Boston Drivers: What Every Tourist Needs To Know

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Boston Drivers: For Tourists

Before you embark on your trip to Boston by car, some preparation is in order. Bostonians are generally friendly and helpful people. However, something happens when they get behind the wheel of a car. Many of them become what people around the world “affectionately” refer to as Boston Drivers.

Be assured, it is likely that you will encounter many courteous and considerate motorists, especially the further out you get from the city. But it’s not impossible that you could witness a prime example of a “Boston Driver.”

Some things to know:

    • It is NOT the actual law in Boston that left turn has right of way. However, it is somewhat of a custom that cars waiting at a red light to turn left may try to do so as soon as the light goes green. Look before driving straight across on a newly-green light.
    • Drivers in Boston often push it to get through a yellow or even a red light. In fact, it has been jokingly said that in Boston, traffic lights have a meaning all their own.

      Here is the “Boston Driver’s guide” to traffic lights:

      • Yellow – speed up
      • Red – you have 5 more seconds
      • Green – STOP; cars are still coming through on red

      Be sure to check that all cars have stopped before proceeding through a green light (and before crossing the street on foot).

    • Be prepared to hear horns, some of which may be intended for you. It probably means that you are driving responsibly.

    • You may come across a driver who opens (and keeps open) the street side car door despite oncoming traffic, even on narrow streets. This is especially dangerous for unsuspecting bicyclists.

Boston Drivers: For Tourists & Locals

You are unlikely to see any of the following maneuvers on a visit to Boston, but, if you live here long enough, you learn to expect ANYTHING.

For example…

  • A left turn from the right lane.
  • A sudden U-turn in the middle of the street to grab a parking spot on the opposite side of the road.
  • A driver behind you pulling into the parking space that you had been about to back into. (In high density areas, you might want to move into the space from behind rather than from in front).
  • An impatient driver jumping in front of you to make a quick left as you are waiting until it’s safe to turn.

A Word About Boston Pedestrians

You would think that the sometimes unpredictable practices of Boston drivers would lead pedestrians to be especially alert. On the contrary, Boston pedestrians can be just as unpredictable.


Many Bostonians see crosswalks (if they notice them at all) as being merely suggestions. Some appear to be incredibly trusting, taking the longest, slowest route across the street without a glance at oncoming traffic.

One has to admire their faith in providence or the good will of Boston drivers.


Want to leave your car at home?


Learn about Boston’s Public Transportation system (The T)


Check out these fun Boston Travel Stories.


Planning a visit to Boston? Learn all about where there is to do! Still not sure where to stay in Boston? Click here to know all about Boston Airport Hotels!


Planning to leave Boston? Check our page with information about Logan Airport parking options and Uber & Lyft at Boston Logan International Airport.

This post is contributed by Mama Bess (Boston)