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Driving in San Diego

Traffic drives on the right in the US. The speed limit is usually 55mph (89kph) on motorways, but varies from state to state. Speed limits are clearly indicated along highways and are strictly enforced, with heavy fines imposed. Note that it is illegal to pass a school bus that has stopped to unload its passengers (using indicators and warning lights) and all vehicles must stop until the bus has moved back into the traffic stream. It is illegal for drivers not to have their licences immediately to hand. If stopped, do not attempt to pay a driving fine on the spot (unless it is demanded), as it may be interpreted as an attempt to bribe. There are extremely tough laws against drinking and driving throughout the US. These laws are strictly enforced.

The San Diego metropolitan area is large and sprawling. If possible, car travel is the most efficient way of navigating the city and county. The Downtown area's one-way streets can make navigating this city by car rather frustrating. The freeway system is intricate, though not overpowering (other drivers may even be courteous), but rush-hour traffic can be a challenge, especially to and from the northern communities of Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad, the north inland communities of Poway and Escondido and east on Interstate 8.

Throughout the Downtown and beach communities on-street parking is metered. Parking meters accept coins, pre-paid Parking Meter Cards, and some newer meters accept credit cards. The meters typically have a two-hour time limit during the day. There is no charge for street parking after 6 pm, on Sundays and most major holidays, except in Del Mar.

In the US, driving licences are issued by the individual states for their residents. Required for operating motor vehicles, driving licences are also used as a primary form of photo identification in the US, particularly in many non-driving situations where proof of identity or age is required, such as for boarding airline flights, for cashing checks and for purchasing alcoholic beverages. Many states issue identification cards to assist people who do not drive but would still like a state-issued identification (ID) card. The requirements for these ID cards are different from driving licences, but they may be issued from the same department and locations.

Specific requirements and procedures for driving licences vary from state to state – some states may allow students and temporary residents to use the driving licence from their home countries until the licence expires.

For specific details, applicants should contact their appropriate state office, usually called the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

The general guidelines of getting a US driving licence are:

· determine the type or class of licence needed, depending on the vehicle you will be driving. Most people are interested in passenger vehicle licences. However, you may need a different class of licence if you want to operate vehicles such as motorcycles, trucks, mopeds and other vehicles. Typically, passenger car drivers must be at least 16 years old (the minimum licence age for many states);

· be prepared to provide two forms of identification (known as primary and secondary forms) to prove identity and birth date. Each state's requirements vary but most request document originals or certified copies;

· become familiar with driver testing procedures. Most driving licence offices have free handbooks available for drivers to prepare for the test(s) in advance. Be aware that there are minimum test scores required, which vary from state to state. Examples of driver licence test(s) may include: written, driving, vision and hearing. For the driving or road test, applicant must provide the vehicle and will be accompanied by the driving licence examiner who will determine the driver's ability to operate the vehicle and obey traffic laws. All driving licences issued in the US require that the applicant pass an eye examination. If you need to wear eyeglasses to pass this exam, you will be required to wear them while you drive. This requirement, usually printed as 'corrective lenses' will be identified on your licence.

In addition to documentation and testing, applicants can expect the following during driving licence application:

· a picture to be taken;
· submission of licence from another jurisdiction, or completion of appropriate courses;
· completion of application form;
· completion of parental consent form (for drivers under age 18);
· payment of application fee.

Do note that fees vary from state to state with regard to driving licences, duplicates, lost and stolen licences, renewals and replacements.

Driving licence offices are usually open Monday through Friday during business hours (8am to 5pm). Some offices offer extended hours (until 7pm) a few nights per week. Scheduling an appointment may be helpful but isn't always necessary. After the successful completion of the test(s), a driving licence is issued. If the driver fails, the driver can re-test after a specified period of time. A driving licence card, usually given at licence office or mailed at a later date, contains a number (sometimes the driver's social security number) and information such as the driver's name, address, date of birth, eye colour, height and weight. Licence class, the licence's issuing and expiring dates and any restrictions may be included on the driving licence, as well. Driving licences, valid for a variable number of years, should be with the driver all the times he/she drives.

Do maintain accurate driving licence information. It's important for drivers to report any address or name changes to their state DMV in an effort to avoid unnecessary citations and fees. In circumstances such as duplicate, lost and stolen, renewal and replacement licences, drivers must report the status of their licence to their DMV and attain a new licence.





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