In the United Kingdom everyone drives on the left, so driving on the right-hand side of the road in a foreign country can be quite disconcerting. The following is a guide to the different aspects of driving on the 'wrong' side of the road.
When driving abroad, you will either be driving your own car or a hired car. In the first instance, the steering wheel will be on the right-hand side, but will make overtaking practically impossible while driving on the right-hand side of the road. However, if you hire a car which has the steering wheel on the left then you will have to adapt reasonably quickly if you wish to survive. It is sometimes possible to obtain an automatic car, negating the need to change gears too often. However, the following sections may help when driving a manual hire car:
Driving a Hire Car
- Consider keeping your right hand resting on the gear stick all of the time. This will prevent you from repeatedly opening the window by mistake when you actually want to change gear.
- Rest your left elbow on the armrest or window sill so as to further prevent confusion.
- Remember that the auxiliary controls1 are in a different position in every car, so it is advisable to check before you begin.
- Note that the pedals do not change position in left-hand drive cars - the accelerator pedal will still be on the right.
- Note that you will be a different position relative to the lane markings or the kerb. It is important to pay careful attention to avoid swerving across lanes or hitting the wall2 on a narrow lane. It may help to compare the position of left side of the car to the road marking on your left.
On the Road
As well as having to cope with the strange new layout of the rented car, the struggling Brit will then have the foreign country's road system inflicted upon them. The following tips should prove useful in avoiding accidents:
- Repeat the phrase 'drive on the right' until you are quite sure that you won't forget to.
- The most dangerous turn3 is now the left-hand turn.
- Roundabouts will be based on the rest of the system, so you must give way to the left and drive anti-clockwise around them.
- When emerging from a side road, look to the left first. It pays to look to the right as well. In fact, in some countries such as France and Belgium, priority is given to vehicles in side roads to the right of the main road, and therefore some Belgians never look to the left on the grounds that if someone hits them, it's not their fault...
- Take care when driving along a one-way street and then turning on to a two-way road, as it feels like you are driving on the left. This is something that you must not continue once on the two-way road.
- If you come to a complicated junction, watch how the other cars traverse it - the locals usually know what they're doing.
- If you are driving on a narrow lane, make sure you remember to pull over to the right-hand side when passing other vehicles.
- Extra care should be taken on dual carriageways and larger roads - it is best to remain in the slow lane until you've got the hang of things.
- If you must insist on overtaking other vehicles in a right-hand drive car, then have someone4 in the passenger seat of the car to tell you when it is safe to do so.
- For information specific to particular countries, see h2g2's guide to International Driving Etiquette.
- If you live in the UK, you may need advice on driving in France or Germany.