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Driving on the Opposite Side

Opposite Driving Map

RED = right-side of the road, steering wheel on the left

BLUE = left-side of the road, steering wheel on the right

Whichever side of the road you’re used to driving on, it’s inevitable that if you travel a lot, you’ll come across a country that drives on the opposite side of the road from which you’re accustomed to.

DSC05444-800 If you’re used to driving on the right side of the road, and you find yourself in a country where driving is done on the LEFT, then everything you know about driving will be reversed: the steering wheel is on the right, driving on the road is on the left, and the blinker signal is on the right.  It was very strange to try to reprogram my brain of something that I’ve been doing for over a decade and I do without even thinking… I had to THINK in order to drive correctly!

Staying on the correct side when you’re driving straight isn’t difficult because you just stay in your lane… but intersections I found to be a bit nerve-racking.  When driving, instead of trying to remember in a panic “right or left,” I came up with a few rules that work no matter which country you’re in:

1| The blinker is always on the window side of the steering wheel

Trust me, there were more than a few times when the windshield wipers went on when it was clear skies and sunny while I was about to make a turn.  You’ll do the same thing no matter which rules you try to remember because driving is so ingrained into your brain – it happens.  But you’ll get the hang of it!

2| The driver is always in the middle of the road – where the center line is.

This is probably the easiest to remember, and the most important!!  I mean, if you don’t have your blinker on and the windshield wipers are going instead, you’ll live.  But driving clearly on the wrong side of the road is the biggest mistake (obviously).

But just think of it like this: The driver should always be in control on the road and the driver can’t do that if he/she is on the side of the road.  The driver should always be in the center of the road – like two knights about to joust!

Other traffic rules that you might have to get used to are the roundabouts and the one-lane-bridges.

Europeans will be used to roundabouts that are in other countries such as New Zealand and Australia, but still be careful because the roundabouts are in reverse:

3| When going into a roundabout, always turn towards the passenger side of the car and yield to any cars on the driver’s side.

For example: If you’re driving in Australia on the left side of the road, go around the roundabout to the LEFT and yield to the car on the RIGHT.

4| Familiarize yourself with the local road signs

For example, in New Zealand, the one-lane-bridges are something that I was not used to.  I had absolutely no idea what the signs meant!

A rectangular blue sign with a big arrow means you have the right-of-way and may pass over the bridge first whereas a circular red sign with a small arrow means you must yield if there is a car on the other side.

DSC06222-800 DSC06206-800


look right

Aside from driving, even walking can be foreign.  I found that even crossing the street was strange because it wasn’t instinctual for me to know which side of the street to check first.  At first, I had to stop and look both ways a few times to make sure I checked the correct side since I wasn’t sure which side the cars should be coming from.  A lot of confused crossings later, I came up with a rule [I like rules]:

5| When crossing a street [no matter which country you’re in], if you can remember which side the steering wheel is on, that is the shoulder you look over first.

For instance, in Scotland and Ireland the steering wheel is on the right, then when crossing the street, look to the right first.  Works every time, in every country!

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