What's it like to drive a right-hand drive (RHD) vehicle in the US or other left-hand drive countries? Or vice versa?I've driven all four combinations- RHD and LHD on the left, LHD and RHD on the right. Normal practice in the UK is a RHD vehicle, driven on the left.
Driving a RHD car in continental Europe takes some adjustment, but at least you're used to the driving position in the vehicle. You have to adjust your position on the road slightly to get the best view ahead, and it helps to set the passenger seat slightly further back than the driver so you can see clearly to the left at junctions.
Driving a hired LHD car in the US- in this case things are virtually a mirror image of what you're used to. The advantage is that you have a good view of the road without having to make any alterations, however it takes some getting used to sitting on the left side of the car.
Driving a LHD car in the UK. This is a strange one. In some cases it's easiest if you just don't think about it being LHD, and more a case of driving an unfamiliar vehicle. You then figure out eventually where the corners and blind spots are, and just drive it. Being an automatic, changing gears with the wrong hand was one less thing to worry about. Other people I know who've tried find it to be the most difficult.
Annoyances with driving a 'wrong' handed vehicle for the country are things like car park barriers- you may have to get out and run round the car unless you've got a passenger. I've seen an interesting solution at a drive-thru, with someone alone in a LHD car proceeding in reverse.
Another one is getting pulled over by a police car who'd seen one of the occupants using his mobile phone while leaning on the right hand window. The policeman got out, expecting to have caught someone using a phone behind the wheel, only to find that the driver was inexplicably on the left and went sheepishly back to his car.
It takes a little adjustment but like all things can be got used to.
One of the first times I drove a car in the USA that was the opposite to what I was used to (cars in the UK and Ireland are right hand drive, driven on left side of the road) I remember walking to the vehicle saying my goodbyes to whom was visiting and getting in the wrong side of the car much to amusement of my friends who watched me have to get out and walk around the other side.
Driving along normally was not much of a problem. The main dangers I found were at intersections. Once I turned a corner and because I was not focusing fully, ended up on the wrong side of the road with light traffic coming straight at me albeit from a safe distance.
The same thing happened to me again some months later in the middle of the night on a deserted country road in Kansas when I was tired and again not fully concentrating.
The difficulties are compounded when you are driving a vehicle not originally intended to be driven in another country for example a left hand drive car in the UK or a right hand drive car in continental Europe. I have driven UK registered semi trucks (RHD) in France and Italy where everything is LHD. The blind spots on a truck are enormous and when you have to change lanes or turn a tight corner then the driver must do a double or triple take to carefully check before moving. The statistics on accidents in situations like this tell that it is a serious problem and that a good solution has yet to be found.
When you first arrive in any "opposite sense" territory you are typically driving on a motorway - ie a road with a central reservation which means that all the cars around you are travelling in the same direction - so quite literally you go with the flow. The design of junctions makes it very difficult to make a mistake. Overtaking is a bit tricky if you are driving a vehicle with the wrong orientation because you need to make much greater use of your offside mirrors than you would otherwise.
It becomes more unsettling if you are driving at night on smaller roads without a central division. Suddenly you have no frame of reference and I occasionally have to double check that I am on the correct side of the road. I've occasionally turned out of a minor road onto a larger road and found that I've taken the wrong side - but you can only really make this mistake if there is no traffic. A hurried correction usually follows. I do sometimes have to double check when all I can see is a set of headlights approaching in the distance .
However the most common error by far doesn't come from driving a LHD vehicle in a RHD environment (or vice versa) but driving a vehicle with the contrasting arrangement for the first time. We Europeans favour "manual" rather than "automatic" gears so I've lost count of the times I've gone to change gear and found myself reaching into the pockets in the driver's door.
I live in New Zealand which is right hand drive and among the many cars I've owned 4 have been LHD, and not small ones either, '69 Chevrolet Caprice Custom Coupe, '73 Cadillac Coupe De Ville, '75 Cadillac Coupe De Ville, '84 Cadillac Sedan De Ville.
I'd never driven a LHD before I got my Chevy (except for a quick blat in my mates '69 Mustang Grande) so when I got the car I on a Saturday morning I just drove the hell out of it and by the time I was driving to work Monday morning the novelty had completely gone, I was completely used to it, I was just driving my car and it felt completely normal. Some people can't adapt that quickly or even at all but I had no trouble.
So of my 40 years of driving about 18 or so of those years were spent behind the wheel of LHD in a RHD country.
PS Those are only the cars I owned. I've driven many more LHD cars here including genuine California police cars on movie sets.
Italian Trucks! Older Italian trucks had the driver on the right on right-hand drive roads so that the driver was nearer the kerb or the side of the road. This was apparently advantageous on narrow mountain roads. There are splendid videos on youtube of various experts driving Fiats 690s and 682s. They sit on the right, and have two gearlevers to play with, neither syncronised. Splendid stuff. I want to drive one, but I don't expect it will happen.
I did once drive a left hand drive ute in Alice Springs in Australia. I didn't drive it long enough to get a fully used to it, but I positioned the vehicle properly on the left side of the road, and shifting gears with my right hand was weird. I didn't double-declutch, nor was overtaking required.
In principle, I think that any difficult, weird or unusual vehicles should be driven if at all possible, as such an activity requires thinking, and thinking is fun. I might need to hang around the vintage car and truck people and see if I can drive something. Usually, once people experience my driving they let me drive stuff.
Poor visibility when overtaking, you can't just nudge a little bit closer to the center line to see if someone is coming toward you in the distance, so I ended up having my passenger make the call whether it was safe or not.
Weird on narrow English streets, I was terrified of scraping into parked cars because I lacked the "feel" for the distance to parked cars on the "wrong" side. My passenger told me I mostly had probably a whole car width to spare.