9 Tips for Driving in Unfamiliar Places

November 19, 2018 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
9 Tips for Driving in Unfamiliar Places

Safe Driving In Unfamiliar Areas

Driving in unfamiliar places can be daunting. There may not be any landmarks to tell you where to turn. You often find yourself straining to read tiny road signs or mailbox numbers to find your destination. Drivers familiar with the roads may honk at you or drive aggressively. Here are some tips to make the experience of driving on unfamiliar roads easier.

Tip #1: Pay Attention to Speed Limits

In some cases, your GPS may let you know what the speed limit is on the road you're traveling. In other cases, you may have to keep a sharp eye out for speed limit signs. In either case, remember that speed limits are created and posted for a reason. They may signal to you that you are approaching a residential neighborhood or a hazard in the road.

Tip #2: Don't Rely on GPS Alone

Your GPS is a great way to get you from point A to point B on unfamiliar roads. Unfortunately, there are times—especially in rural areas—when your GPS won't be as accurate as you'd like. If possible, get directions from someone before you head out, including landmarks that can guide you to a hidden turnoff or unmarked location. If you have no choice but to use your GPS alone, make sure you take a solid look at those directions before you leave to help you find your destination if your GPS stops working. Forming a “mental map” of the directions can also help you reduce stress while you're driving. Finally, remember GPS devices sometimes don't know about road closures, changes in traffic patterns, or road conditions. Don't be one of those people who blindly follow GPS instructions that lead you into danger!

Tip #3: Pay Attention to Landmarks

Backcountry hikers have a rule: when following an unfamiliar trail, always look behind you once in a while to form a picture of what it will look like going in the opposite direction. That big tree you just passed can look different from one side than from the other. The same rule can apply to driving in unfamiliar places. While driving, take note of significant landmarks and form a mental image of where they will be in relation to you on your reverse trip. The more attention you pay to the area around you, the faster this “new” area will start feeling comfortable.

Tip #4: Get to Know the Area

Before you head to a new area, do some basic online searching to get to know more about it. If you know that it's an area full of wildlife, for example, you'll know that you need to slow down on the road and pay attention, especially at night. If you know that there are curvy roads or steep hills, you can plan your driving habits accordingly. You can also plan ahead for toll roads and other common inconveniences when you're out on the road. Know that you're going to need to park in a difficult area? Research your parking options ahead of time. Researching parking will also let you know whether you need to have cash on hand to pay for a parking garage or lot. While you're researching, if you're going to be outside your home state, take note of important traffic laws both at your destination and along the way. Some states may, for example, have different laws for helmet use or the use of child safety restraints.

Tip #5: Rent the Right Car

Are you flying into a new city and picking up a rental car? Choose your rental with care. You want a rental car that you'll be comfortable driving, not one with so many bells and whistles that you're uncomfortable even trying to maneuver it out of a parking spot. Pay attention to size, too: smaller cars can be easier to maneuver in tight city streets and other high-traffic areas. SUVs may be better for bad weather and rough road conditions.

Tip #6: You Don't Always Have to Drive

You rented a car for your stay in the area—or perhaps you have your vehicle on hand—but that doesn't mean you have to drive everywhere you go. If you're staying in a city with great public transportation, consider taking advantage of it. Public transportation will prevent you from driving around lost, and most bus drivers will be glad to tell you what you need to know about your destination. Using rideshares like Uber or Lyft can also serve that purpose. Are you within walking distance of your destination? Check out the sidewalks and see whether or not you can walk. Not only will you get a better look at the area, but you'll also save gas in the process.

Tip #7: Keep Your Cool

You've missed your turn or driven straight past your exit. Now what? Your immediate response might be to slam on your brakes or execute another abrupt maneuver in the middle of the road, but that significantly increases your risk of an accident. Instead, keep driving and keep your cool. If you're using your GPS, it will likely give you clear instructions about how to turn around or change your route. If you're not, simply turn around: you'll catch your turn the next time around.

Tip #8: Slow Down

Knowing the speed limit doesn't mean you have to run at exactly that speed. If you're struggling to find your way around or having a hard time navigating difficult roads, slow down. You'll find that dropping your speed just a few miles per hour can make it easier to see where you're going as well as making it easier to navigate in these unfamiliar surroundings. If possible, keep your car in the right lane to make it easier for faster-moving vehicles to get around you.

Tip #9: Make Your Intentions Clear

Whether you know you have a turn coming up or you're concerned that you'll need to slow down, make sure that you clearly indicate your intentions behind the wheel. Use your turn signals, tap your brakes to slow down before stopping abruptly, and take other steps to make sure that the cars around you can more clearly judge your intentions.

Legal Help After a Car Accident

Have you been injured by a driver out on unfamiliar roads in the Clearwater area? You may be entitled to compensation. Contact the experienced auto accident attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA's Clearwater office today online or at (727) 451-6900 to learn more about how we may be able to help. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 800 North Belcher Road Clearwater, FL 33765 (727) 451-6900


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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