British vs. American Driving – I’m on the road

Happy New Year! After much talk and delays, I’ve finally gotten my provisional license and started driving lessons! I’ve done about 10 hours now. My instructor is very good, very old school and very Yorkshire. He’s also pretty straight talking (which I appreciate in a Briton) both when you’ve done something wrong and when you get negative. The biggest challenge for me has been learning to do the manual gears. I was surprised that driving on the other side of the car and road is by far the easiest thing. Driving here has been more difficult because the roads are a lot narrower, generally there are more cars about (though that could be because we’re in a city as well) and people park EVERYWHERE and ANYWHERE they can! Often in really annoying/risky places, like just after a junction. I also am having trouble telling where the front left of the hood/bonnet is. I remember having the same problem in reverse when I was learning last time around.

I am slowly making progress (I’m told) with the gears. And I’m learning how to deal with roundabouts, buses and swerving around parked cars, all new to me. Since I already had a lot of driving experience, apparently I’m a difficult student because I lull my instructor into a false sense of security with my good driving and then stall the car or something and remind him I’m a beginner in some ways. So everyone is being kept on their toes!

I passed my theory test last week so the final hurdle is the practical test itself in March.

Other fun facts I’ve picked up:

  • Phobia of driving is a thing here and my instructor’s colleague specializes in teaching pupils with fear of driving.
  • The theory test consists of hazard perception clips that are all created using computer visuals. Something I was really thankful for after practicing with blurry, poor quality dash cam videos where you couldn’t actually see the hazards!
  • There is an authorized vocabulary for driving. I guess this is a good thing because the lingo is standardized as set by the government for various things like driving. For example,  duty of care, hazard routine, and of course all the road signs. But it’s a bit uncanny when your instructor says the same thing as the Youtube video you just watched!
  • Road rules are tailored to manual transmission cars. This is a little theory of mine. I’ve noticed that road rules such as giving way (aka yielding) signs rather stop signs and the light sequence (green – amber/yellow – red – red and amber together) seem suited to manual cars. You don’t have to come to a complete stop at many junctions. At red lights, there is a prep phase (red and amber together) to setting off again after you’ve come to a stop. Since manuals are hard to get going this is really helpful! Anyway, that’s my theory.

Please share any other driving facts, American or British, in the comments.

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