Getting your driving license in BC is a major worry for some people so I thought I would go over a few tips on driving that might help.
We drive on the right hand side of the road. You will find it fairly easy to remember. Your steering wheel is on the left side of the car, which is a good clue. Another clue is the oncoming traffic when you are on the wrong side of the road.
For drivers used to driving on the left hand side of the road, you can still drive in the left lane on the highway, even if you are actually going slower than the traffic in the right lane. I think a lot of Canadians secretly want to drive on the left – why else would so many of them hog the left lane, oblivious to the traffic passing them on the right. Being Canadians no one honks or flashes their lights, so you can enjoy driving on the left for as long as you like.
Canadians are generally pretty law abiding. But as a way of giving us an experience of breaking the rules we are allowed to turn right on a red light. This is a thrill.
Of course the thrill can also be risky. Firstly because of the risk of hitting or being hit by someone coming from the other direction (where they have a green, amber or even red light). Secondly because of the pedestrians who are likely to be claiming their absolute right to cross in front of you. And finally the reason the driving examiners are so hot on shoulder checks – there could be a cyclist on your right.
Canadians are a literate nation and enjoy reading. Our traffic signs give us the chance to read while we are driving. These are usually signs with a symbol and then a list of conditions. This can make understanding them difficult and might also explain why some people drive so slowly – they are reading the signs, perhaps mentally translating them into their own language.
An example of this is the no left turn sign that applies only at certain times of the day. There are a lot of these in Vancouver. I recommend that you time your journey so as to hit the left turn just as it becomes permitted. This will annoy the cars behind you but gives you an immense sense of satisfaction. Almost like breaking the rules.
Finally roundabouts. These are a thrill because there are so few of them and most Canadian drivers are completed foxed by them. If you come across a roundabout or traffic circle (a small roundabout) then be prepared for anything. Other drivers may stop half way round and wave you on, or they may not stop at the roundabout at all.
I hope these tips prove useful in preparing for your own driving experience here in BC.
The four way stop is new to a lot of people – especially from the UK. I am used to them now but I know that many people I meet are confused by them. After a few scary experiences where a british driver has misunderstood how these four way stops work, I now always make sure they know before we set out in their car.
A four way stop is a junction with four stop signs. Each side of the junction takes their go in turn, based on the order each vehicle reaches the stop sign. The trick to using them is to note who is at the other three stop signs when you reach you the front of the line for your side of the junction. The people already there go first, one by one, and then it is your turn. It is a pretty fair system and works quite well.
Occasionally you have problems when people go out of turn, or when they wave you on when it is not your turn. The rolling stop can cause some confusion here too. Make sure you come to a complete stop and then people will know that you’ve arrived and you get to take your turn.
This evening on our way back from Kits we saw the great advantage of the four way stop procedure when we came to a junction by the highway where the lights were out. Actually they were flashing red – from all directions. This would have caused chaos beyond measure in the UK – and probably most places in the world.
Here? We all started using the four way stop procedure. It was a complicated junction, with more than one lane in each direction, but everything worked well. While we were there traffic kept flowing with only the odd hiccup. There were no horns blaring, no fists raised and no stress. I don’t know where the four way stop came from, but it is well suited to Canada – where fairness and being polite are valued.
One thing that many people stress about when coming to BC is the thought of taking their driving test here. In fact one of the most common questions is about dodgy ways of beating the system by going first to a Province that allows you to exchange your (British) licence for their Provincial one. Then hopping over to BC and swapping again. Job done.
Well I have heard this scheme to work, if the gods of bureaucracy are on your side. The rules suggest that you should have had your out of Province licence for two years first.
I mention this only because our second daughter, Gwen, has now passed her road test and has a full licence. She has graduated from the graduated licensing program and can drive like an adult. Her examiner actually wrote “beautiful drive” on her results.
Gwen was not really worried about the test. Most of her peers have taken them without failing and so has her older sister. She was probably more worried about the photo for her licence. And she wasn’t all that pleased with that. Beautiful drive shame about the cheesy smile.