Navigating The Circle City :: An Idiot’s Guide to Driving in Indy


Don’t worry dear readers – the idiot I’m referring to in the title of this post is me. I have such a knack for getting lost that it’s gained me quite the reputation. In fact, my husband’s former coworkers used to refer to anyone getting lost as ‘Pulling a Sam’. (I’m sure my parents are proud.)

You see, I’m from small town Southern Indiana. God’s Country. The rolling hills and winding rural roads of Dubois County. The biggest traffic jam that I ever experienced growing up was during the 4H Fair when cars would be lined up from the Bretzville Junction waiting to get in.

Leaving home and moving to West Lafayette for college was enough of a driving culture shock to last me a lifetime. But moving to Indy? I probably should have seen a therapist when I got here.

Let’s just say this: GPS, the blessing that it is, should never be blindly followed. One time my GPS kept telling me to go straight on 10th Street. Except straight in front of me on 10th Street was a giant wall erected to block off the road during construction. So, as my GPS kept screaming at me to go straight on 10th, I screamed at it to just SHUT UP so I could figure out what to do. I ended up pulling into a fire station parking lot and alternatively calling my husband, Tim, and then my friend Dave praying to sweet baby Jesus that one of them would be able to use their knowledge of the area to get me out of this predicament. Tim and Dave = my back-up GPS. I imagine that I was the driver that other drivers would scream, “Don’t you know where you’re going?!” Well, actually, probably not. But I will say that learning a few things about Indy’s roadways and traffic patterns over the years has helped me a lot. And I think I’m confident enough now to share my notes with other implanted-into-the-circle-city-drivers.


Indy has like 500 different interstates running through it. We’re not called the ‘Crossroads of America’ for nothin’. There’s I-465, I-65, I-70, I-74, I-69, and a little strip of I-865. Ok, that’s like 6. But still, many more interstates than other cities have to offer. INDY FOR THE WIN. Or maybe not. Probably not, actually. Two tips for the interstate system:

  1. Watch your road signs.
  2. If you’re completely unfamiliar with how the Indianapolis interstate system is set-up, I HIGHLY suggest visiting a Google map to get an idea before you hit the road. Just being able to understand how and where the 5 bazillion exits are and how the interstates intersect each other is huge. And just remember: I-465 is a giant circle. It might take you an hour to get around it, but if you miss every single exit, you’ll eventually get another chance at your original one.


Hamilton County, especially Carmel, is where you’ll find most of these pesky little structures. Such a blessing to keep traffic moving. Such a pain in the $#! when other drivers don’t know how to use them. The biggest tip I have for roundabouts is to follow the road sign arrows and use your mirrors. Especially in the double lane roundabouts. My biggest pet-peeves for roundabout driving:

  1. Lanes: Stay in your lane. Do not switch lanes halfway through a busy roundabout. Someone is bound to get hit – I’ve seen it happen far too often.
  2. Right of Way: Once you’re in the roundabout, you have the right of way. Please don’t stop to allow traffic to enter the roundabout. The cars behind you won’t expect it and you’re likely to get rear-ended.
  3. Entering: Make sure that oncoming traffic is actually going to follow the navigation arrows of their lane. Bide your time. The car that appears to be getting ready to exit may actually be coming around the circle to a different exit. Making an assumption and darting into the circle is good way to cause an accident.

INDOT ( has the best information on navigating roundabouts. And this little infographic is a good thing to take a peek at if you’re new to roundabouts.


Interstates AND Roundabouts: The Worst of Both Worlds

Keystone Parkway running through Carmel (and US 31 north of 116th Street) is set-up similar to an interstate with giant figure-eight roundabouts at the top. Know your exits, follow the roundabout rules, and don’t panic if you go up an exit too far. The roundabouts allow you to easily jump back onto Keystone or 31 and head back to your original exit with only just a few extra minutes of drive time.

Drive Times

Keep in mind that the Indianapolis area is greatly spread out. It can take 30+ minutes in good traffic conditions to get between Indy and the suburbs. Add in rush hour, and you’re looking at an hour minimum. Monday-Friday traffic is worst between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. and then again between 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Inclement weather or big city events (Indianapolis 500, for example) can tie up the roadways even more. If you can, make plans to avoid driving during these times.

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Samantha is a native of small-town Southern Indiana who loves exploring the Circle City with her husband and their daughters, Kate (October 2011) and Isla (December 2015). After finishing a degree in Professional Writing at Purdue, Sam made her way to the greater Indianapolis area where she learned to embrace the lack of hills and abundance of interstate. After an 8-year career in business development and marketing, she’s taken a step back from the corporate world to focus on her own business – GrayGirl Designs – where she designs invitations, stationary, and business materials and offers marketing services, graphic design, and résumé writing. When she’s not trying to balance family and her business, she enjoys (in no particular order): Jazzercize, yoga, crafting, horseback riding, way too much coffee, and hiking. Sam is also a melanoma survivor and a passionate advocate of skin cancer and sun safety education and awareness.