If you drive or plan to drive a car in the U.S., here are some things to consider. Please note that this blog entry is not intended to be an exhaustive guide, but merely to remind you of things you yourself need to check. This blog entry also is not legal advice. Driving and automobile laws vary from state to state, and may vary even across different cities in the same state.
When confirming requirements, you are better off checking the official web site of your state transportation department, bureau of motor vehicles, or similar state agency. Be careful if instead you are relying on message boards or blogs for official information.
You will need a license for yourself to drive a car. Each U.S. state is supposed to honor driver licenses of any other state. Therefore, you do NOT need a separate driver license for each state you plan to drive in. Your state might also honor an international driver license, for at least a limited time if not indefinitely.
In any event, be aware that the validity period of your license, as well as any other requirements, may differ from those of U.S. citizens. Here, for example, is a chart from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation: http://www.dmv.state.pa.us/pdotforms/fact_sheets/pub195nc.pdf
If you need to take an actual road test in order to receive your license, know how your state or location does so. Some states or locations will test you on “real” streets. Others will test you on a specially constructed range. Or, still others may use a combination. If all or most of your test will be on a range, find out about the possibility of practicing on that range prior to your test, during off-hours. One such center is in Frazer, PA, in Chester County. I have seen cars on their range as late as 9:30 pm, long after their business hours are over.
Most likely, the car you use for a driving test will need to have proper registration, insurance and inspection. More on these topics below.
Vehicle requirements: insurance, inspection and registration
In addition to having, yourself, a valid driver license, your car must meet certain requirements. In general, states require that cars have insurance, be inspected and be registered. Please note that these requirements generally are separate and independent of each other.
You almost certainly will need to carry automobile insurance for your car. When you complete the insurance process and get a policy, the insurance company most likely will send you a document to prove that you have insurance, and most if not all states will require that you be able to produce this document upon request by a law enforcement officer or after an accident.
Your car will probably need to be inspected. That is, an authorized person will certify that your car meets certain minimum safety requirements, such as functioning headlights and horn, sufficient tread in your tires and other matters. In some states, private repair facilities will do this inspection. In others, the state will operate facilities. If you are in a populated area, your car also might have a separate test for exhaust emissions. Once your car passes an inspection, you probably will have a sticker placed on your windshield.
Your car will need to be registered with the state agency that deals with motor vehicles. You probably will need to supply the license tag number and possibly the title number, as well as information on insurance. After you register, you should receive a card to that effect. You also may receive some sort of sticker to place on your license plate or on your windshield. Please be aware that in certain places, motorists have had their registration stickers stolen from their license plates. The thief usually does so by actually cutting away the part of the license plate that holds the sticker.
Your registration and inspection stickers will probably show a month and year on them, to indicate when they expire. Having an expired sticker could result in your receiving a warning, or worse, a violation notice from a police officer. In some places, having such expired stickers, or lack of insurance, even could result in the confiscation of your car. Therefore, please be sure to have current stickers and insurance cards.
I recommend you carry a set of battery jumper cables (also known as “booster cables”), particularly if you drive in places with cold winters. In such places, you have a greater risk that your battery will lose power and not be strong enough to start your car. In such cases, jumper cables, when attached to another car with a properly functioning battery, will allow you to start your car by using power from the battery of the other car. Such cables will come as a pair. One cable will be red (the “positive” cable), the other will be black (the “negative” cable). To help me keep the colors straight (positive red, negative black), I imagine that a LONG set of cables extends fromPuerto Rico to New Brunswick.
A flashlight can be a lifesaver. I recommend the “Mini Maglite,” available in many stores including Wal-Mart. It is renowned for its reliability and quality. In addition, people, particularly women, can carry it not only to provide light, but for self-defense. Its hard casing makes the Mini Maglite a good weapon for striking an attacker.
You also might want to purchase and have in your car a tire pressure gauge. The most convenient ones are those shaped like a pen. The tire gauges you might see at a service station, if you see any at all these days, often are unreliable.
I hope this information is helpful.
Calvin Sun, attorney at law 孙自成，律师
Immigration and nationality law
Immigration and nationality law