Are you planning a trip abroad? Will you be driving a rental car while on this trip, and visiting a place where vehicles are expected to stick to the left side of the road? If so, check out these 4 helpful tips on how to avoid getting traffic tickets when driving on the opposite side of the road than you're used to.
1. Learn to Convert Speed
The United States is one of only three countries that doesn't use the metrics system. Every single country that requires drivers to stay to the left, however, does. This means that if you're visiting a country that adheres to left lane driving, knowing the speed of your rental car will depend on your fluency of the metric system.
One mile is equal to .62137119 kilometers, but this bit of information will do you little good since it's impossible to calculate in your head. Instead, make calculating your speed a little easier by remembering that you're driving roughly 5 miles per hour for every 8 kilometers per hour your odometer reads.
2. Study the Car You'll Be Driving
Not all vehicles are built the same. Left lane-driving countries have their steering wheels located on what you currently know as the passenger side of the vehicle. The location of many control features are also switched in left lane-driving countries, and some of these controls operate a little differently than they do in cars built for US drivers.
In order to follow traffic laws, you may need to employ these controls in a moment's notice, so you'll need to know where they are and how to use them before you sit behind the wheel in a left lane-driving country.
Avoid manual transmission rental cars. Make shifting gears one less thing you have to worry about by renting an automatic car when driving in a left lane-driving country. It's also a good idea to book your car rental well in advance, so you'll have plenty of time to research the exact make and model of the vehicle you'll be driving before you have to drive it. If you can't find a copy of the vehicle's owner's manual online, ask your rental agency if they can copy and send you a diagram of the vehicle's control panel.
3. Learn "Sign" Language
The positions of your vehicle controls aren't the only thing that might be different in the country you'll be visiting; road signs might be unfamiliar, too. Most left lane-driving countries follow the rules set forth by the Vienna Convention of Road Signs and Signals. These rules are intended to make foreign travel safer by standardizing common road sign shapes, sizes, and symbols. Unfortunately, the United States does not follow these international standards, so if you want to avoid getting a ticket because you didn't know what a road sign was telling you to do, you'll need brush up on the rules before you travel.
The country that you'll be visiting may also have some road signs not covered by the international standards, so learn a bit about them, too.
4. Take Classes
Consider enrolling in a drivers' education program that offers international driving courses. Many of these places offer interactive studies, such as controlled left lane-driving courses and computer simulation programs that allow you to experience what left lane-driving is like before taking your trip. International driving classes are a fun, safe way to learn the rules of foreign roads and build confidence toward driving in left lane-driving countries. Click to read more about your options.
Transitioning from driving in the United States to driving in a country that requires vehicles to stick to the left side of the road is challenging at first. Learning to keep your car in the left lane isn't the only thing you'll have to worry about; you'll also need to adjust to differences in your vehicle, differences in measurements, and differences in the signs that govern the flow of traffic. Acclimate to the new experience without getting any traffic tickets or fines by following the above 4 tips before you arrive at your left lane-driving destination.