First time driving on the wrong side (for me)
In England, we drive on the left-hand side of the road, with the steering wheel on the right-hand side of the car, so, for us Brits, it seems as if we are driving on the wrong side of the road when we come to the USA.
Landing in Orlando for the first time, after a nine-hour flight, I deemed it not wise to pick up a rental car from the airport the same afternoon I arrived. Having never driven in the USA before, I didn’t want to try driving on the wrong side of the road for the first time when I was tired from the flight. So I took a taxi to my hotel in Sanford. The next morning, after a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast, I contacted a local car rental company and arranged for them to pick me up at my hotel. They took me to their depot to choose a suitable car for my needs over the next few days. The car I chose was an economy car, a 2007 Dodge, if I remember right, and after all the paperwork was signed, I set off for my first drive.
It felt strange driving on the right-hand side of the road at first, rather than on the left. But it’s just as well that the brake and accelerator (gas) pedals are on the same side in cars on both sides of the Atlantic, else I would have been in trouble. The fact that virtually all rental cars in the USA are automatics was no problem to me as I had been driving automatics for almost twenty years by then.
I soon discovered that my choice of car was not a good one. The driver’s seat was very uncomfortable and I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to be driving that car over a long distance. Fortunately, I only needed this car for a couple of days as I was due to fly up to Boston to see my sister on my third day in Florida, so I was only going to be driving it locally round Sanford before leaving for the airport again.
I drove around in the immediate vicinity of rental company’s car park a couple of times, to familiarize myself with the controls, before setting off around the nearby roads. I did not have a SatNav (GPS) in this car … in fact, I didn’t even discover what they were until later in this trip … but I had studied a map of the town, so I had some idea of my bearings. I found that I soon started to get the feel of driving on the other side of the road. The transition was easier than I had thought it would be, and having the steering wheel on the left side certainly helped.
I had been driving around for about 20 minutes when I took a left turn. Almost as soon as I’d taken this turn, I realised that I had got myself onto the ramp leading up to the I-4 freeway, but I was committed and there was no turning back. I decided that my only course of action was to just come off the freeway at the next junction and hope that I could find my way back to my hotel. Fortunately the next exit was very close to the hotel and, with what I remembered from my map studies, I got back there safe and sound, much to my relief.
After that, I managed to keep my bearings pretty well … that is, until I had to get back to the airport three days later. But more about that in the next post.