USA for Britons, Aussies, Japanese and Indians: Driving On The “Wrong” Side Of The Road
This is a post for those who drive on the left side of the road (Australians, Japanese, Britons, Kiwis, South Africans, Indians, and it is quite a list! -Hong Kong, Singapore, Sri Lanka are also in the list of 55 countries that drive on the left side of the road), and who will be driving on the “wrong” side of the road in the United States.
My personal experience
I can assure you (being a driver who drives on the “right side” and having driven on the “left side” of the road when traveling to South Africa) that it takes a bit of getting used to, but in a couple of days you will be feeling quite confident.
Because not only do you drive on the “other” side of the road, you also switch your position inside the car and move to the other side of the car!
My first suggestion is to rent an automatic transmission car (which in the US is very easy, almost all cars are automatic). It will make it easier for you as you won’t have to shift gears with your right hand -when you usually do it with your left one.
Pay attention and don’t drive by rote. Roundabouts, turning at intersections and looking in the right direction when reaching to a junction were, in my opinion, the toughest part of driving on the “other side”; I also was confused by the levers on the steering column: every time I flipped the left hand one to signal a maneuver, instead of turning on the signal lights (signals or “blinkers”) it turned on my windshield wipers! They too were inverted!.
But in less than two days I was accustomed to it.
- Take cues from the cars in front of you and follow them. Imitation leads to success!
- Turning at an intersection: by rote, you will automatically tend to turn into the left side lanes, but in the US those carry the oncoming traffic. So be careful and think it out before turning. Or you will end up in a head on collision.
- Driving into a parking lot: keep to your lane and stay to the right.
- At an intersection, to check for oncoming traffic you must look the “wrong way”. I solved this by looking in both directions rapidly just to make sure from where was the traffic coming from.
- You also feel odd to be on the opposite side of the car, but you get used to that too. What you usually do with your left hand you will do with your right and vise-versa.
- As the driver you will always be on the “central” part of the road, away from the shoulder and the sidewalk.
- It is easier to practice on the freeway (no intersections, traffic is flowing in the same direction). My first “wrong side” drive was in Cape Town and the freeway was great, the problems appeared when I got into the downtown area. But with care, patience and caution I got to the hotel safely. I ended up driving 3800 km (2,360 mi) back to Johannesburg without a scratch or any near misses. And it became natural after a while to be on the other side of the road.
- Have your co-pilot keep his or her eyes open too, and to remind you at intersections to turn right into the “near lane” and left into the “far ones”. (see the image below –blue arrows), because if you do as you always do (red arrows) you will crash head on into the incoming traffic.
- Roundabouts! There aren’t many of them in the US, but if you come across one, take it counter-clock-wise.
So take courage and enjoy, learning new skills is fun and adds excitement to your trip.
We will be glad to read your comments.