Monday, November 24, 2014

Driving Me Potty

Once I'd actually got my head around moving to the USA (it took me a little while), one of the things I was most concerned about was driving on the other (ie wrong) side of the road.  On the wrong side of the car.  In an automatic...

I refused to drive when we came out for a pre-familiarisation trip in the spring, convinced that I would immediately crash and kill either myself or somebody else.  Even as a passenger, turning left took some serious focus and concentration - often it seemed you couldn't even see the lane you were meant to be turning into!  Traffic lights were initially confusing too, with some lanes giving way to others even on green, let alone the old "turn right on a red light" thing.

So when my new car was ready to be collected after 2 weeks of relocating, I did panic a little bit.  Hubby had made me drive round our estate a couple of times, white knuckled and tense (me, not him), but I'd not yet driven on busy roads or dual carriageways.  And I certainly wasn't feeling confident.  And now my car was ready to collect and I'd have to drive it home on my own!

In all honesty, I don't remember much about the journey back home from the dealership, other than my heart being in my mouth, lots of under-breath muttering and a few expletives as I followed hubby back through a maze of streets and traffic lights.  But somehow I made it back in one piece.

The next challenge came with having to obtain my PA photo identification card, and taking my driving theory test.  Back to the books and lots of revision of the US Highway Code.  Then more queues and form filling at PennDot (Pennsylvania Department of Transport) followed by a short computerised multiple choice theory test.  Full marks later (phew), and a few more queues and photos, and I had my PA ID card (and temporary licence).

But I still have to take my PA driving test in order to drive legally, although with my International Driving Licence (obtained at the Post Office before we left the UK), I have 12 months in which to do so.

Inevitably as the weeks have gone by, my driving confidence has grown little by little.  Partly by necessity (otherwise I'd be completely house-bound, as you can't walk anywhere safely), I've gradually gone a little further afield, although most of my journeys still tend to be to the gym, the supermarket and the shopping malls!  But I feel more confident in getting in the car, and only once so far have I committed the mortal sin of climbing into the wrong side of the car.... (cue much diligent rummaging in the glove box because obviously I'd meant to get in on that side...).

So the driving test still looms.  I'm thinking of investing in a couple of driving lessons just to boost my confidence and maybe get some top tips on the test itself, although I'm told that the test is relatively simple and short compared to the UK as long as you can perfect your parallel parking.  Apparently this will also reduce our motor insurance costs as well (currently extortionate because we have no driving history in the US).  We shall see...


  1. This post took me back to when we moved to Idaho from Switzerland... I had never seen such humongous beasts of cars let alone driven one! At the car dealership the salesman laughed at me when I asked to test drive the car by reversing and parking it into a space. He had never lived in Switzerland so had no idea where my brain was at... I had never driven one of these cars that I later found out were designed to be driven by 14 year olds (yep that young is legal in some States)... Of course it was far easier than I imagined. Automatic, power steering and parking sensors. All the mod cons.. and then we had to do the theory and drivers test, like you, as we couldn't just switch out our Swiss licence. They didn't even test parallel parking in Idaho - as there is so much space most spots are always drive-in spaces at a diagonal! On my driving test the only thing I got pulled up for was doing 'California Stops' at the endless Stop signs.. this is where you do not come to an absolute standstill, but cruise in, take a good look, pause for a millisecond then keep going. Of course that is how all the Americans drove once out of the test scenario! Just a little watch point. Good luck with the test!

    Now I am in France with a tiny car that has seen so many wars in the narrow streets, things falling on it, key scratch down it's length... that I see a certain charm in those American tanks... I feel a blog of my own coming on - thanks for the inspiration Emma!

    1. I know - some of the "cars" are huge! I've opted for a regular golf, but whether that will prove a good choice in the winter weather we have yet to see! I'm hoping the driving test will be as easy as people are saying - roughly 10 mins long, driving round the block, remembering to stop at all the stop signs (thanks for the reminder!) and then perform a reverse park in (allegedly) a massive space. I'm sure the UK one is much longer and much more involved!