Wednesday, November 20, 2013

His: Living in America - Rules of the Road

Cars drive on the left side of the road in Australia.
 Driving in Australia can be unsettling after driving in America for the last 12 years. Not only do they drive on the opposite side of the road and the right hand side on the car, they also have different road rules, signs and traffic patterns. I may have grown up with these rules but it takes a few days for me to get comfortable with them again as I am so used to driving in the U.S. There are a few key differences that could have landed me a traffic ticket had a police officer spotted me and that doesn't include the times I ended up on the wrong side of the road. Here is just a few of the differences.

An extra lane to allow passing.
Overtaking lane:
Most highways in Australia are just one lane in each direction so it's easy to get stuck behind a slower vehicle and not be able to pass for quite a while. To allow faster cars to pass on the often windy roads most roads have overtaking lanes every so often and will have an extra lane to allow passing. A lot of times they are on inclines so it is easier for faster cars to pass the slower cars and trucks. It seems they are often too short so if you need to pass someone on an overtaking lane you need to commit to it pretty much right as the passing lane opens.

Sometimes these signs can't come soon enough!
Keep left unless overtaking:
These signs are usually positioned near the beginning of overtaking lanes and periodically along highways with 2 or more lanes in one direction. It is expected for slower vehicles to stay to the "slow lane" and in most people do abide by this rule. In some areas the "keep left unless overtaking" rule is enforced by the police and can attract a $200+ fine for those who stay in the passing lane unnecessarily.
I wish they had a similar law here and that it was actively enforced as people drive in the fast lane all the time driving well under the speed limit, and disrupting the flow of traffic.

No U turn on red.
In most states in America it is legal and quite normal to make a u-turn at a traffic signal. In Australia it is illegal unless there is a sign saying that you are permitted to do so. I found this quite frustrating as I am used to performing a u-turn at traffic lights all the time and was tempted to try one anyway in Newcastle when I was driving the groomsmen to my sister's wedding but there was a big sign saying no u-turn which would have blown my "I didn't know about that rule" excuse I would have given to the police if I was caught.

Turn left at any time with care / No Turn on Red:
Another rule I broke a few times and almost broke several other times was turning at a red light. In most areas of the U.S you are able to turn right at a red light if it is safe, after coming to a complete stop. In Australia it is the opposite and is illegal unless it signposted that it is permitted. What is more common is the "Turn left at any time with care signs" which allows vehicles to turn left even if it the light is red. Often the left turn lane is separated from the other lanes by a traffic island and have a dedicated lane after the turn to allow turning vehicles time to speed up and merge into traffic. Not being able to turn at a red light was probably the hardest rule for me to remember and it was just pure luck that I didn't attract the attention of the local law enforcement officer.

Better not speed here!
Speed Cameras:
Most people who receive a speeding ticket in America are pulled over by a police officer, sheriff or state trooper and given a speeding ticket in person. In Australia there are hundreds of speed cameras and you wont even know you have been given a speeding ticket until it arrives in your mail box. Often they were positioned at the bottom of a large hill so you had to really watch your speed as you came up to the speed camera. Thankfully the speed cameras had signs announcing their presence so you were able to make sure you were not speeding when you came up to it.

There is many more differences between driving in America and Australia but that is for a future post. What is the one road rule in your state or country that you would like to see changed?

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