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Driving on the Left...Easy Transition or Real Nightmare??

Driving on the Left...Easy Transition or Real Nightmare??

Jul 13th, 2012, 07:42 AM
  #21  
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
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Ah, yes, roundabouts. I didn't mention them above because I picked them up quite easily however it was much harder for my wife.

In addition to getting in the correct lane and indicating, the best advice/rule is to not change lanes within the roundabout until you exit. It's not instictive to peel off from the inside lane after having traveled 270 degrees around, but the system works!
indy_dad is offline  
Jul 13th, 2012, 08:40 AM
  #22  
 
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Roundabouts are pretty easy IMO. It is conjoined roundabouts (2 or 3 shoved together) that can present a challenge. There is one in Ayr Scotland that I walked to in advance so I could scout out my route.
colduphere is offline  
Jul 13th, 2012, 08:41 AM
  #23  
 
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PS I hope Tony the OP doesn't drive while using his two phones.
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Jul 13th, 2012, 08:57 AM
  #24  
 
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I actually think driving a stick is better. Not necessarily easier, but definitely safer/better.

reason being (and I've observed this in 'real life') . . . W/ an automatic things can feel too normal/just like back home, and one can drift into sort of 'auto pilot mode'. That is when you get into trouble. The gear lever sitting over then on your left side and having to shift is just another mental cue that things are different. Helps keep one alert IMO.

As for the driving itself - I LOVE driving in the UK. The very narrow roads in busy tourist areas like the Dales or parts of Cornwall can be difficult. True single tracks aren't a problem -- w/ the passing places. It is the VERY narrow two lane roads that take more care.
janisj is online now  
Jul 13th, 2012, 09:41 AM
  #25  
 
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In 2010 I drove for the first time in the UK. My rental car was a stick shift. Although I now drive an automatic at home, I drove stick shifts for years and always when I rent a car in Europe. For me, the two things that required the most adjustment were getting a sense of the clearance I had on the right hand side - my tendency was to drive to close to the right, and to look in the proper direction when entering a roundabout. All in all, I was somewhat uncomfortable the first day - after that most stress was gone. Limited access highways were no problem at all and unlike janisj, I very much enjoyed the narrow country roads and found them easy. City traffic remained somewhat stressful though.
basingstoke2 is offline  
Jul 13th, 2012, 09:42 AM
  #26  
 
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major error - I meant getting used to judging clearance on the LEFT hand sidw.
basingstoke2 is offline  
Jul 13th, 2012, 10:10 AM
  #27  
 
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I found that the worst thing to do is follow your instincts.

One one trip to the UK, I used my instincts twice. Both times I was almost involved in an accident.

Stay calm and think what you are doing all the time.

But, then again, you should be doing that at all times in your respective countries.
Rastaguytoday is offline  
Jul 13th, 2012, 10:55 AM
  #28  
 
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For Americans I always reco renting an automatic - since driving on the wrong side is enough to deal with - without having to switch to standard transmission in a car they are not familiar with.

We have had no problems - but have never driven right off a plane - but after at least 2 or 3 days on the ground.

A couple of hints:

Don;t drive to the point of exhaustion - if you do the automatic reflexes are likely to take over - and you'll be going the wrong way

Roundabouts (traffic circles) - there are very few of these in the US and most people don;t know how to navigate them in the right direction - never mind the wrong one (they have been largely eliminated since they cause a huge number of accidents.) If there is one near you - practice driving it instead of avoiding it. And be willing to circle a couple of times to get where you need to be - don't just dart to your exit road

And if you are not a confident and competent driver (if you have a habit of "scraping" or "bumping" or "nudging" or "touching" either other vehicles or immovable objects) - do NOT drive in a foreign country - no matter on what side of the road
nytraveler is offline  
Jul 13th, 2012, 11:06 AM
  #29  
 
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My husband drives when we are in Europe and I'm on duty to remind him which side of the road etc if necessary. He sometimes drifts a little bit out of his lane while he adjusts, it's my job to correct him when that happens.

He is confident now, having driven quite a bit, but the dangers are when, as others have said, you switch to auto pilot. We were reversing out of a driveway one time and he automatically looked in the direction he would look when at home, to see if there was oncoming traffic and on seeing none, started to reverse and very nearly backed straight into a car coming the other way. That was a very close call!
cathies is online now  
Jul 13th, 2012, 11:27 AM
  #30  
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The point of the question is not for my benefit, I have driven on the right in a right hand drive and drove a left hooker in the UK for years. The point was to get answers to the question and give reference to folk who are afraid of taking the plunge. Ireland is best seen with the freedom of your own transport but many post questions about tours, bus's and trains. Reassurance from those who have taken the plunge, bit the bullet or whatever phrase has to have value on a travel forum.

Many thanks to those who have answered.
Tony2phones is offline  
Jul 13th, 2012, 11:39 AM
  #31  
twk
 
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I live in Texas. Drove in Scotland in 2007. The good thing we did was saving the driving part of the trip for the second week (spent the first week in London), so jet lag was not an issue. We got an automatic, and picked it up at the Edniburgh airport, heading out of town from there. Rural driving in Scotland was pretty easy. I had one screwup in Stirling on my first day (started to go the wrong way), and one time went the wrong way at a single track passing place, but no harm was done. Right turns, and judging distance on the passenger side were the two most difficult things, and I solved those both in related fashion--to keep a safe distance on the left, I simply focused on stay as close as possible to the center line and trusting that if it was a two lane road, that I would have enough room on the left. In making a right hand turn, what I did was to imagine a line marking the desired path through intersection (you see this a lot in Texas--they will have dashed lines guiding you through the turn if there is more than one lane of traffic turning left) and just tried to steer as close to that line as possible, ignoring everything else once I had the right of way.
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Jul 13th, 2012, 11:40 AM
  #32  
 
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basingstoke: "unlike janisj, I very much enjoyed the narrow country roads and found them easy."

I think you may have misunderstood me just a bit. I lived on teh edge of the Cotswolds for several years, w/some really narrow rds. The vast majority are absolutely no prob -- at all. I LOVE country driving! Have driven thousands of miles on narrow country lanes.

I was really only talking about some of the essentially single tracks that are two lane roads and don't have passing places. You really don't run into them too much -- off the beaten path in places like South Devon, parts of Cornwall, the Dales, and I just discovered - on Jersey. On those the locals know the curves/blind hills - visitors don't.
janisj is online now  
Jul 13th, 2012, 12:00 PM
  #33  
 
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I was really only talking about some of the essentially single tracks that are two lane roads and don't have passing places. You really don't run into them too much -- off the beaten path in places like South Devon, parts of Cornwall, the Dales, and I just discovered - on Jersey. On those the locals know the curves/blind hills - visitors don't.>>

lol, jj - and quite often locals get it wrong! the art is to co-ordinate your speeds so that you pass at the widest point, and it is amazing how many people accelerate towards the narrowest point instead, so that one of you has to stop and wait for the other. I've even been overtaken by other cars who supposedly didn't realise that I was sat waiting for the oncoming vehicle to pass.

and inevitably you eventually meet someone coming towards you round a blind bend when one or other of you has to reverse - I suppose that happens to me on my way to and from work at least 2-3 times a week.
annhig is offline  
Jul 13th, 2012, 12:09 PM
  #34  
 
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"I've even been overtaken by other cars who supposedly didn't realise that I was sat waiting for the oncoming vehicle to pass. "

That's happened to me too
janisj is online now  
Jul 13th, 2012, 12:13 PM
  #35  
 
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Too bad Basingstoke, I thought we were brothers for a second. For some reason the biggest problem I have is, when turning right across traffic coming at me, I keep looking over my right shoulder to see if anyone is overtaking me on the right. Which makes zero sense.
colduphere is offline  
Jul 13th, 2012, 12:33 PM
  #36  
 
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jj - I now put my right indicator on to give them a bit more of a clue. I'm sure that the ones who overtake like that are the same ones who speed up towards the narrowest bit.
annhig is offline  
Jul 13th, 2012, 12:58 PM
  #37  
 
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I really, really do not see how this can be an issue. Millions of Brits travel abroad every year and are forced to drive on the wrong side. We don't have an issue.
belted_galloway is offline  
Jul 13th, 2012, 01:15 PM
  #38  
 
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BG

You are missing (some of) the points. It's much more similar to go from the UK to say France than it is from the US to the UK for the reasons discussed above.
indy_dad is offline  
Jul 13th, 2012, 03:46 PM
  #39  
 
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Well that does make sense janisj - BTW, I enjoyed driving in the Cotwwolds more than any other area - it was delightful.
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Jul 13th, 2012, 11:12 PM
  #40  
 
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"It's much more similar to go from the UK to say France than it is from the US to the UK for the reasons discussed above"

It isn't.

When we drive on the Continent, we have to change language, distance measurement and side of road all at the same time. Americans get into hissy fits just at the thought of changing sides.

There are two possible explanations for this, though I suspect there's a bit of both going on.

1. America puts something into its water supply that strips its entire population of moral fibre. The descendants of people who braved months in sailing ships across the Atlantic to steal (at as much personal risk as profit) territory from its rightful owners get reduced to jelly at the thought of driving along a country lane. And/or:

2. Almost uniquely, the population of the British Isles learn almost immediately that if they're going to drive, they're going to have to drive ambidextrously. You can't spit anywhere in Europe without it landing in a foreign country your country's been intermittently at war with for substantial bits of the past thousand years. But most Continentals, if they visit Britain, confine their travels to places accessible by public transport from an international airport. All other English-speakers live in places where they're surrounded by countries driving on the same side. The people of Britain and Ireland, however, have no real alternative to holidaying somewhere that drives on the wrong side and speaks some filthy foreign lingo (and that obviously includes Florida).

So we just get on with it, just as we walk around in the rain. Or, if you're an Americophile, with just as much aplomb as an American walks through crowds of people carrying guns - unconcerned that one might pull theirs out.

Changing driving sides a couple of times a year is no odder for the British or Irish than sticking mistletoe and holly up. For the overwhelming majority of American tourists in Britain it's a bizarre, and often frightening, experience they'll never have to deal with again.
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