Three lefts make a right except on Lombard
August 15, 2007 10:19 PM   Subscribe

What driving software should my friend's British mum play to learn the American road sign system and develop the habit of driving on the (literal) right side of the road?
posted by jayCampbell to Travel & Transportation around Lombard, IL (12 answers total)
They drive on the right over in France if she has time to take a ferry over for some leisurely learning and sight seeing on IRL. She'll also have to get used to driving from what she thinks is the passenger side of the car as well. I got the chance to drive a wheel-on-left American style car in the UK. It took me about 2 minutes to get my head into it. Having the left lane be the slow lane and the right lane be the fast/passing lane on the motorways was a shock, but just doing it was more than any software could have taught me. HMMV, though.
posted by knowles at 10:52 PM on August 15, 2007

I played GTA3. Hardly the best software for the job, but readily available, and as someone hops in the passenger seat, you get to say "I normally drive on the left-hand side of the road, but don't worry - I've played GTA3, so I know how to drive over here". :-)

Another thing I did was just be a passenger a lot, and watch the road, so you get used to traffic coming out of areas your gut thinks are empty.

Yet another thing I did (which she might not be able to) was to use a bicycle at first, because then you get used to the traffic, but can hop off and walk on the footpath when things are getting a bit crazy.

posted by -harlequin- at 11:05 PM on August 15, 2007

I 2nd the GTA suggestion. If you can get past the whole "violence" factor, it is a decent sim for driving around a city. AFAIK, the traffic lights do operate on timers, and left and right turns are negotiated correctly.
posted by skwillz at 11:11 PM on August 15, 2007

Umm, I can't imagine GTA or any other game being any help at all. Once you get there and start driving and all the other cars are doing the same it quickly becomes second nature. Presumably she will be driving an automatic so its not even like she has to worry about the gear stick being on the other side which is the most confusing thing for a British person driving on the Continent. The only tricky thing about driving in America is all the retarded intersections. As for signs, there must be an online list.

As -harlequin- says if she gets the chance to be a passenger for a bit - rather than driving straight from the airport - then that will be helpful.
posted by ninebelow at 1:45 AM on August 16, 2007

She really doesn't need any software. She needs, ideally, a passenger alongside her, and a sticky note on the centre console saying 'RIGHT' with a big right-pointing arrow.

It really shouldn't take too much time to adapt, though I'm with those who say she shouldn't try to drive straight from the airport, not least because airport road systems are often a pain for American drivers, let alone foreigners used to driving on the other side. And if she hasn't driven an automatic before, she may need a primer in the basics, particularly 'foot on the brake to start the engine, foot off to crawl forward'. The main mechanical issue is road position, and that's just a case of paying attention to the left kerb or left-hand lane markings.

All that said, she might find these DVDs helpful if she can watch them in the US, or on a region-free player in the UK: they're drives along mountain roads made for the local public access station, and are basically just filmed from the passenger seat of the narrator's car. (In fact, I get a bit travel sick watching them.)
posted by holgate at 2:12 AM on August 16, 2007

I spent nearly a year working in Germany, and for the first few months I got around on a pushbike. That way, by the time I got into a car I was already practised at travelling on the wrong side of the road, I had a fair grasp of the signage, and the only weirdness I had to get used to was the feeling of the handbrake being on the wrong side of me.

This would probably work less well in most places in the US, though; Berlin is a very pushbike-friendly city.
posted by flabdablet at 3:43 AM on August 16, 2007

A few years ago I ended up in Texas, having flown from Australia. Stuck without alternative transport (thanks to the helpful airport staff - "I don't have a car - how do I get to Sherman?" "You can't".) I hired a car.

Driving was quite easy as long as there were other people around and in no time it felt pretty natural. In fact I was so terrified at the idea of getting onto the wrong side of the road that I never came close, although I was struck by the strong urge to stay in the left lane on the freeway, which is the slow lane in Australia.

So, my suggestion, just get driving. Oh, and get a GPS, it would have been WAY easier to focus on the road if I hadn't been trying to navigate.
posted by tomble at 5:47 AM on August 16, 2007

I second the GPS.

The one thing to watch out for is doing a three-point-turn on an empty road. It's really easy, without any other cars around, to end up on the wrong side.

As long as other cars are around you're fine.

She might want to study up on turning right on a red light. It really freaks out my relatives when they come to visit.
posted by idb at 6:55 AM on August 16, 2007

Thirding the notion that it is far easier to get on the wrong side when there are no other cars around. I experienced this when moving to the UK.

Another problem I've noticed in myself: I call all turns which cross on-coming traffic "left turns", even when they are right turns (left-side driving). This problem persists even after 5 years of left-side experience. Kind of amusing, really, and only a problem when explaining someone directions.
posted by Goofyy at 7:44 AM on August 16, 2007

I call all turns which cross on-coming traffic "left turns", even when they are right turns (left-side driving).

My American mom did this during the three years she spent in Australia! Actually, she reversed the words left and right for almost everything she did, on the road and not. It was funny.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:39 AM on August 16, 2007

I've just been reminded of this online game from Dodge which is to do with road safety and encouraging teenagers to drive safely. When I played it it took me a while to remember to get on the right-hand side of the road (I'm British). You have to stop at stop signs, keep to maximum and minimum speed limits on freeways, and so on. Seems like it would be a reasonably good thing for your friend's mum to try.
posted by bent back tulips at 11:26 AM on August 16, 2007

Not that she shouldn't take any of the above advice, but I think she should, ultimately, just relax. I've driven in several countries around the world, left side, right side, and there's really not a big difference in driving and signage, at least in industrialized nations. The only "problem" I have with a right-hand drive car is turning on the wipers when I want to use the turn signal. My brain is wired for a left-hand drive car. But it's not a big deal.
posted by zardoz at 6:14 PM on August 16, 2007

« Older Toronto: What happens in Queen's Park after...   |   My little brother is a furry? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.