More than two-thirds of the countries in the world drive on the right hand side of the world. So when people come to territories that cruise on the left side such as Australia, Japan, New Zealand, or United Kingdom, they felt their world flipped literally and suddenly driving is a distant and avoidable option already.
As a former British colony, Australia has been driving left since the 19th century, and didn’t changed so since it is an island continent and never share any roads with other countries. But that doesn’t mean you have to avoid taking the wheel forever. Driving on the left can be learned without much headache and mishaps. And we will show you how.
Trying to learn how to drive on the left after a long flight is like trying to ride the bike for first time after you just got off from a doze. It could turn ugly. After your flight, you still don’t have enough sleep, your body isn’t well adjusted yet, and you are still trying to survive the jet lag.
Give yourself 24 to 48 hours to be accustomed to the new environment (and the new laws). After then you can take the plunge.
Here's what you can do when getting your one-day rest: study the traffic rules. Since you are in a right-hand drive country (meaning the steering wheel is on the right side of the car), the rules can be different. Australia, for one, still follows the "priority to the right" rule when it comes to four-way intersections. Give yourself time to get immersed on signages, laws of the road, and traffic flow.
A small car is easier to maneuver, has faster time reaction, is easier to park, and has less margins of error. That means quicker turning and easier braking, which you will do a lot when learning to drive left. If you fancy the bigger cars, you may rent one later once you get adjusted.
And since we are on the topic of choosing cars…
Sure, you have been driving stick all your life. But when trying to learn a right-hand drive car, you need your hands on the steering wheel all the time. Remember, the gear sticks on manual transmission cars here in Australia is positioned on the left of the driver, so adjusting to switching gears with your left hand (which you formerly do with your right) will add more distraction to this already complicated vehicle maneuver.
Once you completely adjusted yourself, you can start driving stick again.
Once you got your rental car, don't hurtle it down the road yet. Find an almost empty parking lot (you may ask the attendant where to find one). There, you cat get a feel of your car, the reaction time, the pedals, the steering wheel, everything. Take your time to calm your nerves and gather your focus, and slowly drive your car until you get adjusted on it.
Australia is one of the very first countries to enact a seatbelt law, and takes pride in it. Seatbelt laws here is very strict and there are huge fines and demerit points for not wearing one. And there is also the matter of safety. You are a beginner on the road and therefore should protect yourself from mishaps.
City driving is hectic, frenzied, and requires a certain amount of manipulation. If an off-road course is available, take advantage of it. If it is an open field, the better. This should prevent you from ramming yourself into another car or jumping off the curb and ruining somebody’s lawn in case of untoward accelerations. However, we advise that you do not go to extreme and difficult terrains. You might have more problems on them than on street level.
And if possible, avoid the city roads. It can be very chaotic and intimidating. Multiple cars overtaking and swerving, traffic jams, pedestrians suddenly crossing the street, and don’t even get us started with the cyclists. There are just too many to watch out for. Go for a road with minor traffic such as the suburbs or anywhere off the city. The less road users there are, the more focused you will be.
Like the first time you learned how to drive, it will be awhile before you get used to it. Do not overcrowd your day with driving lessons. Take a break to completely absorb what you learn, realize your mistakes, and process the tiny details of your experience. Tiring yourself on long driving hours will only lead to stress, frustrations, and accidents.
Enjoy the experience. Australia is a beautiful place. Once you are settled and get used to driving, not getting late for work will be your first priority already, and will miss the opportunity of appreciating the good view. Do it now while you still can.