About a 35% of the world population drives on the left, and the countries that do are mostly ex-British colonies. Happily for us, this means that it is relatively simple to drive abroad in huge land masses such as India, Australia and Southern Africa, as well as the Caribbean.
This left-sided driving quirk perplexes the rest of the world, but there is a perfectly good reason for it. Long, long ago most knights were right-handed and preferred to travel on the left in order to be ready for a fight. So now you know.
Violent, feudal societies apart, if you are planning to visit the US, or most of Europe (except the UK, Ireland, Malta and Cyprus), you will be driving on the right.
In reality, driving on the ‘wrong side’ of the road isn’t so bad, especially if you are used to driving on busy roads. You’ll be familiar with making quick decisions and taking cues from other traffic.
The main danger points for wrong-siders are:
- Turning onto a street at an empty intersection
- Entering a road from a parking lot
- Driving in the early morning, or late at night, when the roads are clear and you may be tired
In these situations, pay extra attention not to revert to the left side of the road.
Safety Tips From The Experts
At an intersection
You may be tempted to take a quick look, but be looking the wrong way for traffic. This can be fatal. Always take extra time to look in both directions.
Placement on the road
You can misjudge where your car is by over-correcting. This happens because you’re used to being on the right hand side of the car. Be aware if you feel yourself drifting.
Choose An Automatic
If it’s your first time driving on the right, everything swaps sides, except the gearshift! It’s easier to have one less unfamiliar thing to do — shifting a manual transmission with the opposite hand. If you are driving a manual hire car, allow some time to practice on quieter roads before you attempt fast city driving.
Adjust For The Road Ahead
Familiarise yourself with the rules of the road, especially speed limits. If you will be driving on the right, take special care to orientate yourself to traffic flow, overtaking, merging and roundabouts. Try to start on a road that’s relatively straight so you don’t have to face busy intersections until your confidence is higher.
When driving abroad, you are required to be able to produce a full driver’s license, registration documents for your vehicle and a current certificate of motor insurance, covering everyone who will be driving the car. To avoid unnecessary problems, make sure all your documents are in order before you travel.
The time you spend to ensure you’re ready for the road ahead is a valuable investment. One thing is certain, you’re worth it!
International Driving Permit
The International Driving Permit (IDP) is recognised worldwide. It is a valuable document that identifies motorists as licensed drivers.
The Automobile Association of Singapore advises –
“While the Singapore driving licence is recognised in many countries, the IDP can minimise inconvenience when renting a car or driving in a country where English is not commonly spoken. The IDP contains driving terms in various languages and can aid communication with car rental companies and other authorities. The IDP is also a useful form of photo identification for the driver.
For peace of mind, we recommend Singapore driving licence holders intending to drive in a foreign country to apply for an IDP. The IDP is valid for one year from the date of issue.”
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