HOW TO DRIVE IN ENGLAND
It’s really quite simple if you don’t overthink it. Begin your driving slowly just to get the feel of the 180° shift in orientation. Savvy tourists will have practiced a little at home by shaving with their opposite hand, writing backwards in front of a mirror or perhaps even driving on the left in your neighborhood on a quiet Sunday afternoon. If nothing else, the friendly shouts from passing neighbors will prepare you for what to expect across the pond.
Don’t forget that staying in the left-hand lane necessitates a slight change in thinking when it comes to turns at intersections. To turn left, just stay left. To turn right, however, you need to make a wide turn. Practice at home at night on a mainly deserted city street to get the feel of it. If stopped by the police, simply explain that you’re practicing for your upcoming trip to England and, no, you have not been drinking or forgetting to take your medications.
Unfortunately, all the turning in the world won’t prepare you for roundabouts. Apparently due to a severe electricity shortage, England has had to substitute roundabouts or traffic circles for actual traffic lights.
All you need to remember is one basic rule: the driver in the circle has the right of way. So close your eyes, drive right in and enjoy immediate priority. Remain in the circle as long as you want, choose an exit and shoot off in that direction. It’s as simple as that except for the odd two or three-lane roundabout.
In that case, stay in the outer lane for a left hand turn and the inner lane for a right hand turn. If you’re going straight through the roundabout, I think any lane is fine. In fact, oftentimes after completing such a maneuver, following motorists gave me a congratulatory honk or two to acknowledge my superior driving skills.
One thing you’ll notice is that many roads and even some highways are quite narrow. British drivers are used to zipping along at high speeds on shoulderless roads bordered on either side by hedges, stone fences or hedge-covered stone fences. But that doesn’t mean you have to speed, too. You’re new to the area and will be given a broad dispensation to navigate such roads as slowly as you need to.
A car following close on your tail is just a local driver’s way of saying “welcome to Britain.” A flash of the lights says “take all the time you want; I’m in no rush.”
So don’t be put off by worrywart friends who try to discourage you from driving in Great Britain. It’s not that hard and once you get the hang of it you’ll be zipping in and out of narrow roundabouts in tiny towns with the best of them.
Next week we’ll cover driving a standard transmission car in England or how to simulate dyslexia and burn out your clutch.