Apparently it’s all relative, time, space…and even which side of the road is right and which one is wrong.

I’ve recently passed my driving test in the UK and having originally learnt to drive in Italy, and have to admit that the first impact with driving on the left, was well, interesting. As my driving instructor eloquently put it, in the UK: “left is right and right is wrong…”, and that little mantra will probably stick with me forever.

But that got me thinking about all the British drivers who every day cross the Channel and face the slight disconcerting feeling of looking at the world suddenly flowing in the wrong direction.

Unfortunately I don’t have a catchy phrase for that, but I’ve tried to collect a short list of tips which I hope you could find useful:

1) Keep right: obvious as it sounds, that’s the golden rule when driving in Europe the USA and most other countries outside the UK. Right lane is your regular navigation lane whereas the left one is for overtaking.

Bear in mind that the side of the road is not the only thing you have to consider when driving abroad. Of course most road signs and general rules are the same but others vary by country. In Italy for example you normally give way to vehicles coming from the right, but if you are driving roundabout you have to give way to traffic coming from the left.

2) Watch your speed: when you drive the “wrong side of the road” you will have to fight rather than rely upon some of your basic instincts, and if total concentration is paramount, driving at a moderate speed will give your brain that extra time needed to assess the situation and make the right decision in an unfamiliar situation.

3) Follow the crowd: I know this could sound obvious but paying attention to what other road users are doing is usually the best way to get, and stay, on the right side of the road when pulling out off a parking space or exiting a junction.
This is especially important when coming out of a junctions or…negotiating your way across a roundabout.
Of course if you are coming out an airport car park, chances as your fellow drivers might be as clueless as you are…. so be careful!

4) Take your time: Make sure you take few moments to familiarise with your car before you set off. No matter where you drive, pedals will be in the same, but when you drive in Europe for example, the steering wheel and the stick gear will be on your right so you will have to learn to change gear with your right hand. Doesn’t take long to get use to it, but if you feel this could be an issue for you, you might want to consider going for an automatic car.

5) Mind the curb: gauging distances when you suddenly have the bulk of your car on your right instead of your left might be tricky especially when you are trying to find your way around those picturesque, narrow passages that are so popular in Italy, Spain and France. So once again be careful and allow plenty of space when overtaking.

I hope these tips help, but if you have any others of your own please let us know.

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6 Responses to “Driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road!”

  1. Richard Williams Says:

    Prior to hiring from Avis could you please tell me your policy on non fault accidents. e.g. if someone, say opens thier door and damages the vehicle I have hired, who is responsible?

  2. Roland Says:

    Really good tips – #2 is key. You have to concentrate and deliberately think about what to do all of the time. You point about fighting your instincts is exactly right.

    Driving on the (actual) wrong side of the road is something many experienced drivers have done on both side of channel. Mostly, there are no consequences – but that doesn’t lower the risk of a bad accident.

  3. Chris Cox - Reservations, Avis UK Says:

    Hi Richard,

    If the car was returned with damage on it that wasn’t there when you collected the car then you would be responsible. If in this example a 3rd party caused the damage provided you obtained contact details for this party then Avis would reclaim the damage costs from them and refund yourself.

  4. Richard Williams Says:

    Chris, thanks you for the info. Could you clarify one additional point. From my previous experience of car hire. It is not unusual to get a car with a number of minor ‘dings’ which you agree are there. Does this mean that each person who rented the car when the ding occured would pay for the repair; so that, if say a particular door had 5 minor dings in it, when you finally get it repaired you have been paid 5 times over for the repair?

  5. Chris Cox - Reservations, Avis UK Says:

    Hi Richard,

    No not at all. When the vehicle is picked up all damage is noted on the vehicle condition report which customers agree with the Avis staff. The renter has the opportunity here to point out all damage. When the car is returned then any additional damage would be charged. This damage would then be marked on the next renter’s damage report so it would never be charged again.
    I hope that helps


  6. Adam Says:

    Yes, good advice. There are several websites available providing highway codes for different countries, or vital parts of the codes. Worth looking into.

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