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The Guide to Surviving City Driving

Moving to the big city and bringing your car? Here's how to prep for it.

By Warren Clarke on March 8, 2017

city driving
courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisschoenbohm/

A move to the city is your chance to plug yourself into a lifestyle that’s fast-paced, always moving and connected. Having access to your own transportation during this time is an added benefit, as it gives you the freedom to easily explore all corners of your vibrant new habitat.

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But (and there’s always a “but”), there are a few downsides to owning a vehicle in the city. Have you ever tried to pay for parking in New York? Or drive a Ford Excursion through rush hour in Atlanta? Yeah…good luck. Definitely a shock to the system the first time. But, thankfully, the pointers that follow will help smooth your path as you tackle the task of city driving. 

Practice Preventive Parking

Ideally, you’ll want to find a living situation that allows you to park your car in a garage or a lot. You’ll pay a premium to enjoy this privilege, but you’ll find it’s well worth it for the safety and convenience it provides. Garage parking comes with the added benefit of protecting the value of your vehicle, since it helps to shield your car against potential damage from other cars, passersby and the elements.   

If street parking is your only option, avoid parking near intersections. According to data gathered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a whopping 40 percent of all motor vehicle traffic crashes occur at intersections. You’ll want to make sure your car is parked a safe distance away when these types of collisions occur. 

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When parking overnight, discourage theft and vandalism by parking on a well-lit street. The safest place to park in these situations is in front of a 24-hour facility, since thieves tend to be deterred by the steady foot traffic these venues attract. 

Avoid the Ticket Trap

Parking tickets are a staple of city life for many people, but if you make smart choices, they don’t have to be part of your experience. Read signs carefully before easing your car into a spot, since many areas in urban locations have restricted parking. If you’re parking overnight, make sure you’re not parked in an area that’s scheduled for street cleaning. 

Don’t risk a ticket by parking illegally, even if you only plan on being there for a couple of minutes. Most cities are rigorous in their parking enforcement, and meter cops function with the stealth and swiftness of ninjas. If you need motivation to play by these rules, remind yourself that the average parking ticket in many big cities exceeds $50. There are more enjoyable ways of spending your hard-earned coin. 

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If you’re parking on a meter for a couple of hours, set the alarm on your cell phone to remind you when it’s time for another payment. Some cities offer parking apps that allow you to replenish your meter from your phone, and this can help you avoid the hassle of walking back and forth from your car. 

Drive Courteously

Many of the accidents that happen in city driving are caused by drivers who are trying to get ahead of somebody in one way or another. With this in mind, one of the most powerful things you can do to promote safer travel on the road is to practice simple common courtesy. 

For example, if you see a car approaching from the opposite direction while on a narrow roadway that could be a tight fit for two vehicles, pull over and allow the other car to pass. If you see a car pulling out of a driveway or parking space, stop and allow the driver to complete the maneuver instead of attempting to barrel past. Adopting this mindset can go a long way toward reducing your risk of encountering mishaps on the road.

Map Your Route

Many cities are known for one-way streets, confusing intersections and of course, traffic. Getting lost, turned around or stuck in a traffic jam can add a tremendous amount of time to your journey, which can also lead to frustration and agitated driving. Take time before your trip to familiarize yourself with your route and cue up the GPS.

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Choose Compatible Transportation

Smaller is usually much better when it comes to urban transportation. Smaller vehicles allow you to easily fit into cramped parking spaces and cruise down slim roadways without incident. Unless you have a genuine need for the extra passenger or cargo space, a compact or subcompact model will be your best ally for navigating city streets. If you’re about to buy a vehicle, choose accordingly. If you’re moving to the city with a large vehicle offering more room than your truly need, consider downsizing to smaller transportation. 

Start Your Engine

City driving is its own unique beast, and it can be quite different from driving in rural areas or the suburbs. Now that you know what to expect when driving in an urban locale, don’t be afraid to get behind the wheel and tour your new home. 

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