Visitors to the Big Easy have many exciting experiences to look forward to. New Orleans boasts a unique and incomparable culture, from its vibrant nightlife and world-famous restaurants to its rich historical heritage.
As any local will attest, knowing one’s way around is crucial to enjoying the best of what New Orleans has to offer.
Despite the city’s imprudent drivers and infamously rutted roads, you can use the following locally-sourced, time-tested tips to stay safe driving in New Orleans. And should you run into any issues, contact a reputable New Orleans car accident lawyer to put your mind at ease.
Preparation will dramatically reduce the probability of an accident. Remember that public transportation in New Orleans can be slow and unreliable—the streetcars are more an experience than an efficient means of transportation. As a result, most visitors choose to use rental cars or drive their vehicles.
Before your trip, take some time to examine the city’s transportation maps and identify any routes you will likely need to take. A solid plan will help ease your mind as you navigate the city’s historic streets.
If you are renting a vehicle, reserve your choice ahead of time. First, choose a car with high ground clearance to avoid incurring expensive damages. Then, contact your rental company for specific suggestions and additional information. Plan your transportation as you would your visits to Lafayette Square and Frenchman Market—you will thank yourself later.
Complete a safety check
Before getting behind the wheel, check that your car is equipped with working safety mechanisms.
Check your headlights
Driving with damaged headlights is one common cause of automotive accidents. Most headlights suffer from prolonged exposure to sunlight, causing them to fade yellow or cloud. A recent AAA study revealed that cloudy or dim headlights operate at only 22% efficiency.
Many people fail to notice when their headlights are not operating correctly, contributing to the prevalence of related accidents. Before driving at night, always check your headlights to ensure the bulb is visible through the lens.
Check your rearview mirror to ensure you can see out of the middle of the back windshield. Adjust your side mirrors so you can see the road directly behind you and the side plane of your car.
Fill up on gas
Before driving, make sure your car has sufficient gas. Running out of gas on major roads and highways can be dangerous. Identify nearby gas stations and familiarize yourself with your vehicle’s gas gauge so you are prepared.
Check brake tags
New Orleans traffic law requires all vehicles to have visible brake tags. Ensure your brake tags are under a year old and visible to officers. If you need a brake tag inspection, identify your closest inspection site online and be prepared to pay twenty-five dollars.
Follow road signs and regulations
New Orleans streets can be tricky to navigate. Watch for road signs and familiarize yourself with local regulations to stay safe.
Follow the speed limit
New Orleans has stringent speed regulations. To avoid tickets and accidents, familiarize yourself with local speed limits. Also, keep an eye out for school zones, as the city uses traffic cameras to monitor them. If you are driving over 20 miles per hour over the limit, the law requires you to appear in court.
Obey road signs
Remain attentive to traffic lights, stop signs, and other road signage. Not giving attention to signs is a common and easily preventable cause of accidents.
Wear your seatbelt
Neglecting to wear a seatbelt is a common contributor to serious automotive injuries: from whiplash to brain damage and broken ribs. Always wear your seatbelt—no matter how short the drive.
Watch for fellow travelers
New Orleans is a pedestrian-friendly city. Between the beautiful weather and lack of open-container laws, there are many reasons to enjoy a stroll through busy streets.
Keep pedestrians, stray animals, and other travelers in mind as you drive through the city.
Always be considerate of pedestrians. You can prevent pedestrian accidents by driving slowly and respecting crosswalks and yield signals.
If you are driving through a crowded neighborhood (such as the French Quarter), remain incredibly attentive to pedestrians. Remember that some pedestrians are also intoxicated and thus relatively impaired. It is your task as a driver to keep walkers safe.
New Orleans is a popular place for bikers. The city’s bike lanes typically run parallel to the road, but there are also shared lanes for bikers and car riders.
Always steer clear of bikers—you must be at least three feet away when passing a biker. Furthermore, do not drive or park in bike lanes.
New Orleans has a vibrant animal population—from stray cats to raccoons and opossums.
Keep your headlights on at night and drive cautiously through small neighborhoods to protect these little critters.
Defensive driving is an excellent precaution and will protect you from many accidents. Always make sure to scan your surroundings before proceeding through intersections. Break early and give space between you and the car ahead of you. Finally, be a calm, defensive driver as other drivers can be reckless.
One of the most common causes of automotive accidents is driving while impaired. Ensure you are clear-headed before getting on the road. Don’t drink and drive, ensure you are well rested, and eliminate distractions like cell phones.
Before you go
The key to driving safely in New Orleans is always to be prepared. Take the requisite safety precautions, be mindful of others on the road, and remember to drive defensively. Above all, enjoy your cautious cruise through Crescent City.
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