Driving in New York
New York City
Don't Drive in Manhattan
Driving and parking within Manhattan is an expensive way to get around. Use taxis, car services, buses and subways. Parking rules are complex, paid parking in mid-town starts at $8.50 for 30 minutes. Driving up and down town is usually slower than taking the subway, and traffic barely moves during rush hour. Masses of pedestrians, aggressive cab-drivers from distant places, triple-parked trucks, wrong-way bike messengers and the infamous "gridlock" require nerves of steel. Gas stations are difficult to find in Manhattan. Ride - don't drive - but if you must drive, here are some hints. (See also AUTOMOBILE RENTAL for rental requirements and for gasoline).
The preliminaries for foreign visitors
Licenses, Age and Insurance
Visitors need to have a valid driver's licenses issued by their state or country of residence. International Driver's Licenses are not valid. The age requirement for driving in New York is 16 years. If you plan to become a resident of New York State, you are required to get a New York State Drivers License from the New York State Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
Drivers must carry auto registration or rental contract and proof of automobile insurance at all times. Drivers must have proof of insurance and liability insurance. Coverage must be a minimum of $25,000 for injury, $50,000 for death and $10,000 for property damage arising from an accident.
Although you might not guess it by the way New Yorkers drive, there are laws that govern the flow of traffic. You should obey them as the city is now enforcing these laws with some regularity. The most important of these are:
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A number of radio stations broadcast traffic information about every 10 minutes including CBS 880 on AM radio and WINS News at 1010 on AM radio. Channel 17 broadcasts traffic reports continuously on TV.
TYPHint: "Gridlock." Some holidays with parades, the Christmas season and visits by the President or foreign dignitaries cause major traffic jams in Manhattan because of the traffic volume or street closings. The city issues a "gridlock day warning" asking people not to drive into the city. A "gridlock" occurs when there are so many cars that no traffic can move because all the streets are filled. If you "block the box" on a gridlock altert day, you will definitely get a ticket.
SmarTraveler is a great resource for commuters and those who are fighting against the day's traffic. Detailed information is given for traffic on NYC bridges, in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and transit updates.
To get a full New York State Driver's license, you must be 18 years old, pass an eye test, pass a written test on rules, and pass a driving skills test. You must bring your birth certificate or similar proof of your birthday, proof of residence (usually mail to your house), and either your Social Security card or a letter from the US Social Security Administration stating your ineligibility for a Social Security number. You will have your photo taken with a digital camera and sign your name on a digital pad. You will receive a temporary license. The permanent license, good for five years, will be sent to your home address within 4 weeks. Call the specific DMV you will be going to for more information.
When you are 16 years old, you can get a learner's permit and daytime license.
The New York Driver's License is the preferred identification for many purposes including legal age for drinking, smoking, etc., and cashing checks.
TYPHint: Even if you do not drive, you can get an identity card from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles which is accepted in lieu of a driver's license for identification purposes.
In New York, your Driver's license can be suspended or revoked for a variety of reasons including too many driving violations (speeding, going through stop signs, etc., but not parking violations) and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.