How to drive on the wrong side of the road : Part 1
Going on an overseas holiday? Planning on driving? Here’s our two-part guide on how to drive on the wrong side of the road…
IT’S NOT AS HARD as you think. First up, both right- and left-hand drive cars (RHD and LHD) are identical apart from the steering wheel location. That means the pedals are still, from left to right: clutch; brake, and accelerator. The gears are in the centre, and facing forwards first gear is to the left of the car and up. The automatic transmission works in precisely the same way too, and the auxiliary controls such as the windscreen wipers and indicators are exactly the same.
So, not much of a difference between LHD and RHD for most things inside the car, but the one difference of the steering wheel being over on the other side of the car from where you’re used to it being is a big one. Happily, almost everybody finds it easy enough to judge the distances and maneuver the car from the ‘wrong’ side. Changing gears using the other hand in manuals becomes natural very quickly too, and in general the actual physical coordination required to drive the car isn’t the problem.
The bigger change in driving the ‘wrong side’ of the car is not actually the fact you’re sitting on the other side, but that you’re driving on the other side of the road, and there will be different road rules as well as attitudes. You might want to avoid traffic initially, but it’s actually easier to remember which side you’re on and how to follow the road if there are other cars around. Cruising on freeways is easy, and country roads are fine too. The difficult parts are intersections and anywhere that you might mis-interpret things and end up on the wrong side. Particular traps are roads with no centre lane markings, and exiting a T-junction or small roundabout. There’s not much advice other that just try and remember.
The real difficulty in my view is driving your ‘right side’ car in a ‘wrong side’ country, for example a RHD car in continental Europe. The problem here is that everything is set up for LHD cars. At T-intersections it can be hard to see oncoming traffic, and you generally need to use the far-side mirror a great deal. In this ‘wrong-wrong’ situation it is also very easy to end up on the wrong (incorrect) side of the road; as you’re driving the car from the side you know best, you may well forget the car should be on the other side of the road.
In my view, even if you’re an experienced driver it is easier and safer to drive a LHD car on the right side of the road than a RHD car on the right side of the road.
Final tips – avoid driving when tired or in difficult situations like thunderstorms or night, take an experienced local as a passenger, be a passenger yourself first before you drive, and other than that just don’t worry too much and get straight into it. It’s really not a problem.
In Part 2 we’ll look at adjusting to local driving cultures… stay tuned.