Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
Michelle Kaplan
"The New York Radio Girl"

Are you trying to understand the traffic rules where you live?

Do you hear people talking about traffic a lot in English?

There is so much to learn when it comes to driving in a new place, particularly when it comes to knowing all the different rules.

Today we are going to talk about driving, learn some of the most common terms in English, and you can become a part of the conversation when this subject inevitably comes up.

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We have a question from a listener of ours about driving that could help you in this area.

Hello Lindsay,

Your show is now one of the popular and known ones in Iran—this is such great news! Some pages with thousands of followers on Instagram are talking about you. You are crushing it! I just wanted to take a moment to appreciate your tireless efforts.

I wanted to tell you about a couple of things and some thoughts that I had. First of all, as you know, you have many men listeners. Let’s assume half of them. They mimic the way that you speak. They mimic intonation, tone, words and even the way you guys get surprised or shocked. I noticed sometimes we cannot imitate some of these things because the way men express their emotions is very different from women. I hope that makes sense to you. With that being said, I believe having a man on your show would be a game changer!

Secondly I have a question about “traffic words and terms we could use” on Instagram. I am hoping that you can do an episode about this, because I believe it would help many of us. This seems to be a big topic of conversation, so any help that you can provide would be great.

Last but not least, you guys rock and please keep up the amazing work!

Best,

Masoud

A Little Background

This is a great topic and our listener had some wonderful points.

We did an episode in this area that you’ll want to listen to for some background.

Band 9 Traffic Vocabulary For IELTS Rubberneckers

However we wanted to talk more about this because it’s a great and very helpful topic.

This is going to be more about driving terms rather than traffic, as there is actually a lot to cover there.

Do you consider yourself a good driver?

Can you keep up with all of the different traffic laws when driving in the US?

Today we are going to look at some of the most common terms about driving, as this is something that is bound to come up in conversation from time to time.

You want to know how to drive well, but you also want to know how to talk about driving and traffic.

The terms that we are looking at today are bound to come up in conversation often, and so they may be very useful to you.

These are great to learn and to try out in conversation, as they can be helpful to use with natives.

The Most Common Terms About Driving

Though there are a lot of different terms about driving, these are the most common.

Understanding what these mean and how to use them will prove beneficial in your English speaking.

This is also a topic that may come up often, and so you want to be sure to be aware of these terms so that you can use them when the opportunity presents itself.

Here are the terms that you will want to get to know and understand so that you can use them in your conversations.

  • U-turn: You turn like the letter “U”—you can almost envision this when you think of this type of turn. You are on one side and you need to turn around, so at some intersection you turn the other way. This often happens if you make a mistake when driving somewhere. Some places have roads where you have to do a U-turn in order to head in the other direction. It can be confusing at first but you can follow the signs and take caution when doing this turnaround.
  • 3 point turn: If you’re running out of room you may do this if you have to turn your car around. So you turn one way, you reverse, and then you turn forward. Try to visualize these three points as it will help you to ensure that you make this turn properly, and then you can head to where you need to go.
  • Jughandle: There are some terms or traffic flows that may be geographical and only happen in certain areas, and this one might just be within New Jersey. These are weird and may be hard to understand at first. This has to do with not turning left and using some sort of special curved road to do so instead. This is likely specific to this area, and so you want to be sure to learn it if you happen to live in and around there. NJ also doesn’t have residents get their own gas, so there are a lot of things in this area that may be specific to the area you are driving in.
  • Roundabout: This is an intersection that’s a circle with many exits. This can be confusing as it may seem hard to merge into this and then figure out how and where to exit the roundabout. You may want to do some counting to master this, as sometimes it can be extra confusing with the GPS in your car. These are believed to help the traffic flow, but you just want to be prepared going into them so that you stay on and get off in the right way.
  • Parallel park: We talked about this on Instagram before, as this is something that is common in big cities. You are basically parking one car in front of another, rather than next to one another. So you have to pull up next to a car, then reverse, and finally pull up so that you are in a spot parallel to the car in front of or behind you. This is tricky and can take some practice, as these spots typically line a street and are in front of businesses in a big city.
  • Right on red: Rules such as this are very specific to the area that you live and are driving within. Many places however may have this one common rule in place, though if it is followed may vary depending on the time of day it is. In general, it may be the default that you can make a right on red unless a sign specifically says that you can’t. Always be sure that you know if a traffic rule such as this exists where you are driving. However if traffic is clear, in many areas you can turn on red particularly at certain times of day.

These terms on traffic will help you to understand how things work when you set out to drive somewhere.

Try them out and practice them in conversations, as they can be a great source of learning about the area that you are driving within.

Roleplay To Help

In this roleplay, Lindsay and Michelle are in the car and Lindsay is driving.

Lindsay: “Oh no I missed the turn.”

Michelle: “That’s ok you can make a u-turn at the next light.” (some people call it a u-y -you-ee)**

Lindsay: “Ok good. Oh wait. Here’s a roundabout. Which exit should I take?”

Michelle: “Ummmm, the third.”

Lindsay: “Ok thanks. What is this, a jughandle? I hate driving in Jersey.”

Michelle: “Oh no. I think you have to make a 3 point turn here, Lindsay. You’re at a dead end**.”

Lindsay: “Ok. 1, 2, 3. Ok I’ll make a right at the light.”

Michelle: “You can go. You can make a right on red. The sign says you just can’t after 5.”

Lindsay: “Ok here I go! I think I’ll have to parallel park when we get there. You’ll have to help me. I’m terrible at it!”

Michelle: “Ok I’ll get out of the car.”

Takeaway

It’s so important to know the driving lingo when driving in a new country.

Even if you aren’t driving in the US, this is good to know so you can talk with others, as well as understand stories that people have about this sort of thing.

You are likely to hear people talk about traffic even in movies or on TV shows, and so these terms will be very helpful.

It’s important to really understand what these all mean especially if you are driving, and you want to follow the rules of the road.

Driving is something that many of us do every day, so this is a topic that is sure to come up in conversation often.

Be prepared, practice these terms, and then you can be part of the conversation and know how to drive well in a new environment.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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