What is a Curb in Driving? [Beginner’s Guide for Car Owners]

what is a curb in driving

Curbs, a staple in urban design, have ancient roots dating back to Pompeii, but their widespread construction began in the 18th century as part of city beautification efforts.

Initially designed for waste management and water flow control, curbs evolved significantly in the mid-20th century with the introduction of curb cuts in the U.S. for enhanced accessibility, particularly for disabled veterans.

This evolution highlights curbs’ enduring importance in urban infrastructure.

If you’re a new to driving wanting to learn more about what our roads consist of, then this article is for you.

What is a Curb on the Road?

why do i keep hitting curbs

A curb, also referred to as a kerb, is an important component in urban road design, fulfilling various roles for drivers and pedestrians. It marks the boundary where a raised sidewalk or road median intersects with a street or other roadway.


Curbs are important for road safety and traffic regulation. Here are some key points about curbs that are relevant for drivers:

Safety Barrier

Curbs act as a safety barrier between the road and the sidewalk.

They are designed to protect both vehicles and pedestrians by preventing cars from driving onto sidewalks, thus averting potential accidents​​.

Parking Regulations

Curbs are often used to indicate parking regulations.

For example, green curbs or green zones signify short-term parking areas. Parking is allowed next to these curbs, but it is important to follow the specified time limits to avoid parking violations.

Curb Colors and Parking Restrictions

Different colored curbs indicate various parking restrictions or allowances. However, the specific meanings of these colors can vary from state to state.

Drivers are encouraged to familiarize themselves with local curb color meanings in order to understand parking restrictions, allowances, or conditions.

Having this knowledge is important for safe driving and avoiding penalties.

Reference Points for Parking and Driving

When parking or driving near curbs, it’s important to maintain a safe distance.

A general guideline is to keep your vehicle about three to six inches away from the curb. A helpful tip is to use the center of your vehicle’s hood as a reference point to ensure proper alignment and avoid being too close or too far from the curb.

Impact on Emergency Access

Incorrectly parking in front of a curb can block access for other drivers, especially emergency vehicles.

It is important to observe and respect curb zone laws to avoid penalties and ensure unobstructed access for emergency services when needed.

What are the Downsides of Curbs for a Driver?

A car owner who looks worried

Curbs play an important role in road safety and traffic management, but they also have some disadvantages, especially for drivers.

Here are a few notable drawbacks:

Risk of Vehicle Damage

One of the most immediate concerns for drivers regarding curbs is the risk of vehicle damage.

Accidental contact with a curb can lead to tire damage, wheel misalignment, or even more severe issues like damage to the vehicle’s suspension.

For drivers, especially those who are less experienced or driving in tight spaces, the proximity to curbs can be a source of anxiety and potential expense.

Obstruction in Emergency Situations

In emergency driving situations, such as needing to pull over quickly or when navigating around an accident, curbs can act as an obstruction.

They limit the ability of drivers to maneuver off the road safely, potentially leading to traffic congestion or, in worst-case scenarios, can contribute to accidents if drivers misjudge the curb’s height or position.

Challenges in Snowy or Icy Conditions

In regions with heavy snowfall or icy conditions, curbs can pose significant challenges.

They can be obscured by snow, making them invisible to drivers, which increases the risk of accidentally hitting them.

Additionally, curbs can hinder the effectiveness of snow plowing and removal, leading to snow accumulation on roadsides and reduced road width.

Impediment to Large Vehicle Navigation

For larger vehicles, such as trucks and buses, curbs can make navigation more difficult.

Tight curbed areas can limit the turning radius of these vehicles, making it difficult to maneuver without the possibility of coming into contact with the curb.

This is especially problematic in urban areas with narrow streets.

Potential Hazard for Cyclists

While primarily a concern for drivers, curbs also pose a risk to cyclists.

Cyclists riding close to the curb can face dangers from vehicles, and curbs themselves can be hazardous if a cyclist needs to swerve to avoid an obstacle.

This is a concern, especially in areas without dedicated bike lanes, where cyclists and vehicles are in close proximity.

Accessibility Issues

High curbs can present difficulties for individuals who use wheelchairs, walkers, or strollers.

Although curb cuts (sloped areas at crosswalks) are designed to address this problem, inconsistent implementation can still create obstacles to accessibility.

How to View Curbs as a Driver

a woman trying to park her car

As a driver, having a balanced perspective when viewing curbs is important.

They play an important role in safety by separating roads from pedestrian areas and helping with traffic regulation. However, curbs can also present challenges such as vehicle damage and navigation difficulties.

It’s important to acknowledge these dual aspects of curbs. On one hand, they are indispensable for orderly and safe urban driving, guiding parking behavior and protecting pedestrians.

On the other, drivers need to be cautious of their presence, especially in scenarios like parking on hills, navigating in snowy conditions, or driving large vehicles.


a person thinking

We’ve addressed additional topics that might help you learn more about curbs:

What are the different types of curbs?

Curbs vary in design to suit different environments: Rolled curbs allow easy drive-over in residential areas, barrier curbs prevent vehicles from leaving the road in high-traffic zones, monolithic curbs integrate with the pavement in rural settings, mower curbs aid in lawn care, and slanted curbs facilitate pedestrian access. Each type is tailored for specific functional needs.

CONTINUE READING: Explaining the Different Types of Curbs

What should I do if I accidentally hit a curb while driving?

After hitting a curb, safely check your vehicle for damage, especially the tires and rims. Even if there’s no visible damage, it’s wise to get a wheel alignment check as hitting a curb can affect alignment and suspension.

If you ever find yourself in this situation, our guide titled ‘What to Do After Accidentally Driving Over a Curb‘ could be helpful, so please take a look at it.

How can I effectively judge the distance between my car and the curb, especially while parking?

Use vehicle reference points, like aligning your side mirror with the curb. Aim to park about six inches away from the curb, using mirrors to gauge distance.

If you’re looking for a more in-depth discussion on this topic, consider reading our guide, ‘How to Avoid Hitting a Curb When Parking.’

Are there any special considerations for driving large vehicles like trucks or buses near curbs?

Large vehicles should take wider turns to avoid curbs and be aware of their rear wheels tracking closer to the curb. Check for height clearances and use mirrors or a spotter in tight spaces.

How should I park my car near a curb on a hill to ensure safety?

On a hill, turn your wheels towards the curb if facing downhill, and away from it if uphill, to prevent the car from rolling into traffic. Always use the parking brake and leave the car in gear or ‘park.’


Overall, curbs should be viewed as a fundamental component of road safety and urban planning. 

They require attention and respect from drivers, not just for legal compliance but also for the broader goal of ensuring a safe, efficient, and accessible driving environment for everyone.

Our brand, Smooth Curb, offers an innovative solution that seamlessly integrates with this concept.

By providing premium driveway curb ramps, we address the challenges that curbs present, particularly for homeowners with rolled curbs.

Our product, SmoothCurb – Driveway Curb Ramp, effectively bridges the gap between the street and your driveway, mitigating the jarring effects of curbs that can lead to vehicle damage and discomfort.

If you want to check out more of what we do, then read through our blogs as we’ve prepared topics that might interest you.

A quick read of ‘Can Hitting a Curb Cause a Flat Tire?’ or ‘What Happens If You Accidentally Drive Over a Curb‘ might give you some ideas as a beginner on what to expect.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us or leave a comment below, so that our team can assist you with everything you need.

We hope that you’ve learned something today, and we look forward to seeing you in our next post.