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From the sublime to the mundane: Driving

From the sublime to the mundane: Driving

Old Nov 28th 2016, 11:39 pm
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Default From the sublime to the mundane: Driving

So this is my worst fear about moving to the UK. Driving on the left side of the road, or rather, not being able to, and being totally dependent upon my husband or public transportation. The few times I have tried, the first being 45 years ago, it was a disaster. I don't understand why this is. I practically grew up in an automobile. We crisscrossed the country repeatedly when I was a child and I learned to drive a stick at age 14. One of the happiest days of my life was when I got my driver's license. I have driven just about every type of vehicle in every condition, 4 wheel drive you name it, in various parts of the world including high density insane traffic conditions like Paris, Mexico City, New York, LA etc etc. I am a confident driver, have never had a speeding ticket or caused an accident. So why can't I train my body and brain to drive on the left side? Even when we spend months in a car tootling about the UK, me riding shot gun armed with the road map or GPS, it never begins to feel remotely natural and I still have these heart stopping moments where I think we are going to be killed because my visceral reaction thinks I should be on the right side of the road.

So for those who grew up driving in the UK, when you go back, do you have any tricks to help make the adjustment? What about SO's who have never driven on the left side? Do lessons help? Or are some people just doomed to be transportation challenged?
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Old Nov 29th 2016, 9:09 am
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Default Re: From the sublime to the mundane: Driving

I drive both in the UK and France therefore I change between both sides of the road and between automatic and manual.
I think that the main stumbling block is confidence and it sounds like you need your confidence boosted. (worst fear )
What you give as your driving experience means that you can drive anywhere without fear.
The basic (advanced) skills are all there.
I would suggest that you have a couple of lessons just to familiarise yourself with the different rules in the UK and to address any issues you may have.
You really have nothing to worry about.
Good luck
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Old Nov 29th 2016, 12:48 pm
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Default Re: From the sublime to the mundane: Driving

If you ride as a passenger, but concentrate as if you were driving, it will help familiarize you with driving on the left. Also, as cyrian says, take a few driving lessons, just to boost your confidence.
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Old Nov 29th 2016, 1:04 pm
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Default Re: From the sublime to the mundane: Driving

Originally Posted by cyrian View Post
I drive both in the UK and France therefore I change between both sides of the road and between automatic and manual.
I think that the main stumbling block is confidence and it sounds like you need your confidence boosted. (worst fear )
What you give as your driving experience means that you can drive anywhere without fear.
The basic (advanced) skills are all there.
I would suggest that you have a couple of lessons just to familiarise yourself with the different rules in the UK and to address any issues you may have.
You really have nothing to worry about.
Good luck
I completely agree. The OP should just get it out of her head that it's difficult.

That said, after 38 years of driving on the right except during occasional visits to the UK and now nearly 18 months of predominantly UK residence, I often find myself opening the passenger door by mistake.

The car I drive in France is a LHD manual diesel, while my UK car is a RHD automatic petrol vehicle. Last summer (don't ask) we had both cars in France and I was switching between them at random.

The hardest part was remembering which pump to use to fill up.
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Old Nov 29th 2016, 2:55 pm
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Default Re: From the sublime to the mundane: Driving

Last summer (don't ask) we had both cars in France
I am asking. Why did you bring your car over from Canada? Is it special?
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Old Nov 29th 2016, 4:48 pm
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Default Re: From the sublime to the mundane: Driving

Originally Posted by Editha View Post
I am asking. Why did you bring your car over from Canada? Is it special?
No. Very ordinary in fact, but we had a bunch of stuff originally from Canada to transport to the French house. We also had a bunch of cases of other stuff in bottles to transport back.
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Old Nov 29th 2016, 4:50 pm
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Default Re: From the sublime to the mundane: Driving

Originally Posted by Editha View Post
I am asking. Why did you bring your car over from Canada? Is it special?
Oh, I misread your post. Did I say the car came from Canada? I hope not.
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Old Nov 29th 2016, 4:57 pm
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Default Re: From the sublime to the mundane: Driving

Originally Posted by Novocastrian View Post
I completely agree. The OP should just get it out of her head that it's difficult. ....
Bear in mind that the British road test is massively more challenging than the joke that passes for a road test in any state in the US.

For starters the British test is much longer - mine was around 22-23 minutes, which was normal at the time, but I hear that 35-40 minutes is normal now. You should not be thinking of taking a test in the UK unless you can realistically expect to drive for that long without making an error - something that might not even register in a US test could see you failing in the UK - such as where your hands are on the wheel, drifting slightly wide but still in your lane on entry or exit when turning.

During the test you will complete a lot of set-piece manoeuvers, including a three-point turn, a parallel park, reversing around a corner while staying parallel to the curb (not hitting it or veering off into the middle of the road), an emergency stop, a hill start, etc.

Last edited by Pulaski; Nov 29th 2016 at 5:03 pm.
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Old Nov 29th 2016, 6:51 pm
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Default Re: From the sublime to the mundane: Driving

Originally Posted by Pulaski View Post
Bear in mind that the British road test is massively more challenging than the joke that passes for a road test in any state in the US.

For starters the British test is much longer - mine was around 22-23 minutes, which was normal at the time, but I hear that 35-40 minutes is normal now. You should not be thinking of taking a test in the UK unless you can realistically expect to drive for that long without making an error - something that might not even register in a US test could see you failing in the UK - such as where your hands are on the wheel, drifting slightly wide but still in your lane on entry or exit when turning.

During the test you will complete a lot of set-piece manoeuvers, including a three-point turn, a parallel park, reversing around a corner while staying parallel to the curb (not hitting it or veering off into the middle of the road), an emergency stop, a hill start, etc.
I would agree about the UK driving test but I would avoid taking the test unless it is absolutely required.
An experienced driver would be likely to fail because of bad driving habits acquired during years of driving.
A friend of mine lost his UK licence (DUI) and when he took his test to regain his licence, he failed because of his bad habits.
Driving lessons would help to introduce the OP to the things that are different in the UK including which side of the road to use; round-abouts and turning right on red - or not.
I was in Las Vegas and the light turned to red and I stopped - in the middle of the junction - because that was where the light was - big oops.
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Old Nov 29th 2016, 7:03 pm
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Default Re: From the sublime to the mundane: Driving

Originally Posted by cyrian View Post
I would agree about the UK driving test but I would avoid taking the test unless it is absolutely required.
An experienced driver would be likely to fail because of bad driving habits acquired during years of driving.
A friend of mine lost his UK licence (DUI) and when he took his test to regain his licence, he failed because of his bad habits.
Driving lessons would help to introduce the OP to the things that are different in the UK including which side of the road to use; round-abouts and turning right on red ....
That would be a mistake in the UK for at least two reasons.
.... I was in Las Vegas and the light turned to red and I stopped - in the middle of the junction - because that was where the light was - big oops.
A new arrival/immigrant to the UK has 12 months to pass a driving test for a UK licence, unless they are eligible to swap a foreign licence. A US license cannot be swapped. Given the challenge and likelihood of needing to take the test more than once, or twice, or .... I would recommend taking lessons and practicing "perfect" driving for a few months, then taking a test after about six months, to give time to take the test several times.

Last edited by Pulaski; Nov 29th 2016 at 7:09 pm.
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Old Nov 29th 2016, 9:40 pm
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Default Re: From the sublime to the mundane: Driving

My wife won't drive in UK because of lack of confidence. She didn't previously drive in UK before we moved to US, then out of neccessity took and passed her test in NC and drove to and from work etc all the time.
Now back in UK we live on a frequent bus route and near a train station and she quite happy not to have to drive.
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Old Nov 29th 2016, 10:04 pm
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Default Re: From the sublime to the mundane: Driving

Despite having lived on the continent for several years I still find myself punching the inside of the driver's door trying to put it into first gear when setting off in a LHD rental car.

Oddly I don't mind driving on the right in Europe as much as driving on the right in the US. Perhaps it's because European roads are generally busier and therefore you are constantly reminded of which side of the road you need to be on, which direction to go round a roundabout, which side of the road to turn onto at a T-junction, etc.. Setting off on a quiet rural road in the US I often catch myself driving on the left hand side of the road.

That being said I think it is just a matter of practice. As Pulaski points out the OP will need to pass a UK driving test within a year of arriving in the UK if she wants to carry on driving so taking driving lessons will help build confidence.
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Old Nov 30th 2016, 7:31 am
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Default Re: From the sublime to the mundane: Driving

Originally Posted by BritInParis View Post

That being said I think it is just a matter of practice. As Pulaski points out the OP will need to pass a UK driving test within a year of arriving in the UK if she wants to carry on driving so taking driving lessons will help build confidence.
There's a workaround. Do what my wife did. She took her test in California but later swapped the licence in Ontario and ultimately swapped that one for a GB one.
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Old Nov 30th 2016, 8:10 am
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Default Re: From the sublime to the mundane: Driving

Originally Posted by BritInParis View Post
Despite having lived on the continent for several years I still find myself punching the inside of the driver's door trying to put it into first gear when setting off in a LHD rental car.

Oddly I don't mind driving on the right in Europe as much as driving on the right in the US. Perhaps it's because European roads are generally busier and therefore you are constantly reminded of which side of the road you need to be on, which direction to go round a roundabout, which side of the road to turn onto at a T-junction, etc.. Setting off on a quiet rural road in the US I often catch myself driving on the left hand side of the road.

That being said I think it is just a matter of practice. As Pulaski points out the OP will need to pass a UK driving test within a year of arriving in the UK if she wants to carry on driving so taking driving lessons will help build confidence.
I find myself doing that in England, when I occasionally drive a rental car - ineffectually scratching around on the door with my right hand, looking for the gear change! In both Britain and America, the only way I know which side of the car to get in (whether driver or passenger) is to physically look inside the car to see where the steering wheel is.

But when I'm actually on the road driving, no problem (apart from looking for the gear stick with the wrong hand.) Just being located on either the left or the right of the car is enough of a clue. And other vehicles of course.
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Old Nov 30th 2016, 9:03 am
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Default Re: From the sublime to the mundane: Driving

Originally Posted by Novocastrian View Post
There's a workaround. Do what my wife did. She took her test in California but later swapped the licence in Ontario and ultimately swapped that one for a GB one.
That trick has been cracked down. You can only exchange a Canadian licence if you passed your test in Canada. It also restricts you to automatics.
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