Driving in the US of A

2 12 2005

All this week Cam made me drive him around so I could get used to spending time on the wrong side of the road. 😉

It worked out well – I didn’t have to worry about where I was going, Cam would tell me, so I could concentrate on simply not hitting things.

So what are some of the differences?

Left turns take some getting used to. Once I was at the front of a left turning lane controlled by traffic lights and began turning into oncoming traffic. Cam just about wet himself.

Whenever I reverse the car I can’t help but look over my left shoulder, usually hitting my head in the process (remember that you sit on the left side of the car here!).

You’re permitted to turn right at red lights here (if traffic is clear of course). Sydney has a similar rule (but for left turns obviously). I’ve never been able to figure out why it’s not allowed in Melbourne.

Speed limits are treated as ‘suggestions’ here. 65 mph (around 105 kph) is the typical limit on the highways but the traffic tends to move significantly faster – maybe 10 or 15 mph faster. It’s not uncommon to see people above 80 mph (128 kph).

Indicators are considered optional.

Surprisingly, I feel quite safe on the roads, even at speed. Although drivers are a little unpredictable they are much less aggressive and make room if you need it. Contrast to Melbourne where everyone “defends” the space between them and the car in front. 😉

The highway system is terrific, there are highways going everywhere. The roads, and lanes, are wide and relatively well signed – once you get used to the terminology and layout (“clover leaf” entrance and exits ramps are abundant). Melbourne does have better surfacing though, many of the highways here are quite rough and noisy.

Stop signs are used liberally on smaller roads. I came to a five way intersection the other day controlled completely with stop signs. The rule is that whoever gets there first goes first. Despite the unnatural feeling it somehow works. If two (or more!) drivers think it’s their turn to go then at least they’re moving slowly and can sort it out.

All in all, once you get used to getting in on the left side of the car, driving on the right and thinking in miles per hour it’s really enjoyable driving here.

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6 responses

7 12 2005
Lamb

You’re too freakin cheerful – you make me sick.

I like the right turn on red, it’s so much more efficient. The four-way stop is just stupid – leaves too much to drivers judgement (which is generally in short supply).

Take a couple of steps back and look at how the nation is totally set up for autos .. and oil. It’s impressive, but disturbing. Wait till it sinks in. These people get in a car to cross the road.

BTW: I think I got a snort from you when I made a comment like, “we rode about 25 miles to the next town”

7 12 2005
J-Man

lol, I’ve already driven the wrong way down a one way street in the downtown area! I rely on my instincts so much when I drive that I’m having a hell of a time coping here! (what the fuck do green flashing traffic lights mean!?!?!)

8 12 2005
age

I like the comment about defending the space in front.. J-man you’d be proud I’ve become an expert at it since i’ve been working in the city (or as you guys might know say “Downtown”);

8 12 2005
trentini

Lamb: They do drive everywhere, and it rubs off on you I think. Cam gave me such an uncomprehending look when I first suggested we could walk across the road (!) to the supermarket. But petrol is cheap and their road system is good. They’re not encouraged to avoid driving. Oh a good initiative though is that if you drive a hybrid you’re exempt from many tolls and you can use the transit lane. I like.

J-Man: I don’t know, what do flashing green lights mean?! I’ve approached an intersection here once where there were flashing *red* lights but that was fine – the intersection is down (like our flashing yellow lights). And that worked well because they treat it like a four way stop, which they all know and understand well. 🙂

Age: Yep, driving in Melbourne is like going into battle. 😉 Drivers are polite here – you never hear a horn used in anger. Another example: I was crossing the road the other day (as a pedestrian) and a car was turning and didn’t see me until he had entered the intersection – he hit the brakes, no worries. He actually pulled to the side of the road, wound down his window and called out “Sorry, I just didn’t see you there. Sorry!”. Then waved, smiled, and went on his way. Would never have happened in Melbourne!

10 12 2005
Brush

Aaah, how I remember those first days of driving on the wrong side of the road. I think I only screwed it up once, and that was in the airport parking lot after being there for about 5 months. 🙂

I like the comment about the 80mph/128kmph…128kmph is nearly considered a traffic jam here. Belinda is still a little freaked when we are doing 200kmph, but she is getting more used to it. In fact, I think I saw her doing at least 170kmph the other day. 🙂

And, as for the indicators thing…nobody seems to use them here either! And that really is kinda scary when someone pulls out in front of you at speed without indicating.

Tschüß,
Brush.

11 12 2005
trentini

I could totally get used to driving at 200kph.

BTW is “kmph” how the Germans write kilometres per hour? Or is that kilo-miles per hour? Now that’d be fast. 😉

I’d prefer people indicate when they change lanes without warning at 200kph. 😉

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