Driving in England and Wales
An Aussie experiences Motorways and Roundabouts

By Bernd Felsche

If you've never driven around the United Kingdom before, then as an Australian driver, you'll will be in for some serious adaptation! And not only because you're in the northern hemisphere.

Plymouth Harbour
Plymouth Harbour
The first thing to do, before departure, is to familiarise yourself with the Highway Code. You will need to be aware of the special regulations because traffic flow is very different to that which you might experience in Australia. The nearest Consulate should be able to advise you on where you may obtain a copy before departure.

If you are new to the country, then I strongly advise against trying to tackle central London traffic, especially on working days. The road etiquette takes some getting used to, and it's probably much more efficient in terms of time and energy to simply hop on the Tube which will get you from one end of town to the other in 5 minutes - which is the minimum of time you'll spend trying to find a parking spot.

Once out of the big smoke, traffic is much more pleasant. If you have difficulties with roundabouts in Australia, forget about driving in England.

If you're not prepared to concentrate on the act of driving while behind the wheel, then I urge you to take another form of transport. You must stay alert and aware of what's going on around you as the consequences can be fatal.

If you like roundabouts, then English roads are a pure joy. There are few major intersections which are regulated by traffic lights; most being roundabouts, some of the major ones being augmented by traffic lights. Road signs and road markings often indicate which roundabout exit will be required so that you can get into the right lane well beforehand. If you don't do this, then you'll probably have to exit from the roundabout early, as the lanes frequently spiral outwards from a roundabout.

Anne Hathaway's Cottage
Anne Hathaway (Bill Shakespeare's bird) lived here
If you stick to major roads, being either Motorways, or A-roads, then you should have little trouble getting to where you want. Comprehensive road maps of major roads are cheap and can save you lots of fuel. Current ones sell for between 5.00 and 8.00. Plan your journey before starting, write up a planning sheet of the major road numbers you'll be traveling, and for approximately how far, and your trip will be mostly painless. If you have a co-driver, then ask them to use the road map to keep track of where you are, and if they're clever enough, they should be able to give you ample warning of a need to turn off without you having to refer to a running sheet.

Once you're off the A-roads though, signage can become sparse. B-roads, which are anything from wide country roads to narrow, single-lane thoroughfares (with tall hedges and walls either side) all seem to look alike on a map. If you're not pressed for time, the B-roads are a viable option. If you hear traffic reports (highly recommended) on the radio about problems and it involves a road you'd planned to use, then it's probably a good idea to stop and check the map for alternate routes. Some accidents can take hours to clear.

Drive safely and don't be afraid to stop to rest or to check where you are.


Email: bernie@innovative.iinet.net.au
Copyright © 1997,1999 Bernd Felsche.