What’s the highway code again?

I thought I knew may highway code pretty well, but I got stumped here pretty much as soon as I arrived in Canada.

It wasn’t driving on the wrong side of the road that got me. The UK drives on the left, whereas the US and Canada, like most of the rest of the world, drives on the right. Driving on the right hasn’t been a problem for me at all. I spent nearly 5 years living, working and driving in France where there also drive on the right. In any case, I’m on a bike which is easier to adjust to than a car.

What I’ve had trouble with is all-way or 4-way stopsat junctions.

4 way stop sign

4 way stop sign

We just don’t have these at home – we may get an occasional Stop sign, but one of the roads at the intersection will have priority. In the UK we tend to use a roundabout instead.

What has confused me is what the traffic priorities are at these things. I’d get to the junction, stop and be sitting looking around wondering whether I can go now. I’ve asked around and I think I might have the hang of it now. Apparently priority goes in the order that you arrive at the junction – if you arrive first you go first, if you arrive second you go second, and so. If two vehicles arrive at the same time, the priority goes to the vehicle on the right. I’m finding these kinds of stops much less efficient than mini-roundabouts, since you are meant to come to a complete stop whether there is traffic coming or not. But I guess it’s just what you are used to. Roundabouts are something the British do par excellence. Apparently roundabouts are relatively new in the US and there are so few of them that a lot of Americans alledgedly struggle with them. I haven’t seen one since I arrived.

Another thing that foxed me for a while was people turning right at a junction controlled by traffic lights when the light is red. In the UK, you just don’t drive through a red light. Here you seem to be able to turn right even if the light is red, as long there are no cars coming or pedestrians crossing. When I first got here, I kept stopping at the red light, but people would be honking behind. Alright already, I get it now, but just to confuse things I’ve discovered that some red lights have signs on them saying you are prohibited from turning right on the red light. Doh!

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