Advantages Can be a lot of fun.
Disadvantages Can be a wee bit dangerous to start with.
~ ~ These days many package holidays to the Continent or the States often include car hire in the deal, or at a fairly small add-on cost.
A car can give you more freedom to explore the country you are visiting, but for many the prospect of driving on the right (or in our case, the WRONG) side of the road can be a very daunting prospect.
In reality, we are one of the few countries in the world who still insist on driving on the left-hand side of the road. Recently, there has even been talk here in Ireland of changing over to driving on the right. (We change over totally to kilometres instead of miles on all our speedometers and road signs in January 2004)
~ ~ Another good idea is to rent a car with an automatic gearbox.
The first time I drove a left-hand drive vehicle, I kept banging my left hand off the driver’s door, as I instinctively reached for the gear lever. With an automatic, you have one less thing to think and worry about, which leaves your mind free to concentrate fully on the road itself.
~ ~ Take great care when you are turning onto a minor road from a main road.
Again, your driving ‘memory’ and instinct tries to make you go onto the wrong (the left) side of the road. It’s not so bad when you’re turning right, as you’re already on the right hand side of the road. But it can be hard to control your natural inclinations when you’re making a left hand turn across on-coming traffic.
Think well ahead, and always keep alert, especially at road junctions like these, as your attention tends to be directed more towards what the other traffic is doing rather than what you are doing yourself.
It’s VERY easy to suddenly find yourself on the wrong side of the road in a situation like this, and in serious difficulty.
~ ~ Do be careful of speeding.
I was over in Austria last year, and one day I made a 1,000 kilometre round trip to visit a Ciao pal of mine in Vienna. (herb here at Ciao) for a game of golf. (OK. OK. I know I’m a nutter!)
I rang him from the hotel the following morning, and was relating to him how quickly I had made the return journey. He was astounded that I had managed to get away with driving at the speeds I had, as the cops very aggressively police the posted speed limits, with large on-the-spot fines dished out to offenders. (Not so different to here, now I come to think of it!)
Herb even offered me a drive of his beautiful BMW 745i during my visit, but tempted as I was to take him up on the offer, I really didn’t want to take the chance of driving someone else’s (expensive, and very fast!) motor car in a strange city, and on the “wrong” side of the road. But thanks anyways mate.
With the speedometer in kilometres, it can be incredibly easy to forget yourself. And when you’re not used to the road signage, and sometimes not even able to make head nor tail out of it, it can be very easy to inadvertently break the rules or speed limits.
~ ~ Driving a left hand drive car isn’t so very different to what we are used to at home.
The single biggest difference is obviously the gear lever, and the fact that you have to use your right hand instead of your left to change gears. It can be a wee bit awkward to start with, as you feel like the gears are in the “wrong” position, but you get used to it after a while.
As I suggested earlier, the easiest way around this wee problem is simply to hire an automatic car.
Oh, and be sure to get in the proper door! I don’t know how many times I’ve found myself in the passenger seat searching vainly for the steering wheel, only to then realise it’s on the opposite side of the car. (heh, heh)
~~~~~~~~~~~~PS Ignore the boxes. They don't apply, but you have to fill them in to post the opinion.
~~~~~~~~~~~~Copyright KenJ November 2003
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