Residential Driving
Driving in Residential Areas

Driving in Residential Neighborhoods: Rules, Parking & Special Use Lanes

Updated Aug. 14, 2020

Motorists are generally exposed to far less danger when driving in residential neighborhoods than they are when driving in a city or on a major highway. Nevertheless, the risk of being involved in an accident or collision in a residential neighborhood is high – particularly when traveling close to home. Driving in familiar, residential areas puts motorists at ease. They are therefore more likely to be distracted and less likely to pay proper attention to the roads.

This phenomenon is reflected in data released by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), showing that most traffic collisions happen within a five-mile radius of the driver’s home. These are the precise figures:

  • 52 percent of traffic collisions occur within a five-mile radius of home
  • 69 percent of traffic collisions occur within a 10-mile radius of home

These alarming statistics have been corroborated during an independent survey featuring 11,000 drivers. In addition to confirming the above-mentioned collision data, the survey indicates that over 20 percent of collisions happen within one mile of the driver’s residence and just 17 percent of collisions happen outside a 20-mile radius.

Driver complacency, coupled with narrow, poorly-lit roads, uncontrolled intersections and increased pedestrian activity are all factors that make residential driving surprisingly high-risk. This section of “Complex Driving Environments” will acquaint you with residential driving dangers and teach you how to minimize the risk of being involved in a collision.

Residential driving risks

When driving in a residential area you must keep well within the speed limit, remain attentive and be prepared to yield right-of-way at any time. You can expect to encounter:

  • Obscured driveways from which vehicles may enter the road
  • Speed bumps on many streets
  • Vehicles parked on both sides of the road
  • Children crossing or playing near the roadside on bikes, scooters or with other toys that may cause them to run out into the road
  • Dog walkers

In addition, many slow-moving or frequently stopping road users can be found on residential streets. For example:

  • Post office vehicles
  • Commercial vehicles such as road maintenance trucks, garbage trucks and delivery vehicles
  • Bicyclists, skateboarders and people using in-line skates
  • Recreational vehicles such as motor homes and golf carts
  • Other small, low-speed vehicles such as scooters, mopeds and go-carts

Special use lanes

Some residential streets may have special types of lanes that have been implemented to improve safety and keep traffic moving. One-way streets, center left-turn lanes, reversible lanes and traffic circles all come with different sets of rules, which you must learn before you attempt to use them.

Paying attention to road signs and continually scanning the road around your vehicle will enable you to navigate special use lanes safely. Accidentally driving the wrong way up a one-way street or driving in a center left-turn lane when you intend to travel straight on will endanger everybody on the road. Reading our “Special Use Lanes” module will make sure you can identify and drive within unusual residential lanes correctly.

Parking risks

New drivers must understand the risks involved in parking on busy residential streets and in crowded parking lots. The attention you dedicate to finding a space and maneuvering your vehicle is attention usually spent monitoring road conditions and potential threats. As a result, parking leaves you substantially more vulnerable to collisions.

We discuss parking risks and safety measures in this section of the course. Above all else, keep in mind that the closest parking spot is not always the “best” parking spot. Looking for a space in advance of your destination will reduce urgency and help you to avoid conflict with other drivers.

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