Australia is a popular destination for US travelers but the road safety laws differ quite a bit from the US and can be confusing to American tourists. Henry Carus is with us today to talk about how road safety laws differ between Australia and the United States and what tourists need to know to insure safe travel. So Henry thanks for being here today.
Henry: My pleasure Cindy
Cindy: Henry you have a unique perspective because you live in Australia but you also worked in the US as a New York City trial lawyer. What can you tell us about the differences in road safety laws in the two countries?
Henry: Look there is a paramount difference just because of the fact that we travel on a different side of the road. We in Australia travel on the left side of the road and in the United States they travel on the right, so anyone switching from one state or country to another has to suddenly change the whole way that they see the road, there are some quirks and some difficulties about how intersections are managed, we use a lot of roundabouts but the fact that really strikes me which is important for travelers to understand is probably the level of enforcement of the road laws, they are similar in many ways, speed, changing of lanes and things of that nature, but the enforcement level in Australia is so much higher especially in the city environments.
Cindy: What would you say are the major issues facing a driver coming from one country to the other?
Henry: Well, you first get into the car and the first thing that really kind of shocks you is that you’re on the wrong side of the car, you’re on what you would normally think to be the passenger side of the car and your mirrors are all in the wrong spot so to speak, and your controls are on the wrong side of the car and your orientation is totally out, and so a good measure of time should be given to just getting yourself used to the fact that you’re going to be having to change the way your mind sees the road, and the way you normally react to your car, and that’s a real challenge for lots of people.
Cindy: You mentioned that there are roundabouts, so what exactly is a roundabout?
Henry: It’s a great expression and its used colloquially in many ways to discuss things here to, but a roundabout is an intersection where four roads come together or two roads really come together on both sides of the road so to speak and instead of having a stop sign or a red light or another traffic control device all you have is a circle. And the cars approaching have to know who to give way to at the roundabout, who has the priority, and in Australia we give way to the first car to our right, that means I can come to that roundabout I can have cars to my left and I can disregard them completely I only have to focus on whether there is a car to my right, if there isn’t a car to my right then I can just proceed, and that can be very confusing to someone who is not used to them because they will come to the intersection and they will see a car to their left and they will go what do I do now, and it takes a bit of confidence and sort of familiarity to understand you have got the right of way, you can just travel through that roundabout that’s the first thing.
The second thing about the roundabout is the fact you can go around it which is really hilarious you just go around and around and whatever car is in the roundabout has the right of way, so you can make a right hand turn you can go straight you can make a left hand turn you can make a U turn all using the roundabout and I have seen people that actually get so confused they go around the roundabout more than once because they haven’t figured out what they are going to do, but as long as you’re in the roundabout you’ve got the right of way.
Cindy: That’s great. So Henry when you travel to the United States, what do you find most difficult about driving, do you drive when you’re in the States?
Henry: I love to drive. Even when I first came here on holidays to Australia now probably close to 25 years ago, I just couldn’t resist getting in the car and trying to see if I can work it out, driving to me is a sense of freedom so when I go back to the United States and back to New York City to see my family I can’t wait to get into a rented car and drive because there is just this great sense of freedom to being back to my place where I was raised and how to drive back like a New Yorker but it is quite challenging sometimes and on the last holiday where I had my son with me he had to remind me a few times, Dad you’re on the wrong side of the road, and as I made a turn I went right, got the wrong side of the road, okay, and it’s a real mind shift you have to constantly be aware about what side of the road is the right side and the wrong side.
Cindy: What do you think is more difficult the Australian drivers trying to adapt in America or the American drivers trying to adapt in Australia?
Henry: I think that the Australians do well coming across from what I have seen driving in the United States I think the Americans have a challenge sometimes to think that something can be so different than what they are used to, there is an aspect in Australia that we kind of understand that the world is not just like Australia and that there are lots of countries with different customs and habits, so traveling to a different country you sort of really switch in your mind that you’re going to have to deal with the different local culture local rules. Americans have a more I think expansive mindset and think that their way of living is probably similar to every place else so the idea that they are going to be on the wrong side of the road is challenging especially when they can go through Europe and there will be similar to the United States and only England will challenge them, Australia will challenge them because this road law is we hail from our English heritage here in Australia.
Cindy: That’s very interesting. Henry frankly I think you should put together a legal guide for Americans and Australians that compares transportation and safety laws in the two countries. What do you think about that?
Henry: I think it would be great as a travel guide. I am not sure if anyone wants to read me as a lawyer, as a travel guide it would be quite fun, it could be humorous, it could have some anecdotal stories that I think we all can share from our experience so I will look into it Cindy, it’s a good idea.
Cindy: Well we will look forward to that, Henry thank you so much for your time today.
Henry: My pleasure Cindy, be well.
Cindy: Until next time this is Cindy Speaker for Victoria law TV.