Driving in Nashville for Visitors | Rules & Tips 
Worried about driving in Nashville on your upcoming trip? Luckily, driving around Nashville is pretty easy, but there are a few things you need to be aware of to best enjoy your time in the city.
As a Nashville local, I drive in the city almost every day. Driving is currently one of the best ways of getting around Nashville. It’s the quickest way to get from place to place in the city, and it allows you to have the most flexibility during your visit to Music City.
In this article, I’ll share the basics of how to drive in the Nashville area plus more in-depth tips for navigating the city and avoiding traffic.
Table of Contents
- Driving Laws and Rules in Nashville
- Tennessee License Requirements
- Where to Rent a Car in Nashville
- Car Insurance Rules
- Driving in Rain in Nashville
- Driving in Snow in Nashville
- 6 Tips for Driving in Nashville
- FAQs about Driving in Nashville
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Driving Laws and Rules in Nashville
Whether you’re used to driving in the United States or you’re more familiar with driving in other countries, there are a few things you need to know about driving while in Nashville:
- The roads are in varying conditions depending on location. Newer areas generally have nicer roads. Older or more frequently used city streets, highways, and interstates sometimes have more potholes than you’d expect, so watch out for those.
- Like in the rest of the United States, drive on the right side of the road while in Nashville.
- Unless otherwise posted, the speed limit is 25 mph in residential neighborhoods, 35 mph in urban areas, and generally between 55 to 70 mph on highways and interstates.
- Drivers are considered to be over the limit for alcohol with a BAC of 0.08. Also, drivers cannot drink or possess an open container of alcohol while driving the vehicle.
- Right turns are allowed at red lights unless signs indicate otherwise.
- Drivers and all passengers are required to wear seatbelts while the vehicle is in operation.
- Drivers are not allowed to hold cell phones at any time while driving.
- Nashville has HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes on some major highways and interstates. The HOV lanes allow vehicles with two or more occupants to move faster during rush hour. HOV rules are in effect on inbound lanes between 7 am to 9 am and on outbound lanes between 4 pm and 6 pm.
- Move out of the way for emergency vehicles with their lights flashing and sirens on. If you’re at a green light and hear emergency vehicle sirens, wait to make sure the emergency vehicle has passed before going through the intersection.
Tennessee License Requirements
To drive in the state of Tennessee, you’ll need a valid driver’s license. Tennessee does not recognize or require the International Drivers Permit. If you’re from the US, then you’ll need a valid United States driver’s license, or if you are visiting from another country, you will need your home country’s license to drive in Tennessee.
Note that some car rental companies may require you to have an International Drivers Permit to rent a vehicle if you do not have a United States driver’s license.
Where to Rent a Car in Nashville
When your flight lands, you’ll find places to rent a car in Nashville right at the airport. Other rental car companies are located in different areas of the city as well. To make sure you’re getting the best deal on your rental car, you can use Discover Cars to compare different rental companies and book a car in advance.
It’s possible to wait to book a rental car once you get to Nashville. Sometimes rental stock is limited though, so I would suggest booking in advance to make sure you get a car.
Car Insurance Rules
If you are driving in Tennessee, you are required to have car insurance. According to the TN Department of Revenue, you must have an auto liability insurance policy that covers a minimum of $25,000 for each injury or death per accident, $50,000 for total injuries or deaths per accident, and $15,000 for property damage per accident.
Car rentals in Tennessee are obligated to have the minimum state-required car insurance included in the price. Still, it’s a good idea to consider getting additional insurance for peace of mind.
You may already have extra insurance coverage through a personal auto insurance policy, a credit card company, or traveler’s insurance. Check to see if you have extra coverage. If not, it’s easy to get additional insurance when you rent a car through Discover Cars.
Driving in Rain in Nashville
Nashville gets an average of 119 days of rain each year, so depending on when you visit Nashville, you have a decent chance of driving in the rain during your visit. Drivers are required to turn on their headlights while it’s raining but should not turn on their hazard lights.
Be aware that the posted speed limit is for ideal driving conditions. When roads are wet and visibility is low, you need to go slower than the speed limit. Leave extra space between your car and the car in front of you.
Flash flooding can occur in some areas. Check for weather alerts before getting in your car. Also, turn around if a road is submerged in water. It can be difficult to tell just how deep flooding is, and the situation can become dangerous quickly if you underestimate the depth of the water.
Driving in Snow in Nashville
Despite being a southern city, Nashville tends to get a few days of snow each year. My best advice for driving in snow here is don’t drive if there is snow covering the road. Wait until the city gets the streets cleared instead.
The city does not get snow consistently enough for locals to know how to drive in snowy conditions. Even if you are used to driving in snow, you will be sharing the road with people who have a good chance of losing control of their vehicles and hitting you.
Snowfall is possible from November to April with the chances of snow being most likely in January and February. Most visitors will not encounter snow during a trip to Nashville, though.
6 Tips for Driving in Nashville
Tip #1 – Be Careful Where You Park
Nashville has grown rapidly and wasn’t designed for the number of vehicles currently in the city. As a result, parking is limited in some areas. In downtown Nashville and popular neighborhoods for visitors like East Nashville, you may have to pay for parking. If you park illegally, your chance of getting a parking ticket or getting towed is high.
Tip #2 – Avoid Rush Hour
Nashville traffic isn’t as bad as some other major cities, but try to avoid major roads during morning and afternoon rush hours. Traffic slows things down considerably during this time, and accidents can cause traffic jams that back up for miles.
Nashville commuters typically drive into Nashville in the morning and drive back to the suburbs in the afternoon. If you’re headed in the opposite direction, say on a day trip from Nashville, you might miss the worst of Nashville traffic.
Tip #3 – Be Aware of Major Events
Going to a concert or watching professional sports are some of the best things to do in Nashville. However, these events draw a lot of visitors and can clog the roads. Try to avoid things like driving by Bridgestone Arena right before a Predators game unless you’re on the way to the game yourself.
Tip #4 – Pay Attention at Intersections
Most drivers in Nashville are safe, but always be on the lookout for drivers not following the rules. When you get a green light, check to make sure that other drivers are slowing down before going. There’s always a possibility another driver will blatantly choose to run a red light.
I always pause for a second or two before going when the light turns green at most intersections. I’ve seen one too many close calls here.
Tip #5 – Make Plans to Avoid Driving Impaired
A lot of visitors come to Music City to celebrate and party. If you are going to bar hop on Broadway or enjoy several drinks at one of Nashville’s live music venues, don’t drive. Have a designated driver, get a rideshare, or plan to walk back to your hotel at the end of the night instead.
Tip #6 – Watch for Pedestrians and Cyclists
Pedestrian fatalities are on the rise in Nashville. This problem is partially due to infrastructure and street design. Sidewalks and bike lane systems are not robust or well-connected. Sometimes, sidewalks end abruptly on one side of the road or they don’t exist at all.
This tends to be less of a problem in downtown Nashville because there are good sidewalks and crosswalks. It’s important to make sure you’re paying attention while driving no matter what part of the city you’re in though.
FAQs about Driving in Nashville
Is Nashville car friendly?
Nashville is easy to get around by car. It’s the best way to get to most places in the city. However, be prepared to pay to park in some areas.
What time is traffic the worst in Nashville?
Traffic jams are the worst during rush hour from 7 am to 9 am in the morning and from 4 pm to 6 pm in the afternoon.
How do tourists get around Nashville?
Tourists generally get around Nashville with rental cars. Options like ride shares, public transportation, and walking are possible but can be difficult or inefficient. Some tourists choose to stay in more expensive hotels in downtown Nashville to be able to walk to major attractions.
What’s the best time to drive through Nashville?
As long as you avoid rush hour from 7 am to 9 am, the morning is typically the best time to drive through Nashville. Nashville traffic increases throughout the day.
Thanks for reading my guide to driving in Music City! If you’re still looking for accommodations for your trip to Nashville, check out my guide to where to stay in Nashville.
(Featured Image Credit: Anne Elle / Shutterstock)
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