Challenges of driving in foreign countries

Subra By Subra, 7th Jul 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>Tips>Driving

Driving in a foreign country brings with it attendant risks unless motorists equip themselves with proper driving skills, etiquette and common sense.

How to make driving more pleasurable, whether on local or foreign roads!

The recent case of a honeymooning couple from Singapore getting killed in a tragic road accident in New Zealand prompts me to write this article.

I have often wondered why motorists driving in foreign countries tend to get involved in accidents that could have been avoided had they obeyed basic highway code rules and exercised common sense. We often hear of accidents by motorists who when behind the wheel in unfamiliar locales tend to stick to driving habits of their home country. It does not take a nuclear scientist to acknowledge that such habits may not suit conditions in different countries.

Take for instance unfamiliar road conditions in New Zealand where different types of terrain, weather conditions and road surface combine with scenic vistas of natural beauty to unsettle the foreign driver and cause him to lose concentration. To make matters worse the tendency to speed on long stretches of straight roads without sufficient rest is compounded by the lack of defensive driving skills when driving on foreign roads. In fact traffic police statistics in New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, the United States and in many other countries pinpoint the main factors of fatigue, unfamiliarity to local conditions, bad weather and poor driving skills as contributing to the increasing number of accidents taking place in those countries.

In discussing this subject what is not sufficiently stressed by most people is the fact that many motorists do not observe basic road etiquette and rules even when driving on their own local roads, let alone foreign ones. The highway code test teaches learner drivers to use directional signs when, inter alia, turning, negotiating bends, overtaking and slowing down, yet it is commonplace to see drivers flouting these vital indicators when driving abroad. One has only to stand by a road junction on a local road to see the lack of courtesy displayed. In many Asian and African countries, for example, few motorists use the left or right indicator to show their intentions. Many do not give adequate signs when overtaking or switching lanes. Yet others tend to hog on to the fast lanes thereby restricting traffic flow and causing inconvenience and potential danger to themselves and other motorists.

Is it therefore surprising that motorists do not display commonsense driving habits and road manners when driving on foreign roads? Many western countries like New Zealand, Australia, the United States and many others enforce strict driving rules and habits, and look down on foreign drivers who stray from basic road etiquette. Having lived and driven extensively in both North and South Islands of New Zealand during the last 15 years, I have sufficient competence to urge drivers to go there armed with proper driving skills and road etiquette, otherwise they are going to pay heavily in terms of life and limb!

It pays to be courteous, not only at home, in the community, at work and in society at large, but equally important when driving on local as well as foreign roads. As the saying goes,"it is better to be safe than sorry".

I invite other nuts to have a discussion on this important subject.


Driving, Driving Skills, Fatigue, Foreign Countries, Highway Code, Local Roads, Motorists, Roads, Terrain, Unfamiliarity, Weather

Meet the author

author avatar Subra
A positive, cheerful personality keen to share my knowledge with like-minded people. I hold a PhD in English/American Literature as well as being an anthropologist and Chartered Accountant (ret.)

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author avatar Md Rezaul Karim
8th Jul 2012 (#)

Good sharing of experience and tips on driving. Thank you Subra.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
12th Jul 2012 (#)

Old habits die hard - comes readily to mind. By refusing to toe the line, one inflicts misery on others too. Also don't forget, some drive on the "wrong side" - depends on who is saying! Well said, Subra - siva

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author avatar Subra
13th Jul 2012 (#)

Agreed old habits die hard particularly the bad ones, but it's never too late to change - particularly in driving! I had to do it the hard way by driving in NZ, but I'm all the better for it.

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author avatar Ptrikha
28th May 2014 (#)

One needs to be very careful and be informed about the local conditions. In India, many people who are used to drive in one city, prefer not to drive in another, even if they are experienced due to many traffic hazards.

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