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.