Whether you’re used to driving on the right or left-hand side of the road, switching it up can be very tricky business! When you have spent the majority of your driving years learning how to navigate lane changes and complicated road systems on one side, it can feel as though you are starting your driving lessons all over again when you go to a different country and have to switch over to the other side. This is especially the case if you are hiring a car that has the driving wheel on the opposite side as well!
But, worry not! This comprehensive guide should help you to prepare for the big change and assure that you feel more confident when you get behind the wheel.
Before we start, it’s worth knowing why everyone drives on different sides of the road, depending on where you are in the world. It turns out that the reason why many of the British colonial countries drive on the left is actually due to the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans.
As 85-90% of humans are right-handed, passing traffic on the right-hand side would have left people open to attack from anyone coming the other way. So, keeping your sword handy and passing on the right would enable you to swing for someone at a moment’s notice! To combat this and reduce the chances of attacks on the road, the British Government enacted the General Highways Act 1773, which demanded that road users drive on the left. All of the British colonial countries followed suit, while the rest of the world preferred to drive on the right and continued to do so.
So, next time you go to a different country, you will have a better idea of how is like to drive on the other side of the road!
Of course, before you go, the most important thing you can do is study the rules of the road beforehand. Do your homework thoroughly, as if you were studying for a test, and spend as much time as you can researching the laws and rules specific to the country you plan to drive in. In many European countries, for example, it is the law that you must travel with your headlights on, even during the day! Other countries require you to have reflective gear in your car, while some right turns can be considered illegal. Know your stuff!
Another way to make sure you avoid any issues is to be prepared. Make sure you take a fully-charged GPS navigation system that is completely up to date with the latest roadmaps for the area you will be driving in. Roadworks and new traffic systems often don’t show up on outdated navigation devices, so download the latest software so that you don’t end up completely lost with no fuel!
If the worst-case scenario happens and your navigation system fails, and your co-pilot is struggling with the good-ol’ traditional map, always remember to turn in the direction of the side of the road you are supposed to be driving on. For example, if you are driving in a left-lane country, always turn left. If you are driving on the right, turn right! This strategy will allow you to avoid crossing lanes and pulling out in front of other cars and should help you to find somewhere quiet to pull over and work out where to go next.
If you are hiring a car in a different country, try to find something that is
similar to your own vehicle. Avoid hiring cars that have the driving wheel on the opposite side to your own vehicle, as this can really throw you off when you’re driving on the other side. And, unless you really want to challenge yourself, stick with an automatic. Changing gears on the wrong side of the car, on the wrong side of the road, is a brain game that you are more than likely going to lose!
It’s also worth spending time in your hire car working out where all of the functions are. Is the windscreen wiper where your indicators normally are? Familiarise yourself with the various buttons and levers so that you don’t end up in a panic while you’re driving.
Lastly, before you go, make sure that you have the right insurance. Accidents can happen at any time, especially if you are out of your comfort zone and finding it hard to work out where to go and what to do. Don’t make that problem even worse by having a huge bill to pay at the end of it.
© Maria Taylor 2018