Friday, January 31, 2014

Watch the left!

Driving in the UK has certainly been a sharp learning curve. If Jason got a pound for every time I screamed "watch the left" while being a passenger in the car, he could probably buy a whole case of Jaffa Cakes. Nothing against his driving but more due to the nature of driving on the left side of the road. You would think the natural tendency would be to go to the right in order to be in the lane you're used to, but I think the tendency is actually to hug the left side of road because you're so frightened by oncoming traffic (and end up freaking out the person sitting in the front passenger's seat).

Overall, I have to say Jason has done a great job adapting to the new way of driving. It was super challenging in the beginning operating a stick shift with his left hand, but once we transitioned to our more permanent automatic car it's been much easier. Round-a-bouts are still tricky, and there are TONS of them! They essentially serve the same purpose of intersections with stoplights in the US. Luckily, if you turn left into a round-a-bout and you miss your turn off to the correct motorway, you can just keep driving around and around until you gather yourself and figure out where you need to go. But you have to remember to yield give way to the cars coming on your right.

Jason was required to take a British driving test a week after we arrived, which he proudly scored 100% on. The officer administrating the test even thought he cheated. No, he's just one of those people who can annoyingly memorize things from text books and doesn't have to study that much. Anyways...throughout the process of learning the material, there were some British driving laws that were particularly interesting:

  • There is a national speed limit of 60 mph, even on two-lane, undivided, dark roads in the middle of nowhere. Scary!
  • British vehicles have rear fog lights that need to be turned off when it's not foggy so you don't "dazzle" other drivers
  • Just because there's a crosswalk doesn't necessarily mean the pedestrian has the right of way. There are only certain zebra-like crosswalks in which the pedestrians have the right of way.
  • Semi-trucks, aka lorry trucks, feel it's their role to flash their brights on the motorway to tell you when they think it's safe to pass or change lanes. So you're constantly getting "dazzled" by lorry trucks.
  • You can get a drunk driving ticket even for intent. For example, if the police officer sees you even walking toward a car with a set of keys (and they suspect you've been drinking) they can ticket you, even if it's not your car.
  • The streets in towns and villages are called carriage-ways as they were originally meant for horse-drawn carriages. 
  • The presence of street lights indicates you've entered a town or village, which also indicates the speed limit goes down to 30mph.
  • Even though the metric system is used for mostly everything, distances and speed limits are still listed in miles and mph.
  • Lastly, I discovered our auto insurance policy doesn't even cover accidents from uninsured motorists because it apparently isn't an issue in the UK.
When we went to pick up our permanent car, I had my opportunity to try out the whole driving thing for about 45 miles. This was definitely an adventure. And we all know that driving a vehicle is not exactly one of my strong suits. Good thing I won't be providing home-based therapy services in the UK. Cheers!

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