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International Driving Tips

By Bruna Pacheco and Sydney Meyer
On November 2, 2018

Photo by Florence Sesham

Americans are weird. We use an entirely different (and more complicated) metric system than the rest of the world, we write our dates backwards—with the month first instead of the day, and we refrigerate our eggs. Other countries don’t do that. However, one of the most impactful differences between America and other countries is driving style.

It’s no secret Americans could be taught a thing or two when it comes to driving. The following are some tips given to American students about the “proper” way to utilize their vehicles – at least, in the eyes of an international student.

  1. Speed up

    Here in America, the speed limit is not as fast as other countries. While on small roads, it is usually 30 or even 40. In Brazil, it can vary from 40 to 60. On highways, the speed limit can be 100 or 110 depending on how many lanes are there.
  2. Stop signs are suggestions

    It is a little bit funny how people are always stopping for 3 seconds at stop signs. In American, there are sayings like “no cop, no stop,” but in other countries, stop signs remain suggestions whether or not there’s a policeman around.
  3. Stop being lazy

    In Brazil, it is becoming more popular for cars to be automatic, but not in Serbia, according to OU student Igor Golubovic. The majority of the cars there are still manual, which just makes look lazy. Why not just use stick?
  4. Keep your children away from the driver’s seat

    Both in Brazil and Serbia, to drive, you have to be 18 years old. You may start taking driving lessons earlier than that, but you won’t be able to get your license until then. To have a permanent license in Serbia, it is required to drive under a few restrictions, like not driving between midnight and 6AM. Also, you’re only allowed to drive 10% of the maximum speed. Then, if you make no mistakes after a certain period of time, you can get a permanent license.
  5. Stop hogging the right lane.

    Why do Americans only pass on the left? Slow-moving cars stick to the right lane, clogging up traffic and making everyone go slower. In other countries, cars weave in and out of traffic, perusing through the lanes at their leisure and are not constricted by lane assignments.
  6. A red light means a red light.

    In other countries, a red light means stop, even if you’re turning right. These inconsistencies are confusing – if there’s a red light, it should mean stop, no matter what. Why do Americans try to make things more complicated than they need to be?
  7. Be consistent with your surveillance

    Police-initiated speed traps don’t get the job done. People can speed, no problem. In Brazil, there are signs with cameras attached so, should you speed, your picture is taken and you are charged accordingly. If there are going to be speed limits, there are going to be people who break them. If you’re going to monitor speed, you might as well do a good job of it.
  8. Don’t fall asleep while driving

    This is the best advice than can be given, courtesy of Russian tennis coach, Polina Tsymbalova. The roads in Kansas are long and boring – it can be dangerous! The roads traveled are too easy to navigate and don’t require enough navigational prowess. If there were a few more roadblocks and complicated turns, people would be less likely to doze off.

Different countries have different rules, behaviors and expectations. Though these tips may not be the most practical or safe thing to implement, thinking about the differences between this culture and others will prepare you for when you finally take that trip abroad. Maybe then you can come up with your own driving tips to share with the rest of the world.


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