Driving On The Left Side Of The Road
By Stuart Hely
Some travelers say driving on the left is not for them. They will never drive in a country where they need to do that. It's true some things might be hard to gauge if you pick up a rental car and need to drive on the left... when you're used to driving on the right. But really, it's a lot easier than you might think.
We have driven on the left in all of the U.K. and Ireland... in Australia and New Zealand... in Africa and in some Caribbean Islands. You just have to stay extra alert all the time.
Here's something to remember when you're contemplating this... not only are you driving on the left, you're sitting on the right side of the car. I can't tell you how often we've both gone back to the "wrong" side of the car when we were driving on the left.
Staying on the left side of the road starts to come more easily after the first few miles, but I freely "backseat drive"... or actually passenger seat drive. It's easier for me to judge the lane lines and how close we are. When we drive on the left, as a passenger, I'm in the left seat and this gives me my normal driver's perspective... so I find myself saying "You're a little close to the line."
You'll enter roundabouts by heading to the left. Remember traffic in roundabouts has the right of way, so you need to look to your right for oncoming traffic. You don't necessarily stop to enter a roundabout, but you should slow and yield to any traffic before entering.
Left and right turns can feel strange at first, but soon you'll be turning just fine. My biggest problem as navigator is I will sometimes say turn left when I mean right, because now a right turn is across traffic. One I get the direction right, the driver, my hubby, does just fine!
On highways and motorways, the "slow" lanes are the outside lanes, and when you're driving on the left that means they are the left lane. That's where you'll get on, and you may just want to stay in that lane until you feel comfortable.
Sometimes problems come when you start to feel comfortable, and you are less alert. If you turn on to a road with no other cars for reference, you may find yourself heading back to that more familiar right side of the road. We did that once after dinner, in the dark in Namibia. Watch yourself leaving and entering car parks too.
Watch out for curbs. It's just like those lane lines I warn about as a passenger. The driver is sitting on the opposite side of the car from what you're used to, so it may be hard to judge where the curb is.... Take your time so you don't damage your rental car.
The most economical cars to rent come with a standard or manual transmission. The accelerator and brake pedals will be in the same order as you're used to; that stick shift, however, will be in the center of the car... so you will be shifting with your left hand.
It might be worth a few extra dollars to reserve a rental car with an automatic transmission.... you'll still have to master driving on the left, but at least you won't have to shift too!
You can pretty much reverse all of these suggestions if you're used to driving on the left, but you are now vacationing in a country where you drive on the right. It goes both ways... right? Left? Right?
This travel tip is brought to you by Stuart Hely of BookCentralCoast.com.au, the specialists in NSW Central Coast accommodation including Terrigal accommodation and Terrigal Hinterland accommodation. Check us out for the best NSW Central Coast accommodation deals on hotels, resorts, apartments and holiday houses.
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Views expressed in the article are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of CaribbeanChoice, its staff or members.