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Driving on the left side, the right side

My dad is petrified of driving on the left side, in his mind, the absolutely wrong side. Or, to quote my dad “I’d rather be shot than having to drive on the wrong side of the road” (my dad is prone to hyperbole).

Since my parents live in a country where they drive on the “correct side” I’m happy to shrug off his comments. If there wasn’t the trip we’re planning to do with them in December. In a snapshot it’ll involve: two weeks, two thousand kilometres, one car, four people, one round trip from Perth, Kalgoorlie, Albany, Margaret River and back to Perth. Out of the three potential drivers (my mum doesn’t drive) one would rather be shot than sit behind the steering wheel…mhhhh. That does strike me as rather demanding, doesn’t it?

So, I’m trying to get my head around my dad’s anxieties:

You have to change your thinking about which side you drive on, right?
Really? Do you constantly think about driving when you drive? I mostly listen to the music or the voices in my head and we sure as hell ain’t talking about driving. Every now and then other obnoxious drivers, red lights, green lights, speed limits pop into my head these aren’t left-right specific though.

The first weeks of driving in Australia (as far as I remember) I was surprised how little difference the other side made. The only time it felt weird was when I actually climbed into the car. In fact, signage, marked lines and other traffic always pointed me towards driving on the left side.

Shifting gears with the other hand is difficult, right?
Uhm, we drive a manual. Very few cars in Australia have manual gear shifts and admittedly it does feel weird, but it isn’t difficult. If you’ve learned how to drive a manual it isn’t hard to swap to the other side.

On top of driving on the “wrong” side there’s also plenty of other different rules, right?
Naw, not really. 99% of Australian traffic rules are pretty much like those in Europe, UK or US. The 1% difference that comes to my mind is how you use roundabouts. Here, roundabouts have three rules (these are my pearls of wisdom, a daily driver. If you want to be certain this is accurate visit the road and traffic department in the respective Australian state):

1. Give way to everyone who comes from the right.

2. Turn into the roundabout clockwise.

3. Use your indicator (essential!) before you enter the roundabout similar to when you approach a cross junction. If you want to exit left, indicate left. If you want to exit right, indicate right. If you want to exit straight ahead, don’t indicate. Simple!

Use an indicator is essential (!!!) because if you don’t people will think – come on, you can guess it – yes, that you want to go straight ahead. If you then turn into the left exit and quickly pop on your left indicator – like you would in Europe – people will not be impressed. They’ve waited for you…in vain!!!

Now, if you can think of any other cause for my dad’s anxieties please tell me. TELL ME. It’ll be great to deflate his preconceptions and actually be able to split the driving between three people, not two. I’d appreciate your thoughts!

15 Comments Post a comment
  1. Gillian Quigley #

    I have to admit, having driven in Australia all my life and then spending time in Canada, who drive on the right, it was a bit unnerving having to switch myself back. You’re completely right about the road rules though. They are all basically the same and if you get caught out, you just wave and sing out ‘Sorry !!! Tourist !!’ and smile. Though a lot of the time because I have an Australian accent I got away with it 🙂

    Having said that and after being back in the Land of Oz for well over 2 months now, I still have to remember to put myself on the correct side of the road. Maybe my brain keeps telling me to drive on the right because in my heart I want to be in Canada !!! Hmmmm……. perhaps we will become blog buddies !!!

    • Wow, so your subconscious wants to go back and drive on the right although you’ve driven on the left most of your life. That’s so exciting! a) proves my thought about the subconsciousness of driving (but may not work in my dad’s advantage) and b) you must LOVE Canada a lot. If you do leave promise me you do start a blog, ok?

  2. Ahhh indicatin round a roundabout.

    I must need to brush up on the rules, but when I got my license the rules were
    -going left indicate left
    -going straight – don’t indicate initially but indicate left on exit
    -going right – indicate right, indicate left on exit.

    But now you’ve piqued my curiosity and I’ll have to look it up!

    As for making the switch? I’ve never driven anywhere else so I cant help.

    • I’m glad we’re on the same page. I mean side of the road 😉

  3. Whilst I can’t comment on making the switch between right side / left side driving, this post did make me look up the correct way to indicate around a roundabout.

    It always bugs me when people don’t indicate to exit. But at the same time I’ve never seen the point of indicating to merge so I’m guilty of picking and choosing the road rules.

    • Oh very good on you for looking up the rules. Phew! Thankfully what we say is also CORRECT! Very naughty of you not to indicate when you merge. Do you at least do the “thank you” wave?

      • If someone lets me in when they didn’t have to I always wave. But when it’s 3 lanes going down to 2 I find indicating confusing. If you have to indicate to show that you’re staying in the same lane, how do you indicate that you’re changing lanes.
        Silly to me.

        But I still do it when I remember. I also indicate when I’m parking in carparks, including the one at home even when there is absolutely no one else around.

      • That’s very diligent indicating on your behalf, I like it. After all people can’t read your mind and that little flashlight is pretty much the only way of telling people what you want (that and honking, but we won’t go there…).

  4. I drove in France… Tres facile! It was so much easier than I thought. Except for their roundabout rules which are horrendous as I’m sure you know!

    • Did you drive a manual car in France? Very brave of you! Those five lane roundabouts in Paris do look scary. I’d have no idea how to handle those…

      • Yes it was manual BUT only in the back streets of the Touraine! Mark did all of the Paris driving thank god. We drove around the regional areas for a month… So I just did the quiet country lanes. Not too hard!

  5. Miriam #

    Christina, I’m not quite sure how busy the roads will be outside Perth, but compared to German highways that shouldn’t be a problem. Thus tell your dad that he’ll have plenty of space to get used to it. And for sure he’ll only make the mistake once, driving on the wrong side. Once others come closer, he’ll remember. My first time driving on the left side was in the UK, but driving a German car. I was a bit confused that day and made everything wrong that was doable. Entering a OneWay street from the wrong side, then driving on the right side… All that honking and flashing of the other drivers helped to put me right. Afterwards, no problem at all. The only thing I had difficulties getting used to in Australia was that the handle for the indicator and the swipe are swapped compared to European cars, but hey, that’s always good for a laugh 😉 Have a fun time with your parents, you’ll manage to convince your dad. Cheers, Miriam

    • Thank you for that very good reminder of Germany’s crazy traffic. Although I think the honking and flashing of other drivers is what my dad fears too 😉

  6. I’ve never done it, but my wee brain would be a tad concerned. I love driving manuals, and imagine shifting with the left hand wouldn’t be difficult to master.

    • Thinking about driving on the other side is, I guess, harder than actually driving on the other side. And you’re right, the left hand shifting isn’t too hard. But let me know if you ever get to drive on the other side so we can assess our comments here again 🙂


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