Driving on the left side in the UK - a UK road

Driving on the other side

That’s a long overdue post, but I am glad that I didn’t write it immediately after we moved. Main reason is that I feel a hundred times more positive about driving on the left than before. That’s important because I am hoping to bring some courage to whoever is reading this and possibly make you more relaxed about trying it out.

The shock

My husband was the first to try driving on the left in the UK. One of us had to do it, and quickly, because a car is almost a necessity here, especially when having children. I, however, was super scared. Even though, I have driven in very busy and frankly horrible traffic before, it did not feel like it was going to be so easy-peasy. As a passenger, everything seemed too close. The cars on the right, the passengers to the left, the bicycles, the trees and the end of the pavement – everything. Not to mention that roads seemed, and it turned out it was not just a feeling, too narrow. Once we ended up, or were led by Google maps, on a road, where there was opposite traffic, but by no means were there two lanes. Thus, whenever someone was coming towards us, we had to stop with two tires outside the asphalt, and try and pass each other. The general speed felt too high, even though everyone seemed to drive within the set speed limit. For me, it felt like mission impossible.

The comfort

I must say that one thing that gave me comfort was that everybody seemed super nice on the road. They would give way and you’d rarely see someone pushing nastily into the traffic to squeeze in. The culture of driving here in my opinion is on a very high level. People were patient and kind, no matter whether you’re a man or a woman. Rules were obeyed (most of the time), so you kind of know what to expect in any given time. That is if you know the driving code well.

The first attempt of driving on the left

Step 1 – Driving with everybody in the car.

We decided I’d do a small drive around the neighbourhood and I bravely enough suggested going on one of the really small streets nearby. It was TERRIFYING! I didn’t know where the left side of the car ended, and it felt like everyone was going too close to me. Luckily, our first car was with an automatic gear box, so that took one thing off my mind. However, not only was I unsure as to where the car ended (so no idea how far from the pavement I was), but also the roads seemed even more narrow. Having already been on my test-rout as a passenger helped enormously. I knew the road well and knew where I was going. I was familiar with all the signs and where I had to let the opposite traffic pass before I go, as well as the various speed limits. Not going to lie – it was scary as hell, but I did it.

Step 2 – Driving completely on my own.

After that initial attempt it all started to become easier. In a couple of weeks I was ready to go on my own. I decided to start by driving to the nearby fitness – it did not go too well. The thing that threw me off was when I drove with my front left tire on the edge of the pavement. That mishap ended in the car slightly “jumping” to the right. However, I managed to get it in line on time, before there was any traffic coming the opposite way. Since then, this has happened to me a couple more times, even though I am now a much more confident driver. Usually that occurs when I don’t think I have enough space and go too far to the left. Then I had to park, which for the first time in my life took me about 15 minutes. In my defense, it only happened because I wanted it to be perfect so I did a few attempts before getting it right.

Step 3 – Driving alone (i.e. without my husband in the car), but with our son in it.

That was something that I was going to be doing a lot and I just had to. Thankfully, my son was super cooperative. Be it because there was no one in the back seat with him, or just because he knew I was a bit unsure about it, but he didn’t cry or scream – he was as lovely as he can be.

Current driving situation

It’s been about 9 months now and I can confidently say that I enjoy driving around here. Although I have not driven in super busy places like London for example, I have managed pretty well. So far I have not bumped into anything and have not damaged the car in any way, even though I “tried”. I am also okay at going at the right speed. Traffic still bothers me a bit, but I think I am doing quite well. I’ve become more positive about driving on the left as a whole and can say I am a much calmer driver now, than I was before. I give way to people; I am kind and keep my karma on the plus side J

A few tips of things that have helped me enormously when learning to drive in the UK:

  1.  Look ahead.

    “When driving- look at the end of the road, and not at the road that’s just in front of you.”. That one piece of advice is what a friend once told me (he is a local UK citizen).  I still don’t manage to do this all the time, but it has proven to be super helpful on country roads, with lots of bends. Looking at the end of the bend helps me anticipate what’s coming my way and how I should go about taking that turn.

  2. I always like to be prepared.

    That is why if I am going someplace new I like to go on Google Maps the day before and familiarize myself with the route in advance. I even sometimes look at Google Streetview in order to prepare myself for how narrow or wide the road is. This also gives me a general idea of what the road rooks like. Especially at junctions or roundabouts this could be very handy.

  3. Use Google Maps navigation.

    Even when I know the road by heart it gives you live update on the traffic situation and you can see any delays on your way. It has happened to me a couple of times for the navigation to change the route, whilst I was driving. Reason was that is would offer me a faster way. You can either accept (press the accept button) or stay on your current way if you choose not to. Sometimes it may be that by the time you get to a certain pace the traffic has cleared out. That does not happen too often, however, and in such cases it’s just nice to see the clear road ahead of you. J

  4. Be polite and others will be polite with you.

    Even when you are in super hurry you can be nice to someone and let them get in line if coming from a side street. It is always nice when somebody does that for you and you should pay it forward. J

I hope that post was useful for most of you if not all of you. Let me know what your driving-on-the-left story is. How did you go about the first time you tried? Even if you are a UK resident or if you had to switch to driving on the left, I’d love to read your story.

Disclaimer: As with anything, the time has come for me to move to my own online place and become an adult in the blogging world. That is why I would very much like to welcome you to my new website pavlydovely.com. Here I will be duplicating my content from my previous WordPress-based blog for the next few months. Hopefully, this will make the transition a bit easier and smoother and if things go well, my old blogging space will need to stay in the past. Thus, as of the beginning of next year for sure I will only be posting at my new address here. It is still in the working phase, but I hope to be able to surprise you some fresher looks and posts, so keep an eye on it J




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