Driving in Arizona

Driving in Arizona is a pleasure for the most part as the highway system is excellent. The major cities are linked by the  I17, I10 and I 40 freeways all of which are relatively lightly trafficked once you are outside the boundaries of the major cities. The only notable exception is heading back to Phoenix on I17 from the North at the end of the weekend as many locals like to escape the summer heat in the high country at the weekend.

Arizona highway driving

Driving the Highway Arizona

Speed limits are civilized with the majority of the freeways having a limit of 75mph outside of urban areas. Other rural roads have limits ranging from 55mph to 65 mph.  Speed limits generally drop sharply, sometimes as low as 25 mph when roads pass through towns. Be warned that that the local police are likely to enforce these limits keenly.

Fixed and mobile speed cameras are in use in a number of cities in Arizona. Scottsdale has perhaps the most extensive programme.  Note that fixed cameras are also in use to detect drivers who run red lights.

For any international visitors who have not previously driven in the US, note  that right turns at a red light are legal provided you come to a stop first and secondly that the intersection is not signed forbidding a turn on red. I’d also familiarise yourself with the rules of the 3 and 4 way stop as these will be encountered in suburban or rural areas.


Phoenix has an extensive (and expanding) freeway network that allows the large distances within the metropolitan area to be covered quickly. It is worth avoiding the morning and evening rush hours if you can as some areas can become very congested. The local news and radio channels provide regular and comprehensive traffic updates.

Some of the freeways have HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes. From the point of view of the visitor this means in practical terms that these lanes can only be used when a vehicle has 2 or more people on board between 6 to 9 am and 3 to 7 pm  Monday to Friday.

The city is laid out for the most part on a logical grid system which helps with navigation.


Tucson is more compact than Phoenix and lacks a significant freeway system. I10 passes through the city north to south and is useful if you want to head in that direction.  Otherwise there is no option than to travel on the surface streets meaning that journey times can be extended.