Driving in a new city can be challenging, no matter how big or small. Driving in Miami, though, can be downright scary if you haven’t prepared yourself for the highways, the gridlock, and the behavior of the drivers. But there are things you can learn and do to lower your stress levels while on the road and arrive at your Miami destination happily and safely.
Rules of the Road
Miami's driving laws are very similar to those in other states. However, drivers in Miami do not always follow the letter of the law. Driving rules and practices include:
- Right on red: These turns are permitted at red lights unless otherwise indicated.
- Speed limits: Unless posted otherwise, the speed limits are 15 miles per hour (mph) in school zones, 30 mph in business or residential areas, and 55 mph on most expressways, unless road conditions warrant lower speeds.
- Changing lanes: Although it's not legal, Miami drivers are notorious for switching lanes without using their turn signals and it's not uncommon for a car to swerve across several lanes of traffic with no warning.
- Right of way: Pedestrians legally have the right-of-way in Miami but local drivers may ignore this.
- Cell phones: It’s against the law to text on "any wireless communications device" while driving in Miami.
- In case of emergency: Call 9-1-1. Since many people in Miami speak primarily Spanish, keep this in mind if you experience a fender bender and need to communicate with the other driver.
City Grid in Miami
To drive in Miami, it is important to know that Miami’s streets are laid out on a grid system, making it easier to get around once you understand a few basic rules:
- Miami’s streets are divided into four quadrants: Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, and Southwest. The division between the North and South quadrants is Flagler Street and the division between the East and West quadrants is Miami Avenue.
- Courts, Roads, Avenues, and Places all run from north to south. Streets run from east to west
- You can dissect a street address to help you figure out the cross-street. Simply remove the last two digits of the address and you’ll find out the corresponding cross-street. For example, consider the address 15416 SW 152nd St.: 152nd Street runs east-west, and the first three digits of the house number, 154, indicate the nearest north-south road is 154th Street. If you’re standing at the intersection of Flagler Street and Miami Avenue downtown, you’ll need to travel 152 blocks south and 154 blocks west to reach this address.
- There are some exceptions to these rules. Some streets, such as Brickell Avenue and US 1/South Dixie Highway, don’t follow the grid. So, you’ll need to consult your GPS to be sure. Also, some municipalities within Miami-Dade County, such as Coral Gables, don’t follow the rules at all.
Highways in Miami
Lucky for you, there are also several major highways in South Florida that can cut some time off your trip, provided you time your travels correctly. As with any major city, expect delays if heading north toward downtown in the morning and south toward the suburbs in the afternoon. The major highways in the Miami area include:
- Interstate 95: A major highway running from Maine to Miami, where it terminates just south of downtown and feeds into US 1. Locally, many people use I-95 to travel between Miami and Broward County, so you’ll find heavy traffic in both directions during commuting hours. Special 95 Express Lanes are available for those willing to pay a toll to shorten their commute.
- Airport Expressway (SR 112): SR 112 runs from I-95 to Miami International Airport and is one of the more pleasant roads in the expressway system. It provides a direct route to the airport. There’s a $1.25 toll, but you can get a discount and breeze through the tollbooth with a SunPass.
- Palmetto Expressway (SR 826): SR 826 runs from Kendall to North Miami Beach. You’ll find bumper-to-bumper traffic here almost any time that the sun is up and even after dark on many days. It’s a convenient, free route but slow as molasses.
- Dolphin Expressway (SR 836): This road runs from downtown Miami past Miami International Airport to Sweetwater, connecting with the Homestead Extension of Florida’s Turnpike. There are tolls on this road and a SunPass is required to travel on the westernmost portion.
- Florida’s Turnpike Homestead Extension (SR 821): SR 821 provides a half-beltway for Miami. It runs from Broward County through most of Miami-Dade County in an arc through Miramar, Hialeah, Kendall, and Homestead, before ending in Florida City. It’s a major commuting road and the primary highway for those seeking access to the Everglades and the Florida Keys. There are tolls on this road but be forewarned that cash is not accepted. Turnpike drivers must have a SunPass automated toll device.
- Don Shula Expressway (SR 874): A less-traveled expressway connecting the Palmetto (SR 826) to the Florida Turnpike Homestead Extension (SR 821). It carries a $1.25 toll.
- Snapper Creek Expressway (SR 878): A short expressway connecting the Don Shula Expressway (SR 874) to US 1. There is no toll on this road.
SunPass for Toll Roads
SunPass is Florida’s prepaid toll program. Many of Florida’s toll roads are becoming all-electronic and cashless systems. If you don’t have a SunPass, you’ll be billed in the mail at the address connected with your license plate. There are quite a few benefits to having a Sunpass in your car, though. Customers with SunPass always pay the lowest toll amount (amounts can fluctuate depending on factors such as the time of day or year, and area construction).
SunPass also works in some other states, including Georgia and North Carolina, so if you’re road tripping you won’t have to worry about a different toll system. SunPass allows you to pay for parking at most major Florida airports and is easily accessible via a free mobile app for iOS and Android users. Having a SunPass just gives you one less thing to worry about when driving in South Florida.
Alternatives to Driving in Miami
If you’re not a fan of driving, there are plenty of alternatives. Rideshare apps are a popular way to get around and both Lyft and Uber offer options to walk to a pick-up spot for a cheaper fare. On days when the weather is nice, this is a great way to get your steps in and save some cash.
Electric scooters are gaining popularity, too. Dockless rental scooters can be found on the sidewalks of downtown Miami, Coconut Grove, Morningside, and Edgewater. Getting one is as easy as downloading the app to unlock your ride. Don’t forget to wear a helmet.
There are also budget-friendly options like the Metrorail (an elevated rail system not unlike a monorail), Metromover, and Metrobus. The Metrorail Orange Line can get you to Miami International Airport if you have a flight to catch. The Metromover, on the other hand, will get you anywhere you need to go within Downtown Miami and the Brickell area. Metrobus runs all over Miami with over 95 routes and can get you to Miami Beach, Key Biscayne, and Homestead or even as far as Fort Lauderdale or the Florida Keys.