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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:

Tool Road Available Methods of Payment Price Tool
The Florida Turnpike SunPass Only Varies by Mileage
Everglades Parkway SunPass Only and Tool 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:

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 Miami an 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:

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:

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, pull off the road and call for assistance. Remaining calm in the initial stages will help you focus on what you should do right after the collision.

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.

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

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.

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.

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 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.

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. “

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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

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 ah 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 6:00pm
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 6:00pm
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. Also, WhereiPark offers monthly parking around the city based off of your needs.

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.