Driving in Miami – Everything You Need to Know

In November 1891, Julia Tuttle purchased a large home in South Florida from the Biscayne Bay Company and relocated there with her family. She spent the next few years successfully encouraging developers to expand their businesses into the area. As a result of Julia Tuttle’s efforts, the City of Miami was officially incorporated five years later, on July 28, 1896. At the time of its incorporation, the city had a population of just over 300 people.

Since then, Miami has burgeoned into the seventh-largest metropolis in the United States . Latin American migration has played an integral role in shaping the city’s identity. The sprawling South Florida metropolis is nicknamed the “Capital of Latin America” and has a strong international appeal, making it the second-largest tourism hub in the country.

It’s almost impossible to know everything about a city as large and diverse as Miami. Additionally, it can be challenging navigating the popular vacation spot for both Miami natives and its many visitors that frequent the sunny city from across the state and around the world.

Major Miami Highways and Roads

Miami’s major roadways include:

  • Interstate 95 :  This interstate highway  runs along Florida’s Atlantic Coast up through Jacksonville. Its southern end is along US 1, and it continues north into Maine’s border with Canada. Drivers often use this road to travel between Miami and its neighboring Broward County. Travelers should expect heavy traffic on this interstate during prime commuting hours.

  • Palmetto Expressway :  Also known as State Road 826, the Palmetto Expressway is a bypass route skirting around Miami’s city limits. It runs north from US 1 in Kendall to Miami Lakes. Heavy traffic is generally the norm on this expressway.

  • Dolphin Expressway : Another name for the Dolphin Expressway is State Road 836. The 15-mile road connects Downtown Miami with Miami International Airport and continues into the western suburbs. You need a SunPass to use this road. Keep reading to learn how to get one.

  • The Homestead Extension of Florida Turnpike (the “HEFT”) : Also known as State Road 821, this supplement to the Florida Turnpike begins at US 1 in Florida City and joins the main Turnpike in Miramar. Like the Dolphin Expressway, drivers need a SunPass to drive on the HEFT.

  • Don Shula Expressway : State Road 874, as the Don Shula Expressway is also known, begins at the HEFT in Kendall and proceeds northeast, joining the Palmetto Expressway in Glenvar Heights. A SunPass is also needed to drive on this road.

  • Snapper Creek Expressway : State Road 878 is another name for this 3-mile spur route that connects the Don Shula Expressway in Kendall with US 1 near South Miami. Drivers must have a SunPass to use this road.

Miami Toll Roads & SunPass

SunPass  is the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) electronic toll collection system. It allows customers to drive on all Florida toll roads and express lanes without stopping at toll booths and guarantees them the lowest toll fee. It’s also compatible with Prepaid Toll Programs in other states like Georgia and North Carolina.

To participate in SunPass, you need a transponder and a Prepaid Account. A transponder is a small device that attaches to the inside of your windshield. As your vehicle passes through toll lanes, the transponder communicates with specialized equipment via radio frequency, and the system electronically deducts the charges from your Prepaid Account.

There are two types of transponders: the SunPass Mini and the SunPass Portable. The SunPass Mini costs $ 4.99 plus tax, and it must be permanently adhered to the inside of a car or truck’s windshield to work. The SunPass Portable costs $ 19.99 plus tax, but it’s removable, and drivers can place the device in a car, truck, or motorcycle. Transponders are available at all Turnpike service plazas, gas stations, and SunPass Service Centers. Drivers can also purchase a SunPass at well-known local retail locations and supermarkets like Walgreens, CVS Pharmacy, Publix, and Sedanos.

A transponder has no funds upon purchase and will not work without a Prepaid Account with a minimum balance. You can register for a Prepaid Account over the phone, in person at a Walk-In Center, or online at sunpass.com. To complete the registration process, you will need your vehicle and license plate information along with a credit or debit card, ACH (checking / savings account), cash, check, or money order. The minimum balance needed to activate your Prepaid Account may vary based on the type of Prepaid Account you create, but for most people, the minimum balance is $ 10.00.

If you choose not to use SunPass but still use toll roads, the Florida Department of Transportation’s  (FDOT) electronic toll collection system will photograph your license plate. Then, FDOT’s Office of Toll Operations can invoice you and other drivers at the end of 30 days for all tolls incurred during that period, plus a $ 2.50 administration charge. The price of each toll is usually double what SunPass customers pay. If you use Florida Managed Lanes without a SunPass, the Office of Toll Operations will charge you a daily fee of $ 25.00. These are usually the express lanes on a highway.

Once you’ve mounted the transponder to your windshield and replenished the minimum balance in your account, you’re ready to drive on Miami’s toll roads cost-effectively. The following is a breakdown of those toll roads  and corresponding payment methods and fees:

Toll road

Available Methods of Payment

Price of Toll

The Florida Turnpike

SunPass Only

Varies by Mileage

Everglades Parkway

SunPass and Toll Booths

$ 3.25

The HEFT

SunPass Only

Varies by Mileage

Gratigny Parkway

SunPass Only

$ 2.00

Broad Causeway

SunPass Only

$ 1.50

Airport Expressway (SR 112)

SunPass Only

$ 1.40

Venetian Causeway

SunPass Only

$ 3.00

Dolphin expressway

SunPass Only

$ 4.80

Rickenbacker Expressway

SunPass Only

$ 3.00

Don Shula Expressway

SunPass Only

$ 2.00

Snapper Creek Expressway

SunPass Only

$ 1.00

Scenic Drives and Landmarks

Miami is full of exciting things to see and do, including:

 

  • Ocean Drive – Set between the Atlantic Ocean and pastel-colored architecture, this stretch of South Beach is home to Miami’s iconic Art Deco  style seen in Miami Vice and Scarface.

  • Julia Tuttle Causeway  – One of many roads connecting Miami to Miami Beach, and named for the woman responsible for inspiring the city’s creation, you can begin your journey on this causeway shortly after Biscayne Boulevard and continue your trek for over four miles of waterfront views before you’re greeted with the symbolic “Welcome to Miami Beach” sign.



 

  • Old Cutler Road  – This picturesque 15-mile road connects Coral Gables to Cutler Bay. It’s lined with stone houses and banyan trees that form a lush canopy, giving this roadway its famous tree-made tunnel look.


  • American Airlines Arena – This 19,600-seat venue is home to the NBA’s Miami Heat. Ideally situated on Biscayne Bay, this modern architectural marvel also hosts live TV shows and concerts.

  • Freedom Tower  – Initially constructed to be the operations hub for the Miami Daily News and Metropolis  in 1925, the Freedom Tower  is perhaps best known as “The Ellis Island of the South,” serving as the Cuban Assistance Center from 1962 to 1974. During that time, the US provided those fleeing Fidel Castro’s regime with housing, healthcare, and education. Today, Miami Dade College owns it, using it as the institution’s premier art exhibition space and gallery.

  • The Miami Biltmore Estate  – This National Historic Landmark doubles as a luxury hotel. Constructed in 1926, the Biltmore offers a blend of Italian, Spanish, and Arabic architecture and has served as a home-away-from-home to Bing Crosby, Al Capone, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The Most Dangerous Roads and Intersections In Miami

People around the world know Miami as a sunny and carefree place. Unfortunately, this disposition carries over to Miamian attitudes about driving. Miami drivers have a horrible reputation and complaining about them and the traffic is a running joke heralded by media institutions like the Miami Herald, the Miami New Times, and Curbed Miami. Some common incidents you are likely to see when driving in Miami include:

  • Swerving across several lanes of traffic with little to no warning
  • Driving below the speed limit in the passing lane
  • Speeding up to pass through yellow lights instead of slowing down
  • Drivers blaring their car horns for no apparent reason
  • Drivers texting or talking on their cellphones while driving
  • Not yielding to pedestrians even when pedestrians have the right-of-way
  • Switching lanes without using a turn signal

Miami is notorious for its heavy traffic congestion , which continually ranks among the worst in the United States and the world. Contributing to the city’s poor traffic ratings are bottlenecks on the Palmetto and Dolphin Expressways, which traffic data analysts report are among the worst in the country.

Generally, most toll roads are an ineffective means of timely travel between 7:00 am to 9:30 am and 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm if you’re hoping to avoid traffic. Additionally, bumper-to-bumper standstills common to the city often contribute to aggressive driving and subsequent car accidents.

With the help of our team of analysts and INRIX Traffic Message Channel , we’ve combed through the data and found the most dangerous areas to drive in the Greater Miami area. We’ve summarized our findings below:

  • Fort Lauderdale (I-95 exit ramps 31, 31A, and 31B off West Oakland Park Boulevard):  If you’re headed east, look out for the Rooms-To-Go Outlet and Public Storage, signaling the big overpass close by. If you’re headed west, the Wendy’s next to NW 10th Terrace is your sign you’re approaching this intersection.

  • Fort Lauderdale (I-95 exit ramps 29, 29A, and 29B off of West Sunrise Boulevard / SR 838):  If you’re headed east, expect to see the ramp right after McDonald’s and the exit onto Sunrise Boulevard. If you’re headed west, the exit for this ramp begins just after the Mobil gas station.

  • Downtown Miami (I-95 and Airport Expressway (I-195 / SR 112) intersection): If you’re headed north on I-95, you’ll find the entrance to this intersection at exit 4B, or exit 4 if you ‘ re headed south. If you’re headed east on Airport Expressway, the intersection begins right after the exit for Bright Auto Sales Corporation. If you’re headed west, it starts at exit 1.

  • Downtown Miami (I-95 and Dolphin Expressway (I-395 / SR 836) intersection): If you’re headed north on I-95, you’ll recognize the intersection from the pool and baseball field owned by Overtown Optimist Club alongside exit 3A. If you’re heading south, passing the Jackson Memorial and Miami VA hospitals, which are parts of the University of Miami Health System, you’ll notice you’ve entered the intersection. When heading east on Dolphin Expressway, the University of Miami Hospital will be your sign that you’re approaching the intersection. When traveling west, the intersection begins right at exit 1B, just after the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and Viacom International Studios.

  • South Miami (Turnpike and Kendall Drive (SW 88th Street / SR 94) intersection):  If you’re headed east on Kendall Drive, this intersection begins after the SW 122nd Ave intersection. You can recognize it by the nearby Einstein Bros. Bagels. If you’re headed west, this intersection starts right after The Palms’ entrance at Town & Country on Mills Drive. When you’re driving south on the Turnpike, watch for exit 20 and the Kendall Village Center. These landmarks are your signal that you’re approaching the intersection. If you’re headed north, exit 20 lets you know you’re closeby.

What to Do in Case of an Accident

Due to frequent traffic and the often negligent or reckless behavior of drivers, car accidents are common in Miami. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles  (“DHSMV”), over 51,000 crashes happened in Miami Dade county in 2020 alone. This statistic is actually an improvement of about 15,000 when compared to 2018 and 2019 reported accidents, which both totaled approximately 65,000. The pandemic and resulting fallout requiring many to stay home may be substantially responsible for the significant drop in the number of crashes last year.

If you’re involved in a car accident in Miami, it’s essential to know what you should do:

  • Step 0: Stay at the Scene.  Some people may feel an urge to flee the scene after an accident, but committing a hit-and-run is illegal in the State of Florida. Potential charges for those who leave the scene range from second-degree misdemeanors to third-degree felonies, depending on whether anyone was injured and the severity of the injuries.
  • Step 1: Get Off the Road. If possible, safely move your car to the side of the road or pull into a parking lot where you aren’t blocking the traffic flow. Once in a safe location, you and the other parties to the accident can exchange names and other pertinent information, such as your vehicle’s registration.
  • Step 2: Call 911. You must report the accident to the police if there appears to be more than $ 500 in property damage or anyone is injured or has died. Given the price of auto repairs, it’s usually likely this legal duty applies. Also, calling 911 ensures needed authorities arrive, be it an ambulance, the police, or a tow truck.
  • Step 3: Take Pictures and Videos. Thoroughly photograph each vehicle involved, being mindful of relevant details, the result of the impact, and the accident scene as a whole, when possible. You can also photograph your injuries if you’re able to do so. Lastly, try to find eyewitnesses to the accident and be sure to get their contact information.
  • Step 4: Wait for the Police to Finish Their Report. Police officers responding to the accident create a report when there’s more than $ 500 in property damage, someone dies, or if someone’s injured. If you speak with the officer, do not admit fault, but don’t lie about what happened. After the police officers finish the report, you are generally free to leave and go about your day.
  • Step 5: Call Your Insurance Company. You likely have a duty to inform your insurance company if you’ve been in an accident under the terms of your policy. If you’re injured, you’ll need to contact them if you want them to pay for your healthcare under your personal injury protection benefits (“PIP”). You do not have to and probably shouldn’t talk to the other driver’s insurance company.
  • Step 6: Contact an Attorney.  If you sustained serious injuries or extensive property damage after your car accident, contact a personal injury lawyer  to learn about legal remedies that might be available to you. Attorneys can help you assess damages, speak with insurance companies, determine the value of your claim, negotiate a possible settlement, and advocate for you at trial.

In Florida, the statute of limitations  is four years for filing a claim, which begins tolling on the date the accident happened. This four-year period applies to both personal injury and property damage claims.

Miami Traffic Updates

Miami is known for its traffic congestion. If you’d like updates as to the status of the roads to avoid long periods of time sitting in traffic and possible car accidents, consider the following options:

  • Florida 511 : Started by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), Florida 511 provides real-time updates on Florida’s roads and travel conditions. Drivers can use this resource to check the traffic flow, the location of accidents, and the status of drawbridges in Miami, among other roadway obstacles. It’s available via fl511.com, text alerts, Twitter, and a mobile app on the App Store and Google Play. If you choose to follow Florida 511 on Twitter for updates on Miami roads, be sure to follow their account dedicated to Southeast Florida at https://twitter.com/fl511_southeast .

  • Waze : Owned by Google, Waze is a GPS navigation app that offers turn-by-turn positioning and route planning and provides users with various traffic updates, including car accidents, road closures, police presence, and traffic blocks by severity of congestion. Waze users themselves often report much of this information. This traffic tool is available via waze.com and as a mobile app on the App Store and Google Play.

Miami Driving Laws

Now that you know where to go, what to expect, and how to get there, here are some essential rules of the road you should know before using Miami roadways:

  • Drivers use the right-hand side of the road.

  • You must always have your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance with you if you’re driving. International visitors can drive on Florida roads with a valid foreign driver’s license issued in their name from their country of residence.

  • Right turns are allowed at red lights (when the intersection is clear) unless otherwise indicated.

  • Texting is no longer allowed while driving. Texting and driving used to be a secondary offense, meaning officers couldn’t stop drivers purely for that offense without citing them for another traffic violation. But a new law effective in October 2019  makes texting while driving a primary offense, so now you can be pulled over and ticketed for texting while driving only.

  • It’s crucial to note the new law covers not just texting but emailing, instant messaging, and other methods of “manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device or while sending or reading data on such a device for the purpose of non-voice interpersonal communication. “

  • The new law also makes it illegal to hold a phone in your hands while driving through a school zone or work zone if workers are present.

  • Self-driving vehicles are allowed on public Florida roads, including cars fitted with Tesla Autopilot and fully automated vehicles like those in development by Waymo.

  • It’s illegal to drive on Miami’s beaches. Under the Dennis L. Jones Beach and Shore Preservation Act, it’s illegal to drive on any beach in Florida unless necessary for cleanup, repair, or public safety. There are exceptions for certain counties, but Miami-Dade is not among them.

  • Florida motorcyclists do not need motorcycle insurance to register a bike in the Sunshine State. They do need to wear a helmet when riding one unless they’re over 21 and have a medical insurance policy with at least $ 10,000 in coverage.

  • Motorcyclists are not permitted to drive between lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles. Commonly known as lane-splitting, this offense is punishable as a noncriminal traffic infraction.

  • In Florida, those aged between 15 and 17 are eligible for a learner’s license, allowing holders certain driving privileges. For the first three months after receiving this license, the holder can drive only during daylight hours. After those three months, holders can drive until 10 pm. A licensed driver older than 21 must always accompany drivers with this permit by sitting in the passenger seat.

  • If the learner’s license holder does not have any moving violations for 12 months from the permit’s issuance date, they become eligible for a driver’s license, but certain restrictions will still apply.

Renting A Car in Miami

If you plan to travel on Miami’s roads when visiting, you can rent a car to get to the city itself or to explore once there. Miami also offers several other modes of transportation to help you get from point A to point B.

Getting to Miami

If you’re planning a trip to Miami but don’t plan on driving there, you have other options to help you arrive at your destination, including:

  • Plane – Miami International Airport (MIA) is the airline primarily serving the Miami area. It might also be practical to fly into the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), which is about 20 miles north of Miami.

  • Train – Currently, only Amtrak offers trains into Miami. Brightline began construction on a new rail line that will connect Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and Orlando. The rail line is currently scheduled to open in 2022.

Getting Around Miami

Miami has a predominately suburban setting, unlike cities like New York or Tokyo. The city is so large and spread out that walking and biking are not practical options to get around. You can expect to rely on vehicles during your visit. Transportation options include:

  • Public Transportation – There are two main public transportation methods for those living in Miami: an above-ground rail line called the Metrorail, and the Metrobus, the city’s network of bus routes. Locals seem to agree that the Metrorail and Metrobus are not the best options for tourists. Nicknamed Metrofail, the Metrorail doesn’t have many stops near tourist attractions, and the Metrobus offers limited travel options.

  • Renting a Car – Due to Miami’s reputation as a global city, many car-rental companies have offices in Miami. The end-result of the steep competition is incredibly affordable car rentals for consumers. A car is necessary if you want to see all the city’s sites at your leisure. That said, if you plan on spending all or most of your trip in one neighborhood or at a resort, renting a car is likely not needed.

  • Ridesharing – Similar to renting a car, using ridesharing services like Uber or Lyft can be another cost-effective transportation choice in Miami. Compared to Miami’s public transportation options, the affordability and superior mobility offered by ridesharing make these services the best choice if you’re going to spend the majority of your trip in just one of Miami’s neighborhoods.

How to Get a Driver’s License in Miami

The State of Florida is responsible for issuing driver’s licenses. A standard driver’s license is called a Class E driver’s license. Drivers between the ages of 15 and 17 can get a learner’s permit, later becoming a Class E driver’s license. The process to get either license is similar. Whether you’re applying for a learner’s permit or a driver’s license, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Complete a Traffic Law and Substance Abuse Education course or an equivalent course.
  • Apply in person at a DHSMV Driver’s License Service Center. If necessary, you can make an appointment online.
  • Bring documentation that provides proof of identity, social security number, and residential address.
  • Pass the vision and hearing tests.
  • Pass the Class E Knowledge and Skills Exam. Drivers can take this exam at the service center or through an authorized third-party administrator beforehand. Still, anyone who passes the exam through a third-party can be randomly selected for a mandatory re-test without prior notice.
  • Have your picture taken.
  • Pay the $48.00 fee and any other associated fees.

If you’re applying for a learner’s permit, you will also need to:

  • Bring a completed Parental Consent for a Driver Application of a Minor (HSMV 71142). A parent or guardian must complete the form in the presence of a notary public or a Driver License and Motor Vehicle Service Center employee.

If you’re applying for a driver’s license, you will need to:

  • Surrender your learner’s license if you have one.
  • Pass a driving test. Drivers can take the driving test at the Driver License and Motor Vehicle Service Center or with a third-party provider.

Driving Schools in Miami

If you need help preparing for the Class E Knowledge and Skills Exam or the driving test, there are many available schools in Miami, varying in quality and reputation. The schools listed below are among the best:

  • La Escuelita de Manejar Inc. – This bilingual institution offers access to driving lessons and programs to pass the Class E Knowledge and Skills Exam in English and Spanish. They also offer courses for traffic violations. Classes are available in-person and online.

  • AA Auto Traffic School & Class “E” Testing Center – This Miami driving school offers a learner’s permit practice course and test, as well as access to a driving skills test. They also provide an online Traffic Law and Substance Abuse Course to report to DHSMV after completion.

  • Artis Driving – Some of this school’s offerings include in-car driving lessons and driver education for adult and teen drivers seven days a week. It offers day and night sessions. Artis Driving is one of the few driving schools in Florida approved by the AAA.

  • South Beach Driving School – Serving the Miami Beach area, this driving school offers a fun and effective perspective on permit courses, with over 90% of students passing the Class E Knowledge and Skills Exam on their first try. It also assists tourists and foreigners wanting to obtain their Florida driver’s license.

Parking in Miami

Parking in Miami is notoriously difficult, costs money, and can get complicated. The following table helps describe the parking situation in Miami Beach:

District Name

Area Covered

On-Street Rate

Parking Lot Rate

Registered Resident Rate

Hours of Enforcement

Entertainment District

Ocean Drive to Pennsylvania Ave and 5th Street to 15th Street

$4.00 an hour

$2.00 an hour

$1.00 an hour

24 hours a day

7 days a week

South Beach Parking Zone

South of 23rd Street, except for areas within the Entertainment District

$ 4.00 an hour

$ 2.00 an hour

$ 1.00 an hour

9:00 am to 3:00 am

7 days a week

East Middle Beach Zone

From 23rd Street to 44th Street and from Collins Avenue to Indian Creek

$ 3.00 an hour

$ 2.00 an hour

$ 1.00 an hour

9:00 am to 3:00 am

7 days a week

West Middle Beach Zone

North of 23rd Street and South of 63rd Street, except for areas within the East Middle Beach Zone

$ 1.00 an hour

$ 1.00 an hour

(except for P71 – 46th Street Lot)

$ 1.00 an hour

(except for P71 – 46th Street Lot)

8:00 am to 6:00 pm

7 days a week

North Beach Zone

North of 63rd Street

$ 1.00 an hour

$ 1.00 an hour

$ 1.00 an hour

8:00 am to 6:00 pm

7 days a week

An app called ParkMe – Miami Beach  can simplify your parking situation at Miami’s popular beaches. This app, available on the App Store and Google Play, can show you available parking near your destination with rates for lots and garages.

Whether you’re a native or a first-, second-, or third-time tourist, understanding the city’s roads and driving rules can help ensure your safety and to avoid a traffic accident while exploring beautiful Miami.