A few years ago I spent a couple weeks over in the States, and it was my first time driving over there. I have done some driving in foreign countries before, including Africa and Australia, but America can be the first time driving on the other side of the road for most.
Driving In America For The First Time
I thought it would be worthwhile giving you my thoughts on the experience of driving over there. I know you will just be expecting me to say that they have got it all wrong and they are driving on the wrong side of the road, but they have actually got a lot of good things going on.
Turning right on red lights
To be fair, it took me a day or two to learn this, but in America it is often legal to turn right on a red light, if it is safe to do so. Meaning that if there is no oncoming traffic you are allowed to turn right at intersections. Now this seems like a very logical rule and works well out there, so why don’t we do this?
As they call them…gas stations. This is something else that they have got right. Typically in the States you prepay for the petrol for your pump. So you nip in to the shop and for example you put $30 on pump 6, and then your pump will stop dead on $30. No messing around with change, no trickling the petrol in trying to get it right yourself.
The second genius thing they have is the locking trigger on the petrol pump. Meaning that when you fill up you squeeze the pump once, click in the lock and wait until you hit the prepay limit, and then you’re done. This would be a dream in the UK, especially in the winter, when holding a cold metal pump for 3 or 4 minutes should be classified as an extreme sport.
I was shocked; the USA is the promise land when it comes to fuel prices. A gallon of petrol is around $3 that is about 44p a litre, in comparison, petrol in the UK is around £1.26 a litre at the moment. This is unbelievable! To look at the bigger picture my car has a 100 litre tank. So to fill it in the UK that costs me around £126, but to fill it in the USA that’s just £44. I won’t get into where that £82 in the middle is going missing as it angers me. But now I see why everyone drives a v8 in America.
You never really see this in the UK. But it is everywhere in America. I had a go, you have to try these things at least once, and it is pretty handy. With the UK rainfall this would be really useful over here!
In the UK we are used to motorways with 3 lanes in each direction, and some of the time, if we’re lucky and there aren’t any road works, we can use all 3. However the interstates in America can be between 4-8 lanes wide in each direction. Now that is how you build a motorway! I know we have no chance of doing this in the UK, but our motorways are overcrowded, so we will need a solution sooner or later. I’m sure it wasn’t cheap but I’m pretty sure it would stop the congestion.
Also there are junctions every half mile, which is useful if you take a wrong turn. If you take the wrong turn in the UK you can do 10-15 miles without having a junction to get off at. So from a tourist perspective this is fantastic.
The lorries in America are huge! They are taller, wider and longer. If you get caught between a few of these on the interstate you will want to get straight out of the way. They do not a have a speed limiter as they do in the UK either. So if you’re caught Sunday driving you have a good chance of being over taken by one of these mean machines.
In the UK we mostly over take on the right hand side, although we have all witnessed some deadly undertaking as well. In my time in The States, Texas specifically, I noticed that people are less bothered about lane discipline and appeared to be happy to overtake in any lane, especially on the interstate, which is fine once you are used to it, but interesting to try and understand it the first place.
Everyone drives a car with a massive engine. There are so many cool cars on the roads of America. Three that interested me were the Ford Mustang, Chevy Camero, and the Dodge Charger. If they did these in a right hand drive I would love to own one in the UK.
No Front Reg Plates
It appears that there is no need for front registration plates on cars in the States which, with some cars, really cleans up the look from the front.
Driving In America For The First Time – Would I do it all again?
Of course I would, I had a great time driving in the US.
Take a look at these time lapse videos to give you a taste of what driving over there was like.