Monday, December 31, 2012

Adventures in Driving on the Other Side of the Road

So, we bought a car a couple of weeks ago. Actually it is a green Ford Territory -- an SUV that can seat up to seven, but realistically can hold five people comfortably (so when guests come we can transport everyone to interesting sites outside of Perth).

The other day the three of us all got in the car and Jeff and I practiced driving it around the neighborhood. There are three challenges we are trying to overcome. The simplest is the fact that this is a new vehicle and very large as well so we have to get our bearings on the dimensions of it. The second somewhat difficult concept is the roundabout. Yes, there are occasional roundabouts in the US, and I have driven in Europe where they are pervasive, but the etiquette for them is a little different here. For one thing, you use your turn signal to indicate your ultimate destination: if I enter with the intention to go left, I turn on my left indicator; right, my right indicator; and straight, no indicator at all.

But the most difficult thing is of course the fact that we have to drive on the left side of the road. This can really make your brain hurt. Even though we have been passengers on the left side of the road since July, our brains are not fully wrapped around this concept. And there are a lot of automatic behaviors that you have to change.

For example, the driver is in the seat on the right side of the car. So the rear-view mirror is to your left, not your right. When you are backing out of the driveway, you have to look left for the traffic in the nearest lane. Right turns are the long, lane-crossing turns. (I practiced a lot of right turns in our driving practice session.)

Another thing is that the turn signal is on the right side of the steering wheel, and we keep hitting the wipers instead. At least this just makes me giggle.

Finally, Australian roads are weird. Although they are generally wide like American roads, they tend to have obstacles to slow traffic (or perhaps just to terrorize novice American drivers, I'm not sure). There tend to be jogs in the otherwise straight roads, and curbs jutting out for no reason. I hit one of the errant curbs on a major traffic artery, but luckily nothing bad happened (other than scaring the driver and passengers).


Anonymous said...

The location of the controls for indicator versus wipers is not a function of the country you are in, but of the country where the car was manufactured/designed. My wife and I (both Australian) drive a Volvo and Mazda, and as such our controls are reversed from each other, so we get confused everytime we drive the others car.

Rebecca said...

Very interesting! That would have to be incredibly confusing. I have owned or regularly driven a variety of makes and models in the US, but I don't recall the indicator ever being on a different side. Doesn't mean they weren't, though, but it does make me wonder if, assuming my recollection is correct, there is some sort of regulation about that in the United States.