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

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

Jul 14th, 2012, 05:32 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,380
flanner, you have expressed yourself with your customary tact and sensitivity.

personally I do not find it particularly difficult to "swap sides" when we are driving "sur le continent", whether i am in our own car or a hired one. IME, the first hour or so is the worst. it helps to have some knowledge of the local language and road-signs; the worst place i can remember was Chania in western Crete, where the only way we found our route was because DH had studied maths and could read the greek signs!

the worst thing about driving in the US was the funny road signs [just road numbers quite often, no place names, which was no help at all] and the speed limits, which were so low as to be impossible to keep to [as my speeding ticket for doing 65 on a freeway where apparently i should have been doing 65 testifies].
annhig is offline  
Jul 14th, 2012, 05:33 AM
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oops - it was 50 mph I should have been doing, not 65.
annhig is offline  
Jul 14th, 2012, 06:09 AM
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For us, drivng on the left side with either RHD or LHD, stick shift, round abouts, motorways----no problem at all. It's part of the travel experience.

The biggest problem for us in Ireland were the narrow roads with absolutely no shoulder, and hedges or rock walls right up to the edge, making visibility a real nightmare. Of course, these were the roads that were the most picturesque. Driving on the motorways was obviously quicker point to point, but in looking out you could be anywhere. The beauty of the country lies on those smaller roads. Signage or lack of signage was not a problem. Getting lost was kind of fun and people were very helpful in pointing you in the right direction.

Our first time in Ireland (Sept.'10) was so wonderful we returned 8 mo. later (May,'11) to see more, and we will definitely return again. Obviously, the driving wasn't that scary.

flanneruk----interesting statement about guns in the US. We do not believe in the gun carry law at all and unfortuneately we are in the minority, but I'll save those comments for another post.
TPAYT is online now  
Jul 14th, 2012, 08:03 AM
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 1,510
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it." – Anonymous

It's an easy transition. The only, (slight) problem I have is using the same hand to operate the gear shift and the turn indicator.

cdnyul is online now  
Jul 14th, 2012, 09:40 AM
Join Date: Jun 2012
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There cannot be any fuss about roundabouts. Just go round the correct way, 98% of the British population either don't know or don't follow the correct etiquette, so do as you please and just avoid hitting anything.

Gear changing : pay for an automatic

Directions : our signage system indications a direction relating to a lace name not something nonsensical like I 65 via I 33.

Driving in the US : never comprehended the cheek of the interstate highway patrol. A minuscule sign is placed on a state line which tries to avoid alerting you to the fact that the speed limit has dropped from 70 to 55. The police hide in trees, 7 yards over the state line and issue you with a ticket for doing 66 in a 55 zone whilst you are skidding under breaking, also whilst driving a "compact" hire car which is the size of an average Britsh oil tanker, has a 5.7 litre v12 and iffy breaks.
belted_galloway is offline  
Jul 14th, 2012, 10:10 AM
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b_g - you were obviously there, watching.

BTW, i never paid the $100 fine and every time we've been to the US since, my heart has been in my mouth worrying that I'd be arrested!

with interest, i probably owe about U$10K by now.
annhig is offline  
Jul 14th, 2012, 10:26 AM
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Not watching but probably close behind.

One trip was all a blur, 234 states in 3 days. Think the worst example was from Ashville to Savannah, the limit dropped from 75 to 55, I could not understand why everyone had slammed their breaks on until we saw plod.

Our worst experience by a long way was transversing Camp Lejeune, NC which is home to those very nice military types. We were staying in Beaufort and headed across the base to get somewhere else. The A road, as it crosses the base, has a large sign and sentry hut clearly stating that drivers should stop. In the morning (v early) we stopped but nothing happened. We pipped and some 12 year old recruit came out of the box and told us off for waking him up, just sent us packing. In the afternoon going back over the base, we didn't stop at the sentry post. Another second 12 year jumped out of the sentry box, screaming for us to stop and had me on the floor with an m16 in my back.

Don't think he appreciated my advice for him to stop wetting his nappy.
belted_galloway is offline  
Jul 14th, 2012, 10:27 AM
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,.. and tony2phones thinks roundabouts are hard work!
belted_galloway is offline  
Jul 14th, 2012, 10:31 AM
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I have been lucky (New Englander) to have found the transition to driving on the left and shifting with left hand pretty easy. I drove standard shift for many years and long to return to one. Unfortunately they are hard to come by in the US.
The only problem I have is that every rental car seems to have a different way to get to reverse, so always check that out carefully before leaving the parking lot.

I do sometimes have trouble when returning home and find myself driving on the left in the day or two after return. Fortunately once is all it takes to bring me up and it is usually on one of the small side streets in town.
irishface is offline  
Jul 14th, 2012, 11:04 AM
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We always rent an automatic,one less thing to worry about.
Then concentrate,concentrate, concentrate, especially when turning,left or right! It's so easy to veer to the"wrong " side when making that turn!
Lastly, watch out for pedestrians!
chapla is offline  
Jul 14th, 2012, 11:11 AM
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I have driven on the left several times and only once have I had difficulty. That difficulty was turning from a 2 lane road onto a dual carriageway after a long day of driving. I did have an accident.

After that, our rule was never to drive more than 3 hours in one day, especially if I'm driving on the left.

I had more trouble with the narrowness of the roads in England and Ireland. I lost three hubcaps in Ireland without even knowing they were gone.
Pegontheroad is offline  
Jul 14th, 2012, 11:17 AM
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Oh, I remember a guy from our hotel in Córdoba complaining about Americans not knowing how to drive shift cars. It seems to me he was driving my car out of a funny underground garage with a circular driveway. I had to tell him that it's not a problem for me, as I had cars with standard transmissions for 15 years.

The only time I have trouble with standard transmission is when I have to stop for a red light on a hill. I was okay with my own cars, but I tend to stall when I'm driving a rental car.
Pegontheroad is offline  
Jul 14th, 2012, 11:23 AM
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Only a bad dream if you get an automatic!
ashcanannie is offline  
Jul 14th, 2012, 12:00 PM
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I have driven in Ireland, and recommend to other Americans planning the same: 1) to rent a car with automatic transmission, and 2) to pay for the additional insurance.

In all likelihood you will not only survive, but enjoy your motoring experience as well (it is a beautiful country!). However, the car may acquire some scratches and lose some hubcaps and trim.
Dave_Ohio is offline  
Jul 14th, 2012, 01:07 PM
Original Poster
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This is a site I give now and then but could be of value to anyone planning to drive in Ireland

Tony2phones is offline  
Jul 14th, 2012, 04:27 PM
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With all this "get an automatic talk" I'll add my two cents worth. IMO if you are proficient with a stick shift then it matters little if you shifting right or left handed - I found the switch quick and intuitive. If you are not comfortable with a stick, then your vacation is not the time to learn.
basingstoke2 is online now  
Jul 14th, 2012, 04:37 PM
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I think all the 'get an automatic' wusses probably can't drive a stick at home either. Its that or they haven't tried a stick in the UK and just assume it is a nightmare.

It ain't . . .
janisj is online now  
Jul 14th, 2012, 05:30 PM
Join Date: May 2003
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IMO...getting an automatic shaves off much of the overall anxiety...it's just one less thing to worry about. It does cost a bit more but well worth it to not have to shift. My husband did all the driving and he is quite proficent with a manual transmission but you have to use your left hand (he's right handed) and you shift in reverse order. Why not eliminate that part of the overall challenge? There is plenty else to keep you busy!
ashcanannie is offline  
Jul 14th, 2012, 07:57 PM
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ashcanannie, the manuals I have driven in Ireland (5 over 18 years) did not shift in reverse order.

I find driving on the left and sitting on the right not all that difficult, nor driving a manual transmission....I just have to think about what I'm doing more than at home when I'm cruising familiar streets. Sorta like driving in San Antonio.
jaja is offline  
Jul 14th, 2012, 08:06 PM
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flanneruk: America puts something into its water supply that strips its entire population of moral fibre.


Always thought it had to do with the water!

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.

It's not so much the guns. It's those baggy pants they wear to hide their Uzis in. They're so loose and hang so low, I'm always afraid that the guy's pants will fall off first before he can get his gun clear for firing.

As for roundabouts, they don't exist here in my part of the world. Really daft idea. The first time I drove in Europe was in my early 20s. I hit the roundabout at the Arc de Triomphe at night and was so scared of exiting onto the wrong street, so didn't exit. The other cars were whizzing by and pushed me closer and closer to the center. Believe it must have been around midnight when all the Parisians had pretty much gone home and to bed that I finally dared to exit that roundabout. Ever since then, roundabouts give me the willies.
easytraveler is offline  

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