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how to get over of fear of driving on 'wrong' side of road?

(11 Posts)
unlucky83 Sun 12-Jul-15 18:16:05

I am a confident driver, have been driving for 25+ yrs (no accidents) used to live and drive in London, can motorway drive etc. If we go anywhere as a family I (not DP) drive. I can handle driving strange cars, used to drive a transit van (and still do on hire).
But if we go on holiday I am too scared to hire a car because of driving on the 'wrong side'...I just can't get my head around it - if someone else is driving on say a narrow road and a car is coming towards us I know my instinct would be to pull into the left -into the approaching car. (When someone pulls into the right it feels wrong -my head is screaming noooooo).
When we have hired a car before abroad DP has driven (he learned to drive in France but has lived in UK for 20 yrs). He doesn't mind but he is a terrible driver -lots of minor bumps, easily distracted, impatient, slightly reckless etc. Makes me a nervous wreck (why I drive in UK). Also he currently has points on his licence (for turning into a no entry side road to visit a friend cos it was a waste of time going all the way round - and he told the Police that shock why he got points rather than a slapped wrist!) and will break minor road rules eg turn right at a 'no right turn' if it is clear etc...because hmm (imagine Gaelic shrug here).
So how do I get over my fear? Can you practise anywhere in the Uk (guess you need other cars around for that)? A simulator? Any advice?
(Just been on holiday and would have liked to hire a car for a day or so but couldn't face DPs driving!)

chibi Sun 12-Jul-15 18:20:05

I think you would be ok. I grew up in a country which drives on the other side, and I am now learning here. I haven't had the urge to veer back onto the other side yet grin

Gemauve Sun 12-Jul-15 18:38:27

I've done all the permutations: taking my RHD manual and autos to mainland Europe, and renting LHD manuals and autos in mainland Europe and the US.

Driving LHD manuals is far and away the hardest. I think I naively expected the gearbox to be a mirror image, but it isn't: first is closest, fifth furthest away from you. You're sat on the other side of the same gearbox. I had some slight experience of changing gear with my right hand before I drove an LHD manual, but to further complicate matters that was mostly track cars with dog-leg first gear. It's hard work, and as I get older I've decided to not do it again.

Driving an LHD auto is easy. You're sat in the right place, next to the centre of the road, so you can see, use car park barriers and you instinctively do the right thing. You don't have to control anything with the "wrong" hand aside from putting the car in D.

Driving your own car on the other side of the road is a pain: your instincts are wrong (as you suspect) and the lack of visibility is tricky. It doesn't matter if it's manual or auto, it's still a pain.

So my advice is "rent an auto" (assuming you're happy with autos in the first place, but it sounds like you are). In an auto, you'll find it natural to be on the other side of the road, because everything's a mirror image and "just works". Think carefully at roundabouts, that's all (not a problem in most of the US, of course).

EnormousDormouse Sun 12-Jul-15 18:51:35

Get an auto.
Use a satnav. It is brilliant for double checking which lanes to be in and where to go at junctions.
With an auto and sat nav, I'll quite happily drive anywhere.

unlucky83 Sun 12-Jul-15 19:47:49

I agree that sitting on the correct side seems easiest - and an auto would be good - having to think about every gear change confused would be a nightmare....and Sat Nav - but I am more worried about a head on collision. (in France DP did go the wrong way up a one way by accident once)

I need something I can do to increase my confidence.
This time I really thought I would be brave but I bottled. I think the only thing I can do is hire a car with both DP and I named as drivers and he can drive it out of the hire place (something I am a bit nervous about*) and I can drive round a car park or on straight roads or something -not start off busy city driving.
A simulator would be great though!
*When I hadn't had much driving practice I rented cars for a day to move flat etc. The worst was always around the hire place. One I had the embarrassment of the hire guy watching me trying to drive off in 3rd and then stalling at the junction out by doing exactly the same again, I once put the steering lock on (pulling down on the wheel) then couldn't get it off (had to ask for help) and probably the worst I had to drop one off in a multi story car park in a tight space next to a pillar -after trying for 20 mins (sweat dripping down my face) to leave enough space for me to get out and not scrape the pillar I dumped it on an angle and only half in - the whole back end sticking out blush.

Seeline Mon 13-Jul-15 08:27:59

I always drive a hire car on holiday and have never really had a problem. I find as soon as I am sitting in a left hand drive, I automatically switch to driving that way. The only time I really have to think is when going round a roundabout (but these are relatively few in holiday destinations apart from Majorca ). I don't drive an automatic, so don't think that would be helpful!! My DH is an excellent navigator though, so he gives directions - I just concentrate on driving.
I don't think I would like to drive my own car abroad though......

MyPelvicFloorTrainsItself Mon 13-Jul-15 08:38:03

I'm freaking a bit about this too. Will let you know how it goes next week shock

Metacentric Mon 13-Jul-15 09:43:56

I don't drive an automatic, so don't think that would be helpful!!

You can't, for practical purposes, rent manuals in the US. Unfortunately, the first experience of autos many British people have is the parking lot of a US car rental place, in a car that is already unfamiliar for other reasons (up to and including a foot-operated parking brake, although those are becoming less common, particularly in holiday destination rental fleets). So if you're planning a holiday in the US, being able to drive an auto well is a handy skill and why does anyone drive a manual anyway?

Butkin Tue 14-Jul-15 10:28:09

I drive one the wrong side at least 6 times a year (USA, Dubai, Singapore) and don't have a problem but the two keys for me are a) it is much easier to drive in a local car with the steering wheel on the correct side - it makes life so much easier, especially when overtaking and b) I agree that an automatic is much easier. I've driven with both and changing gears with my right hand has taken a bit of thought to start with. The most difficult part is usually coming out of the rental car park when the lanes are not clearly marked. Once you get onto the roads I've never even thought about it - it's much easier than expected.

Lurknomoreladies Wed 15-Jul-15 07:57:06

I first had to drive a hire car in the US on a work trip when I was 22. Got told I had to hire a car and didn't think to question it. It was fine. If I can do it as a not massively confident driver at 22, I reckon anyone can.
Get both names put on, and once you have the lie of the land, start with an easy route that maybe your DP has already driven, so you have a sense of it.
An automatic may well be a good way to start. However, if you are not used to automatics do the following: Put your left foot on the floor. Do NOT move it. In an automatic, only your right foot should move :-)

LittleCandle Wed 15-Jul-15 08:16:37

I would never by choice drive an automatic in the UK, but found it was great in the US. It does help to be on the left side of the car, and not having to worry about gear changes was brilliant. I was the most confident person at the one roundabout we encountered while in Florida. I was incredibly anxious about doing it, but it helped to have someone with me who was already familiar with the road signs. You will find it surprisingly easy to adjust.

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