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Cars & Driving
Nervous to drive in the USA
By Angelinamember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 10300, member since Mon May 06, 2002
On Sat Aug 18, 2012 06:23 PM

My sister and I are off to California next weekend for 2 weeks. The first week, we (or rather I) will be doing a lot of driving - between San Francisco and LA. I'm a reasonably experienced and confident driver, but I ave never driven on the other side of the road before and I'm a bit nervous about it. I think once we get out of the cities, I will be fine as driving on a straight road is easy, but... I'm just nervous that I'll do something stupid!

It'll be an automatic car, so at least I don't have to worry about trying to change gear with the other hand or anything. Any tips? Everyone I've talked to says "it's so easy, nothing to worry about" but I don't think I'll believe them until I actually do it myself!

19 Replies to Nervous to drive in the USA

re: Nervous to drive in the USA
By Chaconnemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 6359, member since Thu Jul 12, 2007
On Sat Aug 18, 2012 07:08 PM
I'd have the same anxiety if I were to go to the UK, so I can empathize. An awful lot of California roads are divided and multi-lane so at least everyone is going in the same direction. A friend of mine who had been stationed at my agency's counterpart in Cheltenham England returned back here after five years over there and her friends kidded her by giving her some Post-It notes which said "Think Right" to put on her steering wheel.

San Francisco can be a bit scary because of the hills...I had never driven on such steep hills before I drove there, but I did make it. Los Angeles can be a bit daunting simply because of its size. In both places I carefully planned out my route before I went anywhere and I avoided rush hours as much as possible. (I live on the East Coast which has its own set of problems and I live in the suburban areas between two major cities (Washington and Baltimore), but I believe Los Angeles is much more spread out. BTW I did this before there were GPS devices so I generally drove and my wife was navigating.

I would be interested in hearing how others managed to do this "other side of the road" and "steering wheel on the other side of the car" transition. I've never done it. The only places with "other side" driving that I've been (Bahamas and US Virgin Islands) I didn't drive. The USVI was rather strange...they drove on the left side, but at the time I was there almost all cars were US cars with the steering on the left side.

But Angelina...driving here is your birthright...you were born here. LOL


Jon
re: Nervous to drive in the USA
By MostlyDolores Comments: 31, member since Tue Jun 10, 2008
On Sat Aug 18, 2012 09:40 PM
I'm from the US. We lived in Japan for several years and I had to adjust to driving on the other side of the road. It was much easier than I expected! As long as there are other cars around it's very easy to stay in the correct lane and it just makes sense. The only real difficulty turned out to be the reversed turn signals and windshield wipers. I spent months putting on the wipers every time I wanted to turn!
re: Nervous to drive in the USA
By frtrd Comments: 20, member since Sat Aug 11, 2012
On Sat Aug 18, 2012 10:35 PM
I'm from the US and have driven in the UK before so here is my two cents --- it's surprisingly LESS confusing when you're on a big road with lots of cars because it's easy to remember which way to turn. However the times I would slip up would be when I was in small neighborhoods without that many cars. Old habits would come back and I'd turn into the wrong side!
re: Nervous to drive in the USA
By schuhplattlerPremium member Comments: 3037, member since Sat Dec 23, 2006
On Sun Aug 19, 2012 05:30 AM
Whenever you are in an unfamiliar situation, you must take extra steps to keep alert.

1. Take frequent breaks to regain your bearings.

2. Avoid driving alone.

3. Whenever you even think about doing anything backwards from the US, pull over, stop, and do whatever is necessary to bring yourself physically and mentally into your present time and situation. If you are in a safe area, taking a walk and noticing everything around you always works. Keep doing this past the point of boredom - right up until you actually feel more alert.

Remember, the farther out of your own element you go, the more certain you must be of your equipment - in this case your own mind and body. Treat your preparation for each drive as a pre-flight inspection.
re: Nervous to drive in the USA
By LingScot Comments: 1036, member since Sat Apr 09, 2005
On Sun Aug 19, 2012 05:33 AM
I agree with MostlyDolores -- when I was in NZ for a while, I kept putting on the wipers instead of the turn signal! That really can be a problem, because other drivers won't know you're planning on turning, so please actually be careful about it (e.g., make sure you DO turn on the turn signal even if you first do the wipers!).

I similarly found it relatively easy on big streets with more traffic, but SF and especially LA are going to be extremely crowded, so if you can sort of do some early driving on biggish but not huge roads, you should be ok. Also, there are fewer roundabouts in the US, which is nice in terms of not having to remember which way to go in the circle! :)
re: Nervous to drive in the USA
By adageacemember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 3982, member since Thu Sep 01, 2005
On Sun Aug 19, 2012 09:02 AM
I've not done it myself, but people on both sides of my family (mine and hubby's, I mean) have quite often. They assure me of two things - one, you get used to it very quickly. And two, it's easier if you're in a hire car where you're sitting on the 'correct' side for the country you're in.
re: Nervous to drive in the USA (karma: 1)
By panicmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 11592, member since Thu Dec 16, 2004
On Sun Aug 19, 2012 11:34 AM
Remember, the farther out of your own element you go, the more certain you must be of your equipment - in this case your own mind and body.
uhhh... and her CAR?
re: Nervous to drive in the USA
By ChristinePremium member Comments: 6819, member since Wed Feb 04, 2009
On Sun Aug 19, 2012 01:49 PM
You'll be fine.

Years ago, I delivered the mail on a rural delivery route. I had to sit on the passengers side of the car and steer with my left hand and operate the foot pedals with my left foot. It's a good thing I'm a dancer and my extensions on my left side are much better than my right. I was terrified.

Guess what? It took about 5 minutes to get used to everything and then it was as if I'd been doing it all my life.

Do you own a GPS? Many car rental companies offer them when you rent a car, but I usually put mine in my suitcase and let it fly along with me. I already know how to use my own, and it saves a little bit of money. When I went to Florida is saved me HOURS not getting lost or having to follow odd directions.

Please enjoy the Pacific Coast Highway. It is a beautiful trip. Literally, memories of a life time.

Keep On Dancing*
re: Nervous to drive in the USA
By schuhplattlerPremium member Comments: 3037, member since Sat Dec 23, 2006
On Sun Aug 19, 2012 02:12 PM
Panic, I think she already knows how to be sure of the car. The pre-drive inspection procedure for a car does not change much between US and UK.
re: Nervous to drive in the USA
By hummingbird Comments: 10419, member since Mon Apr 18, 2005
On Sun Aug 19, 2012 02:52 PM
It can be a bit unnerving :)

It was one of the things that worried me about driving when we moved to Canada,the thing you have to remember is that as the driver you should always be towards the centre line of the road or central reservation. If you're not you're on the wrong side!
re: Nervous to drive in the USA
By Tansey Comments: 2367, member since Fri Mar 27, 2009
On Sun Aug 19, 2012 04:08 PM
I think you'll be fine. I am in the US but have made two visits to Ireland and two to the UK. I didn't have any trouble adjusting. What I always do is tell my passenger(s) that for the first 20 minutes after leaving the rental car place at the airport, every time we enter a roundabout or take a turn, they just need to say "left lane". After about 20 minutes I feel confident and have never had any mishaps.

I second Christine's suggestion about the GPS. It avoids a lot of stress if you don't have to think about where to turn. I rented a GPS along with the car when I went to Ireland last year. The rental fee was very small and that way I didn't have to get involved in downloading Ireland into my GPS. Having a GPS also left my passengers free to enjoy the passing scenery rather than having to bury their nose in a map book or focusing on watching for street signs.

You were wise to rent an automatic. I love driving stick, but adjusting to shifting with my left hand would have been just one more thing to contend with so I went with automatic.

Have a great trip!
re: Nervous to drive in the USA
By Angelinamember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 10300, member since Mon May 06, 2002
On Sun Aug 19, 2012 06:10 PM
Thanks for the reassurance, guys. I think I WILL be fine when I actually get to doing it, but the it's the idea of it which is freaking me out. I just need to get on with it, haha.

I'll have my sister with me who is a very calming influence and we're DEFINITELY renting a GPS with our car! I don't think we'd stand a chance otherwise :)
re: Nervous to drive in the USA
By panicmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 11592, member since Thu Dec 16, 2004
On Mon Aug 20, 2012 03:07 AM
Don't forget your pre-drive inspection procedure.
re: Nervous to drive in the USA (karma: 1)
By Dancing_EMTmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 3466, member since Wed Dec 08, 2004
On Sun Aug 19, 2012 10:06 PM
Edited by Dancing_EMT (115664) on 2012-08-19 22:18:28
I'm just nervous that I'll do something stupid!


You'd fit right in, most people can't drive, especially here in TX. They think their car will explode (or something) if they go 1 mile over the speed limit or they drive slow in the left lane, which is for passing on a 4-lane road.

Keep up with the flow of traffic, don't stop suddenly if you miss a turn, read up on traffic laws in CA/in the US and you should be fine. Don't worry about you doing something stupid, worry about other people's stupidity, which is an epidemic that sadly has no cure.

Also, since you're unfamiliar with the area, DON'T USE YOUR PHONE AND DRIVE. My husband and I have nearly gotten into wrecks because of people not paying attention. Also, the middle finger is the international sign of friendship, so don't be afraid to show someone you want to be their friend. ;)

ETA: Use common sense, don't roll your window down for anyone who isn't a police officer (I never do and I live in a safe area, but I also conceal carry), stay out of south central LA, get pepper spray and wear a bullet proof vest. If you need directions, ask a firefighter/police office/ambulance crew if you can or ask in a very public place.

Here's a good link, just click "safety": www.lalife.com
re: Nervous to drive in the USA
By schuhplattlerPremium member Comments: 3037, member since Sat Dec 23, 2006
On Mon Aug 20, 2012 06:09 AM
^Good advice, but I think the pepper spray and vest are overkill, unless she actually goes into South Central.
re: Nervous to drive in the USA
By adageacemember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 3982, member since Thu Sep 01, 2005
On Mon Aug 20, 2012 07:53 AM
DON'T USE YOUR PHONE AND DRIVE


Not gonna be a problem, I think, as it's been illegal over here for years now. :)
re: Nervous to drive in the USA
By Dancing_EMTmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 3466, member since Wed Dec 08, 2004
On Mon Aug 20, 2012 03:57 PM
schuhplattler wrote:

^Good advice, but I think the pepper spray and vest are overkill, unless she actually goes into South Central.


I live in a very safe area and I'll STILL conceal carry and carry pepper spray.
re: Nervous to drive in the USA
By Moonlitefairy06member has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 7177, member since Fri Apr 16, 2004
On Mon Aug 20, 2012 04:29 PM
adageace wrote:

DON'T USE YOUR PHONE AND DRIVE


Not gonna be a problem, I think, as it's been illegal over here for years now. :)


Just because it's illegal (in some states) doesn't mean people don't still do it.
re: Nervous to drive in the USA
By adageacemember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 3982, member since Thu Sep 01, 2005
On Mon Aug 20, 2012 07:15 PM
^ Yeah, I meant that I can't see Angelina doing something that's not only silly, but also illegal for everyone in her entire country.

I wasn't trying to imply that no-one ever breaks motoring laws, only that I doubted that it would be an issue in this particular case.

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