Tips for Australian travellers: How to drive on the right-hand side of the road

TOBY HAGON

Motoring journalist Toby Hagon has tested cars in the heat of the Australian outback, through flooding rain in the Middle East and recently returned from an ice-driving expedition in northern Sweden. On his holidays, he takes roadtrips with his family, both in Australia and overseas.

STEP ONE

Focus on the left, and the right will follow. By this, I mean that it's easier to judge the side of the car you are closest to, which in a left-hand drive car is the left. So if you keep your left-hand wheels relatively close to the white line, you'll automatically have enough room on the right-hand side. When you get a chance, practice running over things like cat's eyes or small bumps on the right-hand side of the car to get your judgment going.

STEP TWO

Go slowly. I'm not necessarily talking about speed here, but take it easy with things like lane changes and merges. Try being a bit gentle, instead of darting around between lanes, and you're less likely to cause carnage or upset the locals. The more you try not to rock the boat, the more chance you have of being accepted on the road.

STEP THREE

Accept the different cultures where you're travelling. In Italy, it's ok to be pushy on the road, and they drive at higher speeds – it's 130km/h on the Italian freeways, but 150km/h is pretty common. But they're generally far more aware of what's going around them – they're thinking and looking further ahead, planning in advance. Also, horn beeping isn't always the angry horn beeping you'll get in Australia. That's the way they drive in some parts of the world. In parts of Asia, they'll also beep the horn, but it's not road rage, there won't be people waving their fists, like in Australia.

STEP FOUR

When you're driving a left-hand drive car, everything is opposite to what we do in Australia. So it's unnatural for you to look the opposite way, and do u-turns in in the opposite direction. So pick a quiet place to practice turns and parking, because you don't want to be doing them on Rodeo Drive or the Champs-Élysées, making an idiot of yourself and potentially causing traffic issues. And enlist your passenger to keep an eye out for you, because two minds are better than one, especially driving through tight European villages where the streets are very narrow.

STEP FIVE

Understand the different road rules in different countries – for example, around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris you give way to cars coming into the roundabout, rather than the cars already on it. Or in the US, in much of the country you can turn right on the red light when it's safe to do so. Also, undertaking (overtaking in the slow lane) is frowned on in Europe, where you're only supposed to overtake in the far left lane. It is illegal and you'll get booked in the UK. (It's also illegal in Australia but no one seems to care about it.)

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