Friday, October 23, 2015

Driving in England

KJ and I celebrated a significant milestone this week, one of the biggest in our move to England:  WE PASSED OUR DRIVING TESTS!!!

This just felt like such a huge burden taken off of our shoulders.  I've been scared of it since I did some preliminary research on it before moving and read it described by another American as having a Ph.D. in driving if you could pass it.  So for my American friends, here's an "off-the-top-of-my-head" list of things that are different about driving in the UK, besides the obvious difference of driving in the left-hand lane.

  • The roads are smaller.  In some cases, MUCH smaller.
  • Roads don't typically have a "shoulder."
  • Roundabouts, roundabouts, roundabouts.
  • Learning to drive is a huge deal, and the driving instructor business is huge.  Having driving lessons seems like a rite of passage here, whereas I think most kids in the U.S. are taught to drive by their parents.
  • Stop signs are rare.  In order to keep traffic moving, the rolling stops that are a big no-no in the States are what is encouraged here.  Coming to a full stop is a hard habit for me to break since it was so drilled into me by my Driver's Ed instructor.  Speaking of, I guess that's the other thing we do in the States, Driver's Ed in schools.  I'm not sure if that's a thing here.
  • Traffic lights are usually on small poles to the side of the road instead of hanging overhead.  Sometimes there are so many lights on the sides of the road I struggled at first to know which one to look at, especially since sometimes there are two lights meant for you to look at, one at the stopping line and another one out ahead that is easier to see if you're at the front.
  • Turn lanes are rare, in large part owing to smaller roads, I would guess.
  • People park on the roads like crazy.  I know there are some parts of America where that is more normal, but it makes navigating streets a lot harder.  Driving isn't as straightforward.
  • Lots of pedestrian crosswalks!  Cities and towns being more walkable means more pedestrians, which means more stopping for cars.
  • There are some basic assigned speed limits, so unless marked on roads with streetlights you drive 30 mph, and on open country roads you drive up to 60 mph if it's safe to do so.  To me, around here it doesn't often feel safe to do so with winding narrow roads.
  • Speed cameras are everywhere, so I don't think being pulled over for speeding is very common.  You just receive surprise tickets in the mail.
All in all, I've found driving to be a more stressful experience here.  There aren't as many open roads where you can just freely drive.  There are more hazards to be constantly aware of:  Cyclists, Pedestrians, Tractors, cars parked in the street, etc.  Except for driving in Boroughbridge, I haven't reached the point of being able to handle driving with music playing (a big disappointment to me, but I just find it too distracting with all the other things I'm trying to think about).  I will also oftentimes make the kids be quiet and enforce a no talking while Mommy's driving rule.  More hazards + not knowing where I'm going make me a little tense.

On the flip side, before I make my mother feel too worried about me driving, I'm so glad I'm driving here versus any other country in Europe!  The English are polite drivers, and rules of civility can be generally relied on.  Also, the more I drive, the more confident I feel, and the more familiar roads become to me, the less intimidating they are.  It still hasn't completely sunken in that I have my license.  Hallelujah!  


  1. Well done! That is an major accomplishment.

  2. Thank you, Beth! I know you understand! I am SO relieved.