I thought this would be quite a good one to do, because there are a lot of differences between driving in the US compared to my home country of the UK. When driving in a new country you go from being an experienced driver who finds it second nature to be on the road, to being a learner again! The best thing you can do in this situation is just to keep practicing and drive as much as possible, the more you do it, the more natural it will feel!
Major Differences UK vs USA
Driving on the Right: Obviously this is the biggest difference I had to get used to when driving in the US, back home we drive on the left and the steering wheel is on the right, so everything is flipped here. It took me about 2-3 weeks to get used to this, now it’s pretty much second nature.
Little to No Round Abouts: Large intersections replace these, which are all traffic light controlled but can be a little intimidating because of the sheer amount of cars moving through one area, this is still the only time I have to think about driving on the right side as it can be a bit complicated.
Turning Right on Red: If the light is red and you are turning right, you have to make a full stop first and if it is clear to go, you are allowed to make the right. On Long Island where I live this is allowed unless there is a sign stipulating otherwise, or if you are in driving in the 5 boroughs (Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island) it is not permitted period.
Stop Signs: In the UK we don’t have a large amount of these but in the US they are so common. Where we would have ‘Give Ways’, they have stop signs. There are 2 way, 4 way and T Junction stop signs, you can familiarise yourself with the rules here.
Yellow School Buses: You are required to remain stopped as long as the red lights flash or the stop arm is out. This applies to traffic coming from both directions. If over taking a school bus, you are not allowed to pass when the red or arming warning lights are flashing!
Yield Signs: Basically the exact same as a ‘Give Way’ in the UK they just use a different word here, you have to give way before proceeding onto the road ahead.
Bigger Roads/Bigger Cars: The roads are a lot wider here and thus all the cars are a lot bigger. I went from driving a Peugeot 107 which is tiny compared to my Hyundai Elantra. I was really worried at first at how I would do driving a bigger car, but its all relative, so my car is actually quite small here in comparison to other cars on the road, such as the Dodge Ram (which is a huge pick up truck!).
Parking: If you are [parallel] parking on the street, you must park in the same direction as oncoming traffic, it is illegal to do otherwise.
Drivers Licenses +Plates: They are state issued. So if you move state you have to get a new license and plates matching that particular state!
Traffic Lights: Unlike the UK where our lights are mounted onto poles in the ground, the traffic lights are suspended in the air here. The benefit of this is that you can see the light from wherever you are, so it makes it easier to access the road ahead and stop you from having to rely as much on other drivers brake lights if you don’t know the route your taking.
Saying Thank You: Back in the UK it is quite common to ‘flash your hazard lights’ as a way to say thank you if someone lets you into their lane. That is not the case here as my husband told me, if you do that in New York people will think you’ve broken down and try to go round you, which I guess is fair!
Crossing the road: Not really a driving aspect, but when I first got here I felt like crossing the road was so complicated because I didn’t know which way to look! Always look to your left first, as that is the direct oncoming traffic is coming from!
Different words: The boot is the trunk, the bonnet is the hood, motorways are highways and petrol is called gas!
Petrol: Is a lot cheaper here as it is priced per gallon instead of litre and all of their gas stations are pay at the pump, from what I’ve seen anyway. In some states there’s even a person who will pump your gas for you!
New York Drivers
Ever heard the expression ‘A New York Minute‘…
Well Johnny Carson once said, “it’s the interval between a Manhattan traffic light turning green and the guy behind you honking his horn”.
This is so unbelievably true on Long Island as well, there’s not a lot of patience to go around here! A few facts you need to know about a lot of New York drivers (not all of them, but most) compared to back home:
- They don’t believe in the use of indicators (or blinkers as they call them!)
- They don’t say thank you when you let them in
- They will cut you off and not say sorry about it
- They love to beep their horns
- And finally and probably most important… they genuinely don’t give a shit if any of the above bothers you!
So it’s best to just get used to it quickly because you’ll save yourself a lot of stress and anger! I think drivers in the UK are a lot more predictable than driver’s in New York!
If someone unnecessarily beeps at me now I just pretend I think they are saying hello to me and wave at them, which usually defuses the situation cause they don’t know how to react to a smile!
Basically it’s all about building confidence and remembering what it was like when you first started driving in your home country! I was nervous when I first started driving in the UK, flash forward a few years and I was confident enough to drive anywhere. So it really does just take time to get accustomed to your new environment
What are the differences between driving in your country and driving in the US?