In the previous post, I had described my experience of taking the first road trip in America, which was awesome by the way. In this post, I am going to share my experience of driving a left hand drive car for the first time.
A couple of weeks after I got my driving license, I decided to call one of the driving schools (Amar Driving School) in Jersey City for one of their one hour lessons. The driver arrived promptly at the said time and then we started the lesson. The first time I opened the driver side door (on the left) is when it hit me that – no more entering from the right as in India. The second key thing was the gear was on the right and not left, and the lack of need to keep the hand on the gear as the car was automatic. In India, I am used to driving a stick shift (manual gear) car, but in the US automatic is way to go and something that I wasn’t used to. We then started going over the controls in the car, and everything was other way around. The windshield wiper controls are on the right side and signal controls, headlights, etc. are on the left side. In India, they are on the opposite side. Keeping this in mind, we started to take car out of the building complex.
The first thing I had to do was to signal that I am going to take a left and I accidentally turn on the wipers (old habits die hard). I had told the driver that I was used to driving in India and the controls were on the other side, so when we approached an intersection he asked me to take a left. While taking the left, he told me to be careful and not turn in the immediate lane of oncoming traffic. In the US, the left turn is always wider and the right turn is immediate. In India it is the other way around (left turn is near and right turn is wider). This is very important to keep in mind when driving in the US or in country where left hand drive is prevalent. I completely forgot this while I was driving in Niagara late in the night and entered the lane of oncoming traffic. But since it was very late and there were absolutely no cars, we didn’t have an accident. Once we took the left turn, I was driving normally and started to get the feel of the road and driving conditions. Driving is like swimming or riding a bike, once you learn how to drive, you can easily adapt to different cars and system. While everything was good, the instructor observed that I had a tendency to slow down at the intersection even when the signal was green, so he asked me to not do that as I could be involved in the rear end accident. I told him old habits die hard. In India, anyone can come from anywhere even when it is your signal to go and hence I was slowing down. He laughed and said that this is America and chances of something like that happening here were extremely remote.
The last thing he made me go over was the 3 point turn (K turn) and parallel parking. Apparently, knowing how to parallel park is actually tested when they issue license over here. The instructor got really technical about the distance between the curb and car and how to go about exactly parking the car. It was a very interesting lesson to say the least. Overall it was a fun one hour driving through the city and enjoying my first left hand car drive.