There are no road signs to tell you what town you are heading towards here. My husband tells me it dates from an old cold war policy designed to fool an invading force of Russians. If that’s true, hats off to the road planners. Philadelphia will be forever safe.
You will see signs with the number of the road you are on and a letter indicating north, south, east or west. If you drive too far along the 76 East, don’t imagine that you just need to turn round and take the 76 West. Instead follow the signs to the Schuylkill Expressway North. When the radio traffic folks report delays, they will mention roads by name, not by number. ‘Suck it up’, as they say here. There is no way to know the name of the road you’re on or where you are headed.
The good news is that you will find a lot of the driving rules are the same on both sides of the pond. Red means stop, green means go, and amber means go very fast. The gestures are very similar but just one finger is required. You may feel frustrated by delays at lights and wonder why roundabouts (or traffic circles) have never been adopted. In fact they have in a some places, but you don’t want to go there. If you saw the mayhem, you’d be happy to wait for the light. And yes, it is disturbing that the braking distance chart has been simplified here. It seems to be six inches no matter what speed you’re driving.
So try to be culturally tolerant and understand the context. Americans spend a long time in their cars, so they can’t let it prevent them from getting on with their lives. That’s why overtaking (and undertaking) while breakfasting on a coffee and doughnut is a necessary procedure. And it’s a very friendly culture so if someone should happen to call you on your cell phone while you’re doing this and shaving, it would be rude not to take the call.
And finally, this is a big country so settle down for a long trip. We got on the I95 for a trip south and heard our GPS say, ‘Drive 632 miles and turn right’. I kid you not.
Have a safe trip.
PS. It seems curious signage works both ways. Americans may get the giggles from ‘Way out’ signs when driving round multistory car parks in the UK – ‘Hey, way out, man.’ Hump signs seem to bring on chuckles too.