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Driving Right-Hand Drive in a Left-Hand Drive Country Is Awful

I’ve now owned two different right-hand drive vehicles here in America, where we mainly have left-hand drive vehicles. Many people ask me about the experience of owning a right-hand drive vehicle in a left-hand drive country, so today I’m going to give you my answer: I hate it. Deeply. A lot.

First, a little background. A couple of years ago, I bought an imported 1990 Nissan Skyline GT-R from a dealership in Virginia called Japanese Classics. As this car was sold new in Japan, it was right-hand drive, which I figured would be kind of annoying, but not so bad. I was wrong. Oddly, I then purchased a 1989 Nissan S-Cargo from the same dealership, apparently wishing to replicate the experience.

Truth be told, both the Skyline and the S-Cargo were awesome cars, and I enjoyed them a lot. The Skyline was immensely powerful, and the S-Cargo was ridiculous and hilarious, and I truly wish I still had the latter. But the one thing I hated about both of these cars was that they were both right-hand drive.

The biggest problem with right-hand drive, of course, is visibility: There isn’t much. This especially becomes an issue with two-lane passing (a rarity in my life) and left turns (not such a rarity). A left turn at an intersection is a real problem because you can’t see around opposing left turners to decide whether it’s safe to go. You end up leaning over a lot.

There are other issues, too. Toll booths are a problem — and that was a big issue when I lived in the Northeast. When approaching the car, you often went for the wrong door — and so did your passenger. There was the unending attention you’d get for sitting on the “wrong” side of the car. And then there was a problem I didn’t expect: Lane positioning. When you drive left-hand-drive cars your whole life, you position yourself to the left side of your lane. You tend to do that unconsciously, too, when you’re in a right-hand drive car, which places half of your car in the lane next to you — or in opposing traffic. Not good.

I’ve spoken to some people who drive RHD cars daily, and nearly all of them say the same thing: You get used to it. Frankly, I never got used to it, but maybe you would if you drove more often than me. Really, though, I’d rather just have a left-hand drive car.

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  1. I personally haven’t tried it, but for those who have, is it wierd shifting a manual with your left hand instead of your right? I would imagine it’s like trying to use a pencil with your opposite hand.

    • can’t say for americans but from the uk – it just feels normal, nothing like say writing with your left hand (when right handed)

    • Well i did a three day stint in Ireland last year and shifting left-hand was bad but not the worse thing. The worse thing? Rotaries !

  2. RHD just sucks overall for us right handers. Everything you really need to do is done on the side you are dominate with in LHD, RHD just is less efficient. 

  3. Yeah, for me – RHD lane positioning was easier with the weird stuff I drove (Beat/Acty) and more difficult with the Vigor, which felt much more like a normal car than the others.  I think it was easier to adapt when I had to adapt to everything in the car being different. The one thing I couldn’t adapt to after a day driving like 5 RHD cars was the fact I kept turning the wipers on every time I went to indicate a turn or lane change.

  4. I’m perfectly fine either way, but cannot handle “wrong hand drive”, i.e. RHD in an LHD country and vice versa. Otherwise, I have zero issues adapting – just being on that specific side of the car is enough for my brain to remember what side to take for everything else.

    I always admire how easily travelers who bring their own cars between the UK and mainland Europe adapt to the change, especially if they drive solo and thus have no front seat passenger to assist with turns across opposing traffic.
    Fun fact – In the US Virgin Islands, traffic drives on the left but every single car is US spec and thus LHD… what the heck?

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Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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