Saturday, August 28, 2010

Belgian Driving

Now that I've had my car for over a week and have passed my driver's tests, I'm getting used to driving in Belgium.  I'm not completely comfortable yet, but do expect that to come.

A few things I've noted:

Belgians drive fast!  Speed limits are generally higher here than in the US.  Drivers don't make much accommodation for pedestrians.  In the US, most of us will slow down when driving by a person walking along the side of the road.  Here, the car moves over (slightly!) and whizzes by at full speed.

Yield signs are the norm.  There are very few stop signs.  Mostly drivers are encouraged to slow down for a brief moment and then go if the coast is clear.  This is kind of nice as it eliminates much stop and go traffic.

Roundabouts are the norm.  Instead of traffic lights (there are some but not as many as in US), many intersections are roundabouts.  I find them fairly easy to navigate as they are nowhere near as complicated as Washington DC has managed to make them.  Belgian roundabouts do not have traffic lights.  The rule is that cars in the roundabout have priority.  If no one is in the circle, you go right on in and turn off where you want.  If someone is in the circle, you yield and enter when the coast is clear.

The hardest thing to get used to is "priority to the right."  This means if you are driving down a road, you have to slow down at every intersection on your right and yield if someone is turning out onto the road in front of you.  There are exceptions for some major roads but not all.  For example, my street is about one and a half cars wide, it intersects with a larger road that is about two and a half cars wide and has significantly more traffic traveling at a higher speed.  When I want to turn out left out of my neighborhood, I only have to look right before I can pull out in front of traffic (because I'm on the right of those on my left).  I'm not brave enough to do this yet, I wait for traffic to clear.  I'm also really cautious about driving down roads with many right intersections.

I do miss more common sense road conventions and all the driving habits I've developed driving in the US, but honestly I don't miss the traffic.

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