Driving in the United States

It’s hard to get used to driving in a different country, so here is some information about driving in the United States.

One thing I love about driving in America is the “turn right on red” rule. Basically if you’re waiting at a red light and no cars are coming you can turn right as long as you stop first. It’s a great rule and New Zealand definitely needs a “turn left on red” rule.

You should also know that when you’re driving on the highway, the left lane is the fast lane, so stay out of it unless you’re driving 70-80MPH. If you’re not then you’ll have a very annoyed driver right behind you.

Drivers in America are extremely aggressive. At home I was a very aggressive driver by NZ standards, but since I’ve been here I’ve gotten much worse. Americans don’t really believe in indicating and if you don’t drive directly behind the car in front, someone will cut straight in front without any indication. It drives me crazy but lately I’ve found myself doing it too. If you can’t beat ’em join ’em!

I was also caught out once when a funeral procession was going past our street. If the first car has gone through the light, then all following cars get to go through the red light and you have to wait, which no one had told me about so I was given a beep and a glare for not realizing.

Driving in America is very different to driving at home. In New Zealand we drive on the opposite side of the road, and it definitely took me ages to get used to getting in the left side of the car. For months I would walk up to the right side of the car, notice there was no steering wheel and quickly pretend to be looking for something so no one could tell I was on the wrong side.

Driving in the United States

I had about ten minutes of driving practice before I had to drive the kids to school, and it was definitely a unique experience to be driving on that side. I kept side swiping other cars because I was over too far to the right and it felt like I was learning to drive for the first time. I had been teaching my brother to drive a few weeks earlier and he had been doing the same thing.

Although it was tricky at first, I surprised myself by how quickly I picked it up. I had a few occasions where I was driving and parking on the wrong side of the road, and it’s pretty terrifying to look straight at another car coming my way and realize I’m in the wrong. I’m a bit of a pro now that I’ve been here for so long, although when I went home at Christmas it was tricky going back to that side of the road.

The hardest part of driving over here was in the middle of winter when it was snowing hard and there was ice all over the road. I’ve never driven in snow or ice before and had a few near misses, including coming out of the driveway, hitting a patch of ice and holding on for dear life while the car skidded into a 360 degree turn. “Wheeeeeeee”, the kids screeched, while I took a minute to thank God I hadn’t hit the neighbors car.

I had been here two weeks when I hit a parked car. My youngest started bawling and crying that she wanted “to get out of the car now!”, and I had to ring my host dad and tell him I was across from the elementay school and wihle trying to park I had sideswiped the car which was parked outside it’s poor owners house, dragging the front bumper completely off.

To be fair, the kids were being little mosters and both of them were crying and fighting in the backseat, but now I never drive if they’re distracting me. I was so sure my host parents were going to send me home but they were surprisingly good about it, although my host dad did voice his wonder at how I had hit it in the first place since “you could have fit a car and a trailer in that space”. Indeed.


4 comments on “Driving in the United States

  1. elizabeth June 6, 2012 @ 6:47 pm

    haha, this was a funny read! i had the opposite road shock here in Thailand, where they drive on the left as well. I haven't driven a car in over two years now (long road trips in my Honda back in America were my favorite, I miss it!) but I drive a motorbike here. Its funny how natural it seems now to drive on the left now, when I see movies from back home it always looks weird to me now. haha. Drive safe :)

  2. onetravelsfar June 10, 2012 @ 11:36 pm

    Lol it's always a worry when you go to cross the street and look the wrong way! Wow you drive a motorbike? That's pretty cool. I know it's hard to think that I'll be driving on that side of the road in a few months! I can't even imagine it any more.

    • Joseph M December 30, 2012 @ 9:51 am

      My tip for driving in different countries. Wear a watch on the wrist of the side you should be driving on. Right in the US, Left in NZ, UK etc. Makes it easy to visually confirm you are driving correctly.

      • Stacey January 6, 2013 @ 3:37 am

        What a great idea! I wish I’d heard that before I was driving in the states. I’ll know for next time though!
        Stacey recently posted..Where did I go?

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