17th Oct 2018
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Top tips for driving on the wrong side of the road
Drive on the wrong side of the road

Apart from being a great way to see a foreign land, driving overseas will often save you money on flights and – if you hire an RV or campervan – accommodation.

But many people fear driving on the right-hand side of the road. And it’s not just the road side that changes: the steering wheel is on the opposite side of the car, as are many of the instruments. However, with a few simple tips and some minor readjustments, driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road can be simpler than you think.

Here are some suggestions for adjusting to driving on the wrong side of the road.

When you first get in the car


First of all, you’ll notice that the steering wheel is on the left-hand side. This means you’ll have to operate the gearshift and other essential apparatus with your right hand. A good way to get over this is to permanently rest your hand on the gear stick, so your hand gets used to the location of the shifter.

Also, by resting your left elbow on the armrest or window ‘sill’, you’ll quickly assume the posture needed to drive a left-hand-drive car.

 


Aligning the left-hand side of your car to the lines on the left of the road will give you bearings and help you get used to being in a strange position on the road.

The good news is that, although the steering wheel and gearstick swap sides, the pedals all remain the same. And indicators and windscreen wiper levers vary anyway, depending on the country of origin of the make and model car that you’re driving, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

Try to remember that you are driving on the right-hand side of the road at all times by repeating the mantra ‘I need to drive on the right-hand side of the road’. It may sound obvious and a little crazy, but it will help you get used to your new situation.

On the road

Familiarise yourself with the different road system. Remember that, when turning left, you’ll be crossing lanes of traffic. Left-hand turns are the most dangerous for foreign drivers.

When in a roundabout, think the opposite of home. You need to give way to the left and drive around anti-clockwise.

And always look to the left first when emerging from a side road. But look to the right in France and Belgium, as local laws give priority to vehicles in side roads to the right of a main road.

If you’re on a narrow road, pull over to the right to allow oncoming cars to pass you. And remember that overtaking lanes and dual carriage lanes are the opposite of home, meaning that the overtaking lane is on the far left and the slow lane is on the far right. Stick to the lane on the far right until you build confidence.

And most importantly …
Make sure you have car-hire coverage included in your travel insurance or take out the extra coverage when you hire the car.

Handy hints

If you can pick up your hire car from somewhere outside of the city, it will allow you to become familiar with foreign roads before you dive into stressful city driving situations.

And spend some time getting used to all the dials, switches, levers and pedals in your hire car before you hit the road. That will allow for fewer things to worry about in an already unfamiliar situation.

Know the road rules
Road rules vary from state to state, country to country and, sometimes, region to region. So familiarise yourself with the local laws. There are some standards, such as:

  • being required to have your headlights on at all times when driving in Europe
  • it is illegal to turn right at a red light in many European countries, unless signs specify otherwise
  • you have to carry a reflective jacket and other safety equipment at all times in many European countries
  •  you are required to carry a breathalyser at all times when driving in France.

Read more at www.icarhireinsurance.com

Have you ever driven in a foreign country? Can you share some tips with our members?

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    COMMENTS

    To make a comment, please register or login
    Tikitik
    20th Oct 2018
    8:55am
    My driver asked the front passenger to intermittently throughout a long journey to say “ drive in the right side of the road “ . He claimed it helped him refocus when his mental auto pilot started to kick in . Must have been successful as there were no near misses in the 3 months .
    double j
    20th Oct 2018
    9:51am
    We live in Australia and drive on the RH side of the road but we also own and drive our RH drive RV in UK and every year we face the same old problem of alternating what side of the road to drive on The best thing I ever purchased for our travels was a clear windscreen sticker with a diagram of a round about , the sticker is reversible for driving on the RH side of the road or turn it over and its a diagram of a round about when you are driving on the LH side of the road . It cost about A$ 5.00
    Lescol
    20th Oct 2018
    9:57am
    Keep the steering wheel towards the centre of the road. When turning right at intersections, watch the other drivers as the rules vary in most countries.

    cheers
    Cosmo
    20th Oct 2018
    12:30pm
    I've been driving on tne right hand side off and on for over 50 years. While I believe we develop a sort of hard wiring to the system we grow up in, driving on the right is actually easier than most people think. The fact that the steering wheel is on the right helps in the reorientation. The worst times are taking a totally strange make of vehicle from a large dark, city multistorey car park out onto the city streets in peak traffic.
    I always order the same make of car (VW Golf) for familiarity. It doesn’t always work but it gives you the chance to negotiate when they offer something different. Small SUVs are great for that extra higher visibility. Hiring from an airport is often better than from a city location as you usually go straight out onto a motorway. If you arrive at peak time, have a coffee and relax to wait for a quieter time. Hire a smaller car in Europe for easy parking. Be most careful early in the morning, its the time you are most likely to drive out onto the wrong side. If you hire or buy a vehicle in the UK to take to Europe, make sure its a RH drive. Due to the hard wiring its easier to drive a RH drive vehicle in a LH country than vice versa, the only problem is exiting a pay car park on yor own and reaching across to insert your ticket! If you have chatty passengers, unless they are helping you with road signs etc tell them to shut up, you need full concentration.
    Cosmo
    20th Oct 2018
    12:32pm
    Sorry I meant the steering wheel is on the left in the above post!
    HDRider
    20th Oct 2018
    8:51pm
    I sincerely hope hope you meant but a LHD to drive in Europe, other than UK!
    Cosmo
    20th Oct 2018
    12:43pm
    Just a further clarification to the above, its easier to drive a European drive vehicle in the UK than a UK vehicle in Europe
    Greg
    20th Oct 2018
    4:11pm
    Familiarity comes quite quickly, especially on the busier roads with plenty of other vehicles around, however on the quiet side streets with no centre lines I often strayed to the left side of the road again after turning a corner.

    If you drive in the US most backstreet intersections have 4-way Stop Signs - often you have cars at each stop sign, everyone looking at each other, all very polite and no one wanting to go first, often I ended up taking the initiative going first.
    HDRider
    20th Oct 2018
    8:57pm
    You'd be well advised to familiarize yourself with the road rules of the country you intend driving in, we in Australia will not be familiar with a LOT of the signs and rules, I wish it was as easy as this article makes out.
    Best advice, get a damn good insurance policy! Renault do one of the best deals complete with insurance.
    Marsbar
    21st Oct 2018
    11:03am
    A friend old us her invaluable mantra which I recited o my husband whenever we approached an intersection or roundabout. Loose Left and Tight Right.
    Londoner
    8th Nov 2018
    3:10am
    A very good article and some very good pieces of advice.
    The biggest problem I've had with driving a strange LH drive in, say, Europe was adjusting to the width of the vehicle. I found it easy to drift to the right (kerbside) which on occasions has caused me to either clip a parked vehicle or the kerbing, especially on RH turns.
    Driving just to your own side of the road (the availability of road lines permitting) and regularly checking the passenger door mirror to see the vehicle's position helped.


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