Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Driving Lessons

I’ve done my fair share of gloating about how wonderful moving to Scotland is, but don’t worry, I’ve also got my fair share of concerns. My number one apprehension: Driving. It’s hard enough remembering to drive on the opposite side of the road without having to navigate round-a-bouts and one lane roads with two way traffic. Yes, I am super stressed about driving in Scotland.
Though I’d feel more comfortable driving a Smart car or mini-cooper, since we’re only getting one car it will need to be something large enough to accommodate 4 people, 2 dogs, and a good bit of luggage. We’re mainly looking at small SUVs or station wagons.
Because I can only drive an automatic, and 99% of Brits drive Manuals, there are slim pickings for what is available. Ideally, I’d like a Rav-4, but I know better than to get attached to that idea. I’ll just have to drive whatever Automatic is available at the dealership when we arrive. But if you’d like to toss up a prayer on my behalf, tell God that I’d really like a Rav-4 or Volvo station Wagon. Thanks! (I’m sure that ranks pretty high on his list of priorities, dontcha think?)

One complication with getting a GIGANTIC vehicle like a Honda CRV is that to get your Scottish driver’s license you have to take your driving test on a vehicle below a certain total weight. We’ve heard conflicting numbers about what this weight is, but some of them rule out smaller SUVS. If you can’t take the test with your own vehicle, you have to use one from the testing center. And since 99% of the Brits drive Manuals, 100% of the testing vehicles are stick shifts.
Since I’m already learning to drive on the opposite side of the road and navigate round-a-bouts and one lane roads with two way traffic, I doubt it’s the best time in my life to also learn to drive a manual. This means that when buying a vehicle, we have to buy something safely under the weight limit for the driving test.
The rule is that you can use your US license for the first 12 months of residing in the UK before you have to apply for your Scottish license, which involves a driving exam. From the rumors I’ve heard, I’d say 80% of Americans fail their driving test at least once. It’s apparently really stinkin’ hard, which doubly motivates me to be able to complete my exam in an automatic.
When I asked my dad about this conundrum of buying a car small enough for the exam but big enough to tour our friends and family around Scotland, he advised me to just not worry about getting my Scottish driver’s license. When I asked him if this was illegal he replied, “Probably”. Apparently my Mom never bothered getting hers which means she was driving illegally for about 1 year and a half.
That’s all well and good except for the fact that my mom has the best luck of anyone I’ve ever met. Seriously, I don’t know if she’s ever walked out of a casino without winning at least $500. Me on the other hand, let’s just say I must have opened a lot of umbrellas indoors, crossed paths with a thousand black cats, and broken several mirrors in my day because my luck stinks. I’m sure if I tried to weasel out of getting my Scottish license, I’d get busted on the first day after my 12 month driving allowance ran out.
Buying a car is on the top of our agenda for this week, but I’m hoping that learning to drive it can wait a bit longer. Jonathan took me for my first drive yesterday. His analysis after I relinquished the wheel back to him was, “You did okay. Your only problem was staying in the lane.” Oh staying in the lane was my only problem? Well, why didn’t you say so? I’m so glad that staying in my lane isn’t the most important part of driving. Oh wait… When I politely asked him to stop patronizing me he said, “Well I thought I’d be teaching you to drive on the other side of the road. I didn’t know I’d be teaching you how to drive”. OH SNAP!

But honestly, those country roads are tiny and people drive at least 20 mph over what could possibly be considered safe. And all of those tiny roads are lined with stone walls, which though picturesque, are a pretty big safety hazard. I’m going to try again today, but this time we’ll go out to the more modern suburbs where the roads are nice and wide, American style. I think that’s my safest bet until I get more comfortable with the general rules of Scottish driving…and I get a bit better at staying in my lane.

1 comment:

  1. One of the advantages of driving manual is when you go for automatic vehicles; you won’t be having a hard time at all. However, transitioning from automatic driving to manual is a bit complicated – it takes more time and experience. But once you’ve actually learned manual driving, you’ll positively be able to drive anywhere in the world! ;)