Laugh out loud tales from driving on the other side of the road

An Aussie couple is on a holiday in the US enjoying their retirement years. The husband decides to explore the

An Aussie couple is on a holiday in the US enjoying their retirement years. The husband decides to explore the area in the hire car while his wife is visiting a friend. “Make sure you have your mobile on you,” she says. He pats the phone shaped bulge in his pocket and heads out. He finds it difficult to navigate the streets and deal with the road rules of the county, the Bluetooth in the car goes off, and it’s his wife. “Be careful out there, Rob, we just saw on the news that there is a maniac driving the wrong way down the street.”  “Just one?” Rob said, “There’s hundreds of them.”

While that might be an old joke but there is still a lot of truth behind it. Driving on the other side of the road can be daunting if you have never done it before. There are a lot of simple tricks, for example, the side that the steering wheel is on is the side that the centre line goes on. The stories where travellers got it wrong can be hilarious, though they probably weren’t at the time.

My father-in-law was telling me about driving an RV around Europe thinking that it would be a simple and cost efficient trip for the family when they were young. I’m sure by the end of the journey the amount of fines he accumulated for traffic violations would have easily paid for a hotel. His most harrowing experience was when he took the RV the wrong way down a one-way street in Italy. It caused so much chaos that it made the local news.

A user on the Rick Steves’ Europe forum shared “My 11 year old son burst into tears within five minutes of us on the road begging me to return the car. We got lost trying to get out of Carlisle and went on the same roundabout seven times before finally figuring out which turn to take. And then there was that motorcyclist that I almost gave a heart attack to since I was on the wrong side of the road.”

Another user shared his experience saying that when he first visited Europe in 1963 he had no problem but 50 years later when he was there in a car he “overcompensated for the centre line, terrifying my wife every few blocks by nearly sideswiping cars and kerbs and those ancient stone walls they use for shoulders. Once I blew out the left front tire banging into a stone set into the pavement”. Certainly not something that they could laugh about at the time, but now I’m sure it gets a hearty laugh.

Many Europeans and Americans are quick to point out that since more countries drive on the left side of the road, it means that while we Aussie drive on the right side of the road, they drive on the correct side of the road.

What are your experiences with driving on the other side of the road? Was it stressful or were you one of the lucky ones that had no problem?

  1. Russ  

    Some years ago, the Irish Republic was converting from Imperial to Metric. Whilst driving back to Dublin to drop off our hire car, we came upon a roadworks sign which stated “Speed limit 60kph for the next 5 miles”… yes, only in Ireland.

    • Jeff Fletcher  

      Some years ago I drove 5000 km across the US, on starting from Los Angeles I got lost so, thinking to retrace my steps I did my first left hand turn straight into oncoming traffic, the looks of sheer terror on the other drivers faces was amusing later, but at the time terrifying. From there on I was most careful except in the mornings after I had loaded my suitcase in the boot I would walk to the right hand side of the car and, mementarily confused, would wonedr what happened to the steering wheel. In Ireland I picked up an Astra and was amused at the Heads up display of a large arrow pointing to the left hand side and in German, French, Italian and English was the words, In Ireland we drive on the left hand side just as I saw a car coming down the ferry road on the wrong side of then road.

  2. When we went to Canada and the USA in 2012, we were very fortunate to have our friends in Canada let Andrew drive their car around the streets of Grand Prairie. When we got to the USA, I “rode shotgun” from the right hand side of the car looking out for him in the intersection, which was where the danger lay! Another thing you have to watch out for is the old “Look to the right, look to the left and look to the right again!” when crossing the road on foot. In the USA it’s the other way around!

  3. I taught English in Shanghai for 2 years and had similar problems, as they drive on the American side of the road, and being from Sydney I was used to driving on the Australian/English side of the road. No, I wasn’t game to actually drive, but there were many times I almost got skittled, especially right outside our University campus in Jia Ding, where they have a bike lane on each side of the road. I’ve stepped off the kerb into the path of an oncoming bike more times than I care to remember, all because I was looking to the right first, instead of looking left, which was the direction they were coming from. I found it easier, but a bit more time consuming, to walk to the corner of the street and cross at the lights, which was fraught with different problems involving cars turning left. Ah, well, I got back in one piece, at least!

  4. Bluedog  

    We come from a small country town. After seeing the traffic going from the airport to the hotel in Orlando we decided against hiring a car. We also found it was cheaper to go anywhere by cab.

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