Tag Archives: driving

How to Drive Like an Australian

14 Mar

The sign is supposed to read “Don’t drive like a wanker.” Get it? W + anchor = wanker. Only in Australia!

You may think that driving is the same no matter where you go in the world, but you would be wrong. Every place has its own unique driving culture, including Australia. Here’s how you can fit in if you’d like to drive in Australia.

Australian driving tends to be based around two premises. The first is that any car you are driving is too big for the road. The second is that the road is made solely for you. When in doubt, default to either or both of these assumptions.

One of the trademarks of Australian driving is treating lane markings as suggestions, rather than hard and fast rules about where you car should be on the road.

Always let your passenger side wheels ride right on or just over the line. Not only does this convey to other drivers that you believe your car to be too big to fit on the road, but also that you are selfish. After all, you wouldn’t want anybody to be able pass you and beat you to that red light.

A common Australian tactic to prevent other drivers from "budging" in front of you (or "passing", as it is known in the civilised world), is to take up more than one lane, as seen here.

A common Australian tactic to prevent other drivers from “budging” in front of you (or “passing”, as it is known in the civilised world), is to take up more than one lane, as seen here.

In the same vein, you should never let other people get around a tram. When passing a tram, be sure to drive slowly, right next to the tram until the absolute last possible moment you have to actually pass it. Then quickly cut around in front of it and laugh because all the fools behind you cannot pass the tram and must bottleneck into a single file line behind it. Meanwhile, you are home free and have an open stretch of road to yourself. And heck, you can take it a step further by applying this passing etiquette to pretty much any other road situation. Like on the motorway.

On the motorway, if you are going slower than most people, be sure to hog the right lanes so that people are forced to pass you on the left. You can make this even more fun by ignoring the lane markings (see above) and taking up two lanes.

Another thing you can do is when you see that someone is trying to merge on, refuse to move over for them, even if the lane next to you is completely clear. It’s always fun to try to cause an accident and what better way to do it than by playing chicken with someone whose entrance lane is merging into yours?

Where you are from originally, it might be common practice to move your vehicle completely into the near lane to make a turn. That’s just simply not how it’s done in Australia. You must never move more than halfway into the near lane, even if it is a dedicated turn lane (which are very rare) to make a turn. Remember: your car is SO BIG that you can’t possible make that turn without swinging out and also, it’s perfectly acceptable to make everyone behind you slam on your brakes while you slowly negotiate that dangerous street corner with your oversized sedan. If you want to make it convincing, try to manage to hit the curb anyway, despite having made an overly wide turn.

These decorative signs add so much character to the street!

Also, those signs saying “no right turn”? Yeah, just feel free to ignore those. They are only there for decoration.

Then there’s the use of turn signals. In Australia, signalling your intent is incorrect. It’s always better to leave other drivers guessing for as long as possible. You must wait to put on your signal until after you have begun whatever move you are wanting to do.

Please remember that the road was made just for you. Be as selfish as you like and pay no attention to other drivers. A good way to do this is to intend to make a right turn and pull up to a red light in the right lane (which will usually be demarcated for right turners and for those going straight). Then wait until a bunch of cars get behind you and let them think you will be going straight. When the light turns green, THEN you can put on your right blinker and block the entire intersection for the duration of the green light and cackle with insane glee at all the poor sops behind you who can’t get around.

How a “keep clear” zone is theoretically supposed to work. (Click to view larger image.)

Often in Australia, you will find that certain intersections are marked as “keep clear” zones, indicating that drivers should not block the intersection if they need to stop. This is so that people can continue to make right turns in or out of said intersection. Believe it or not, most Aussies are pretty good about following the “keep clear” rule when they come to a stop. (Don’t ask me why this is the one road rule they choose to obey- I really don’t know.) The problem here comes from people who are turning onto the main road from a side street.

Here’s what you should do if you are ever trying to turn left onto a main road from a side street and find that the other drivers have conveniently left the “keep clear” box open: Pull into the box just enough to claim your place in line, but not so much that anyone behind you wanting to turn right can get through. When the line starts moving, pull forward so slowly that the right turner behind you doesn’t have a chance to sneak through the line before the other cars start to close in. After all, he’s probably not in any hurry to get anywhere.

Yeah, that sign for a bike lane? That’s just for decoration, too. Notice how skillfully this driver manages to block the cycling lane to get revenge on any cyclist who might try to pass him. Well done, sir!

There are often a lot of bicycles and motorcycles sharing the road. This can cause some Aussie drivers to become very angry in heavy traffic when they see that someone on a pushbike is moving faster than they are. Try to be a true-blue Aussie yourself by sharing in the communal rage of your fellow drivers and cooperating with them to block the offending two-wheeled vehicle. Do this by once again ignoring your lane marking and drifting into the bicycle or parking lane so that the offender either can’t get through safely at all or must slow way down to avoid hitting your mirror. After all, if you have to sit in traffic, so should everyone else! Take it up a notch by driving onto the sidewalk to block pedestrians. The only thing more insulting than a cyclist moving faster than your car is a pedestrian moving faster than your car!

Lastly, when driving in Australia, pretend every day is a lazy Sunday and you have nowhere important to be. Drive slowly, leisurely. Spend more time looking at your surrounding than at traffic or road hazards. Expect people to be forgiving of your mistakes while being completely intolerant of theirs. In general, adopt a laid-back attitude to driving. If you are never in a rush, you won’t mind the traffic so much and you’ll find it’s easier to ignore the honking behind you.

Small victories

14 Feb

One thing that I have found very frustrating so far since I’ve moved to Australia is that I get lost. A lot.

I do have GPS on my phone, which is immensely helpful, but I still miss turns or end up in the wrong lane and get funneled off onto a street I didn’t want to be on. And the GPS doesn’t seem to know that there are certain times of day where right turns are prohibited in major intersections.

Sometimes I get confused about the traffic rules, like these silly hook turns, where you do a right turn from the left hand lane. I don’t always know what street signs mean. A lot of times I can’t even read the street signs because they are so small. I’m also not used to having traffic lights on the sides of intersections instead of hanging above them, so a few times I didn’t even see the lights. It takes a very long time to get anywhere, too, as the traffic here is just awful at almost all times during the day.

Another thing that makes driving stressful is that the traffic lanes are a lot more narrow than they are in America. H has a Touareg which only just fits in a lane and I end up having to be a lot closer to other cars than I am comfortable with. Also, I find it difficult to judge the space my car is taking up from the right side of the car. Yes, I got used to driving on the other side of the road when I studied in England, but I rarely drove there and usually only on lonely country roads (if I went into London, I always took the train), whereas here, I’m driving every day through city traffic and have to be a lot more aware of where my car is and where other cars are. I’ve had a few near misses.

I get really annoyed with myself because before I quit my job, I was driving tens of thousands of miles every year, all over America and other countries, too. I’m a far more experienced driver than most people my age, having logged over a quarter million miles in the past four years in all different kinds of road and traffic conditions. I have never had an accident or a ticket. So I feel like I should know what I am doing and not be having these sorts of amateurish problems.

Well, just as I was starting to get really annoyed with driving and looking forward to the bike I ordered arriving so that I could cycle everywhere instead (it came yesterday, yay!), I did two very awesome things. Okay, just slightly awesome… but it kind of made my day anyway.

The first thing is that I drove the whole way to H’s work WITHOUT MY GPS! That’s right! I didn’t even turn it on or look at it or anything. I drove the whole way there, by myself, without getting lost. Hurray! I also drove the whole way home without getting lost, remembering for once which lane I needed to be in so as not to end up on the wrong side of the river, which I’ve done several times now, despite help from my GPS.

The second thing is that I managed to parallel park and get it right on the first time! I’ve never had problems parallel parking the way some people do. It’s not that hard, even in a large vehicle. (I actually find large SUVs easier to park than small compact cars because the SUVs have larger mirrors and more side visibility.) But doing it from the wrong side of the car is trickier because, as I said, it really distorts my perception of how big the car is and how much space it is taking up. But I managed to slot into a spot that was just big enough and I did not hit the curb and I was not sticking out over the parking bay line. Hurray, again!