I promised that I would say something about driving in England. A foolish promise, since the extent of my driving experience on this small island is about four hours – so I’m no authority. I’m nearly the opposite of an authority. But when you’re new somewhere you notice the differences, and this is what I noticed.
English people are both the best drivers and the worst drivers.
They’re the best drivers because they can confidently whizz along a road the width of a pencil lined with curving hedgerows and not have a head-on with another car. In congested cities they can quickly and wordlessly negotiate how three cars can turn into a street simultaneously. Drivers here know what to do on a roundabout with five lanes going five different ways. They can handle pedestrians crossing the road and merging traffic (things Australian drivers are not excellent at). On the whole they are polite and good at negotiation.
However, there are exceptions. In central London you’re likely to be angrily tooted as you exit the five-lane roundabout (because, ok, it was your third circulation as you tried to work out which freaking lane you should actually be in). People change lanes in a blink and regularly don’t use their indicators. Sometimes it’s clever driving, sometimes it’s just careless.
But there’s one thing some English drivers do that irritates the heck out of me. It looks like this.
I’m cruising in the middle lane of the motorway a little over the speed limit and the car behind wants to go faster. Logically they should overtake me using the right lane. Instead, a lot of drivers here will sit on my tail and flash their lights until I change lanes. What’s with that? It’s like most English drivers are awfully nice but there’s this subset of really rude ones.
On the whole I have to say they’re pretty good, though. They’re better under pressure than most Aussies; I guess they have to be when there’s 53 million of them crammed in together.
And despite the stress of driving in a foreign country I got a real kick out of it, both on the open road and in the crowded city. Although I admit to enjoying the motorway most, which may have something to do with the below…
Unsure of the speed limit (we did look for signs) we thought we’d copy the others. On the left were the trucks and vans going 60 mph. In the middle 70-80 mph seemed to be the norm. On the right Audis and Mercs zipped by at 90 mph – or more. (For those reading at home, 90 mph is almost 150 km.) Thinking the signs that said “variable speed limit” meant all of the above, we, well, varied our speed limit. Turns out the speed limit is 70 mph.
Another perk of the motorways are huge service stations at regular intervals. Far from the humble outback roadhouse, these giants offer fuel, cafés, newsagents, fast food, pharmacies, and even hotels, all open 24/7. This girl’s used to roadhouses in the middle of nowhere that close at 7:30pm if you’re lucky.
I won’t be back on the road for a while yet (car hire is not economical for the single traveller) but when I do I’ll know what to look out for – and what to enjoy.