the license, you must first pass the written NY Permit Test, complete a 5-hour pre-licensing course and pass the practical driving test.

Road Signs

When in New York, there are avenues where you’re not allowed to make a turn during certain hours, so be on the lookout for such signs. For instance, you’re not allowed to turn right at a red light in New York City; unless otherwise posted. If you’re found making an illegal turn by the traffic police, you will be given a ticket.


The speed limit in New York varies on different roads. If you’re on highways outside the city, the speed limit is usually 55 miles per hour; unless otherwise stated. However, if you’re within the city zone, the speed limit is usually 25 miles per hour.

Keep in mind you’re expected to drive with reasonable care depending on the obstacles or road conditions. For instance, you’re expected to slow down to less than 15 mph when driving next to schools and construction sites, and residential areas. Also, the speed limit on railway crossings, alleys, and highway intersections without clear visibility is usually 15 miles per hour.

Toll Roads

Well, you can’t avoid toll roads in New York. Okay, maybe you can avoid toll roads but even if you do, it’s too much work trying to go around and you will probably spend more money on gas. 

Otherwise, you can pay toll fees in New York by using cash, credit card, check, or you can have the money automatically deducted from your account if you have an E-ZPass tag. However, if you do not have the pass, your car license will be photographed and the toll bill sent to your address.

Blocking the box

To reduce traffic congestion, you could get fined if you “block the box” in New York. For those who don’t know what it means, it’s a rule that prohibits drivers from entering an intersection or a “traffic box” despite knowing that the intersection is crowded and you probably won’t have time to pass through before the light turns red.

Driving While Intoxicated

Driving while intoxicated is considered a serious offense in New York, and you could get convicted if you’re a repeat offender. But what constitutes driving while intoxicated in New York? If you’re an adult over 21 years, you’re not allowed to drive if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher.

On the other hand, if you’re a commercial driver, it’s illegal to get behind the wheel with a BAC of 0.04% or higher. But if you’re under 21 years, there is a zero-tolerance law that prohibits you from driving with a BAC of 0.02% or higher.

Unnecessary Honking

Unnecessary honking is prohibited in New York; if you’re caught, you could get fined up to $350. However, once you arrive in New York, you’ll notice this law is rarely enforced. Then again, just because everybody is getting away with it, it doesn’t mean you will.

Keep Distance From Fire Hydrants

When looking for a spot to park, avoid parking close to fire hydrants. You should maintain a distance of 15 meters away from fire hydrants before you park. However, if you fail to observe the distance, your car will be impounded and towed.

Another thing; if you park near a crosswalk, ensure all your tires are outside the crosswalk or you’ll risk getting a ticket.


Find a good parking spot is very difficult in New York state, especially when you’re in the city zone. Even if you find a parking spot in the city zone, it’s not cheap.

In most cases, the parking spots are rarely empty and if you come across an empty parking spot that everyone is avoiding, it could be a reserved parking spot.

Beyond that, you will find parking meters that specify how long you’re allowed to park at certain parking spots; and what time of the day you should park. If you’re out of options, your best shot is to find parking garages in the city zone.