You may vaguely recall the driving "priority to the right" – that when an intersection is not controlled the vehicle on the right has the right of way. Itís of minor concern in the U.S. since there are very few intersections that donít have at least a stop sign. Itís far different here – you could be tooling down a rather wide street and that car emerging from the small side street (on the right) could have the right of way. And of course he pulls out with the complete expectation that you will yield. This leads to a lot of speed-up, slow-down driving unless youíre absolutely sure which cross streets have stop or yield signs. Of course, since many of the streets are so narrow that theyíre one-way, usually alternating directions, every other block you donít have to worry (unless you want to worry that the car on the left has an American driver who may not be familiar with the rule of the right)!
Itís totally opposite for the major streets; the traffic engineers know exactly what they want you to do, and they have signs to make sure that you donít do anything different. Almost every intersection, even those with traffic signals, will have a sign showing which directions you can turn. It was a month after we had a car before we found a legal way to get to our apartment. It takes about a five-block detour to do it. In fact we didnít realize that the left turn we had been making was prohibited by a sign (on the far right) until someone behind us honked at us one day.
We also noticed that the cross streets at signalized intersections also had stop or yield signs. We discovered the reason why late one night: about three-quarters of the traffic signals are completely turned off to give the main street traffic a clear shot! Not so great for the pedestrians trying to scurry across 6 or 8 lanes, though.
Of course, they do have speed limits in urban areas (the Autobahns are something else). To combat high speeds (or maybe just to generate revenues), they have radar-operated cameras with infrared flash for night use that they can move around from place to place. Sometimes theyíre synchronized with traffic signals to catch red light runners. Some weeks later you may receive a fine in the mail; if youíre really interested they may show you a copy of your photo. (Actually the Autobahns do have areas with speed limits where they set up the cameras; Iíve read that some of the photos show amazing acts being performed at illegal speeds!)