42

I will be moving to the UK soon, Scotland to be more precise, and will be doing so with a car. A driver-sitting-on-the-left sort of car, with licence plates from an EU country (eventually I will have to switch to UK plates). The licence plate is white with black numbers and black capital letters (so typically something like ASD-098) - visibly different from a yellow UK plate.

I have never been to a left side driving country, so I will definitely be a bit clumsy first, and drive and turn slower, just to be safe. My licence plates will signal my alien origins (at least until they get switched out to local ones) to the driver immediately behind me and the one coming towards me. I tried to google other, more visible means, but when I search for related keywords, Google Images only spouts tons of Brexit-related bumper stickers at me, which wouldn't help in my case.

Q: Is there some other good way to visually signal local drivers around me that hey, look here, this guy is slow and clumsy, watch out and keep your distance a bit, he's new to all this drive-on-the-left madness thing?

Some countries, for example, have standardized stickers/signs/plates for new drivers (e.g., under x years of experience), learners, cars with special tires, the handicapped, etc. I'm wondering if there's something out there for experienced drivers re-experiencing learning to drive on the wrong I mean the other, also completely reasonable side.

  • 15
    I personally wouldn't worry about it. It doesn't take all that long to get accustomed to, for most people. – Michael Hampton Aug 6 '16 at 22:42
  • 2
    Something like this might work: ebay.ie/sch/… – Nean Der Thal Aug 6 '16 at 22:54
  • 39
    Nothing signifies to UK drivers that you're not a local so much as continuing to drive on the right side of the road. They would definitely think "watch out" when they see you. – robert Aug 7 '16 at 1:02
  • 12
    Do not do it! Drivers hate to drive behind "unusual" drivers and will take every opportunity to pass you on the road, potentially causing an accident. Blend in rather than sticking out. – JonathanReez Aug 7 '16 at 9:51
  • 3
    Could be worth taking some driving lessons. Most instructors will do a 'refresher' course. There's plenty of other differences in driving in Scotland vs driving elsewhere in Europe. – vclaw Aug 7 '16 at 21:12
50

Use a P plate. Here's an example of some on sale. (No affiliation, this is just a major UK retailer which came to mind).

http://www.halfords.com/motoring/travel-accessories/learning-to-drive/halfords-magnetic-p-plates-x3

P plates are not mandatory and are not regulated in their use in Great Britain, but they're officially recognised as denoting a newly qualified driver, the idea being that other drivers are more wary and tolerant of slowness: effectively a way of saying "I'm new round here". There are no restrictions on either using or removing them.

While the intention is that they are for "new drivers", no one would think it inappropriate (and certainly not illegal) to use them if you are otherwise unsure on the road, and to similar effect. The corollary to this is that they, of course, offer no formal, legal protection in the event of an accident.

Though it would be a nice thing to do, I'd not really worry, though.

It's easier than most people imagine to become accustomed to other-side driving and most drivers are quite tolerant, particularly outside South-East England, and those who are not tend to be equally intolerant of those acting reasonably and unreasonably, based on whether it interferes with their immediate plans.

Intolerant drivers in Great Britain also tend to voluntarily self-differentiate by car colour and brand (I won't go into details here to avoid endless name-calling), but after a few weeks you will know which cars are best given a wide berth for a quiet life, but also their protests best ignored.

Edit: As mentioned in comments, the situation is different in Northern Ireland.

  • 4
    This is a good answer. For completeness sake I would just add that "P" plates being unregulated is not true worldwide, so if you are thinking of applying this advice in other countries check the local rules first. – Mark Henderson Aug 7 '16 at 10:26
  • 2
    While P plates are okay in Great Britain (that is England, Wales and Scotland), in Northern Ireland, by law all new drivers have to use R plates. While afaik there is nothing against the law of using P plates there, it might be weird using it. On the other hand do not use R plates there, as they have strict restictions imposed. – SztupY Aug 7 '16 at 16:54
  • 2
    @errantlinguist He means the typical BMW driver, or possibly (more recently) Audi driver. – Aron Aug 8 '16 at 7:55
  • 2
    @errantlinguist Certainly is bad. From a statistical point of view I'm always amazed by the large majority seem to confirm the stereotypes. It makes me wonder if rather than the brand affecting the driver, it is the type of driver who tends to fall under the stereotype that is drawn to the brand through its aggressive marketing & car styling. Either that of its a confirmation bias, but i have been actively trying to take a fair view. – Trotski94 Aug 8 '16 at 10:17
  • 3
    My view is that P plates are a bad idea. Not just for this driver, but for all new drivers. Considerate drivers will be considerate whatever the case, but inconsiderate drivers will see the P plate and treat you as an easy mark - they are more likely to pull out without giving you enough room, or get angry at you for what they see as your lack of experience. I get this impression from talking to 2 driving instructors and from anecdotal evidence from friends who used them when they passed their test. – Guy G Aug 8 '16 at 12:59
19

I'm going to take issue with Dan North's accepted answer, not that it is bad, but let me put my own perspective on it. I am a Canadian, but spent most of my life in Scotland, learned to drive there and did for nearly 30 years before returning to Canada a few months ago. During this time I also did regular (2-3 times a year) multi-week driving stints on holidays in Europe (France, Spain, Greece), so hope to have some insight.

Driving on the opposite side ISN'T THAT HARD (takes me about 30 secs to re-orientate after doing it for years). Yes the first hour or so on your first ever drive on the other side is pretty scary (ironically I found it best to start on a big motorway where you could cruise and get your bearings, small roads in town are much harder).

The thing for you coming from Europe is that the roads behave in a similar way - signs are similar if not identical, motorway lanes are more familiar, you'll be used to how roundabouts work etc. I found driving in Canada much more of a shift - right turns on red, left filter signals, 4 ways stops rather than roundabouts, motorway free-for-alls with people just ignoring speed limits (fun to be doing 15 over the speed limit in the middle lane on a big highway and have 10 cars undertake you at a much higher speed), different words on some signs.

This brings me to my issue on using a P plate. Drivers in Scotland are not forgiving, you can see them venting frustrations as they have to overtake learners in branded driving school cars (that can be recognised half a mile away), and the feeling I suggest would be as a P plate (even a pretend one), you are supposed to know how it all works and get on with it. New drivers I've known have discarded P plates in a few days as they felt less pressure without one.

To me the biggest hurdle will actually be your LHD car. One of the cues for my brain (at least in Europe) is changing gear with the opposite hand (so not done by muscle memory). I would find driving on the "wrong" side of the road in my normal car very disorientating, especially at roundabouts, and I would hazard getting a right hand drive car would make things much easier to acclimatise.

I would additionally suggest getting the LHD car registered in the UK will be difficult. You'll need very good evidence of the age of the car to avoid getting a Q plate which will make the car much more expensive to insure and harder to sell (cars in the UK are more identified by number-plate rather than VIN, and have digits showing the age, cars of unknown or questionable age get a Q reg). You'll need to get the UK reg to get insurance for the car in the UK, and you'll find at sale time most dealers won't touch a LHD with a 10 foot pole.

So I would just ditch the LHD car, buy a UK one (yes it will likely be older as I'm assuming you are bringing it to offset the high price of vehicles in the UK, it isn't some classic Bugatti), and a couple of good runs will bring you the confidence you need, the more you make issue of it being different (by sticking in the LHD), the longer it'll take to acclimatise.

So in summary, my answer is Don't make yourself more visible, you'll be better treated, and get used to driving in Scotland much better by getting a UK car and blending in.

  • 4
    LHD cars from other EU countries are quite commonly re-registered in the UK. The paperwork is tedious and has annoying/pointless elements but isn't difficult if you have the original paperwork. In fact when a friend was looking into it, getting the headlamps swapped out was the biggest hurdle. – Chris H Aug 8 '16 at 8:16
  • 3
    Funny tidbit, you need UK insurance to get an UK plate which you require to get UK insurance. – Omni Aug 8 '16 at 13:29
  • 1
    @JDługosz on a LHD car, made for a country where driving is done on the right, the headlamps will point to the right of the centre line of the car. Drive such a car on the left side of the road, and your headlamps are pointing at oncoming drivers... – AakashM Aug 9 '16 at 7:52
  • 1
    Driving a LHD car on the "wrong" side of the road will be easier at first than switching to a UK car. The comfort with your position in the car and which hand you use to shift will outweigh having the car and the road not match. However, if moving to Scotland for more than a short period, I agree one probably should get a UK car. – user35890 Aug 9 '16 at 10:51
  • 1
    @AakashM it is a problem indeed, but note that not all headlights dip. You can have a LHD (or RHD for that matter) with flat beams (point in case, the Hyundai i30 (manufactured in CZ for both markets has flat beams)). – Omni Aug 9 '16 at 12:52
13

Put an oval country bumper sticker on your car. enter image description here

Use a white one with the code of your country (which is not a secret anyway because of your license plate), not a "generic European" one with a circle of stars, because that could be confused for an anti-Brexit statement.

  • 1
    And as your license plate has the information, you can put the country sticker higher up, where it will be more visible. – Willeke Aug 7 '16 at 9:11
  • 1
    @pnuts I was thinking at the back only. I have never seen one of these stickers at the front of a car. – Federico Poloni Aug 7 '16 at 9:27
  • 8
    Once the car has a UK registration and UK plates I believe this would actually not be allowed. I couldn't find anything about that in English, but this (in German) says there are a lot of regulations about them In Germany, it's illegal to use a wrong one, or something that looks like one. If the foreign plate doesn't have the blue euro thing on the left with the letter, you have to have it, but with a UK car I doubt it's legal there to have a foreign one. – simbabque Aug 7 '16 at 12:03
  • Also an idea, but the licence plate indeed already features (a smaller) one on the left side, and it being a sedan type car, the oval sticker could not be placed that much higher than the licence plate. And I would have to scratch it off after chaning to UK plates... – user3554004 Aug 7 '16 at 17:10
  • By the time the car needs to change the license plates, the driver will be so much more used to driving in the UK that the need for the sticker will be much less. – Willeke Aug 7 '16 at 19:26
10

You can also use a sticker like this:

enter image description here

It can be found at online stores, like eBay.

  • 1
    @Berwyn indeed. I think I solved that issue with an edit! – abligh Aug 7 '16 at 8:13
  • @Heidel, the OP's problem is that they have a left-hand-drive car... – TonyK Aug 7 '16 at 17:25
  • @TonyK it took me a while to notice that, i still confuse left-hand-drive with left hand driver seat.. confusing as hell.. – Nean Der Thal Aug 7 '16 at 18:22
  • 1
    @HeidelBerGensis: Left-hand-drive does means the driver's seat is on the left-hand side. What are you confusing? Well if you are sitting in the car and facing the front, the driver's seat will be on the left from this perspective, which is how we think of it in English speaking countries at least. – hippietrail Aug 7 '16 at 18:34
6

Don't worry about it. If you are in the rural parts of Scotland, motorists are used to tourists driving relatively slowly, especially away from the main roads. Erratic driving (e.g. tourists suddenly braking because they nearly missed a turning, and not indicating they were going to turn) is more annoying and dangerous than people who are just driving a bit slower than "average" while giving clear signs of their intentions.

In towns with speed limits and more traffic, you will very quickly learn to "keep up with the traffic flow" anyway.

Your biggest problem with a LHD drive car will be overtaking other slow moving or parked vehicles on relatively narrow roads. Just learn to keep a bit further back and drive closer to the centre line of the road, so you have a better view past them.

6

I learned to drive in the Netherlands and then moved to the UK with a Dutch car. It took me less than a day to get into the habit of driving on British roads and whilst I did have to be more careful on lonely country roads, in the dark after a long, tiring day (when it's easy to make mistakes such as driving on the wrong side of the road for a while), I never had any incidents.

That said, I wouldn't recommend bringing a LHD car to the UK, unless you're only doing so for a limited time:

  • You will be less safe driving an LHD car in the UK due to reduced visibility (overtaking and exiting into traffic is more difficult)
  • You'll need to import your car, which is a hassle and expensive
  • You'll need to pay more for insurance once you're on the UK plates
  • You'll sell your car for much less than you could at home since local buyers won't want an LHD car unless it's a pretty unique/collectable one.

Getting used to driving on the other side of the road won't be the difficulty, the other issues will be in the long-term.

0

Let's be clear, though. Safety isn't about which side of the car you sit on.

Safety is about placing safety ahead of every other priority, including road rage, ingrained habits, testosterone displays, playing with your phone, not missing your turn (let yourself miss your turn! And recover), everything else.

It's about having a love-of-craft toward safety, a desire to learn, to critically examine ones own driving for opportunities to improve, maybe even reading accident reports to see where others go wrong.

Developing confidence that your driving is good so you aren't flustered.

Last but not least it's about putting your full attention on what you are doing.

If you have those things, you could drive backwards and you'd be fine.

-1

Being Dutch, I used to work and live in the UK a couple of years. If you're a confident driver, there's nothing to worry about.
I took the ferry from IJmuiden to Newcastle, drove around a couple of months on Dutch license plates, applied for UK registration and only had to pass the MOT.
Plus was that driving on foreign license plates, I would not get any tickets for speeding ;)
You have to adapt your mirroring a bit and look over the "wrong" shoulder but you'll get used to that pretty easily.
One piece of advice, do adjust your headlights as right now they're beaming in the wrong direction.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.