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10 Things That Are Different About Driving In North America Vs. Europe

In terms of standards of living and lifestyle, North America and Europe are quite similar to each other. Yet, if you are an American in Europe or vice versa, you may find some differences when getting behind the wheel. The reason for this is the entirely different set of rules for driving in both places. Once you learn the rules and adapt to the changes, driving and exploring other countries can be an incredible experience.

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Here are 10 things that are different about driving in North America Vs. Europe. Make sure to acquaint yourself with the driving rules if you are planning to visit any of these magnificent destinations.

10 Obtaining A License

The first and most essential requirement for driving in any part of the world is undeniably the driver’s license. The process to get a license is more difficult in Europe than it is in North America. In Europe, specifically in Germany, it’s mandatory to go through extensive training including theory and a first aid course before you start with the practical driver’s training.

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The course can take as long as 6 months to be completed. Taking an arduous written and practical exam is the final step to obtain the license. If you plan to drive in Europe during your vacation or official trip, you may be required to get an International Driver's Permit.

9 Rules Of Driving

A notable difference between US and European rules of driving is turning on red lights. In North America, you’re often allowed to turn right on red lights as long as there’s no oncoming traffic. However, in Europe, you are required to stop at the red lights even if there is no traffic in the area. This rule often confuses European drivers in America. Furthermore, the rule to keep right unless passing is very strictly followed in Europe. Most European countries follow the rules of priority to the right at an intersection, whereas in North America they more commonly yield the right away, meaning whoever arrives first, goes first. Unlike Europe, in the US many intersections have 4 stops with priority to the first vehicle.

8 Speed Limit

If you love driving cars real fast, even to the office, then Europe might be the place for you. The autobahn in Germany has no speed limits. The German traffic authorities, however, recommend a speed of no more than 130km/h on the autobahn and it does require you to be extra cautious while driving. The speed limit in other European countries ranges from 90km/h to 130km/h which is quite a bit higher than the standard limit in America. There is only a single stretch tollway in Texas where the maximum speed limit allowed is 140km/h. Driving too fast in the US will result in a pricey ticket.

7 Car Size

SUVs are slowly taking over sedans in the United States, including hybrid and electric versions. Even luxury pick-up trucks are a common sight in the US. Europe, on the other hand, is famous for its compact cars on their roads. There has also been an uptick of eco-friendly small electric cars that can be charged in parking lots. These small cars are a convenient mode of transport in Europe as the roads are narrow in comparison to the wide lanes often found in the US. Many Europeans prefer smaller and more compact cars as it parking can be a lot tighter and the smaller cars can help finding an elusive spot.

6 Roundabouts

The Roundabout is a circular intersection designed to permit the flow of traffic to travel smoothly in one direction. It’s a highly effective way to keep traffic moving safely. Having said that, if you are not familiar with driving through roundabouts, it can be a cause of major confusion and likely cause some anxiety.

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While there are roundabouts in the US they are not as prevalent as in Europe. While vacationing many US drivers in Europe frequently run into trouble when they encounter roundabouts which have a massive presence throughout the roads of Europe. Driving through the roundabouts takes a little practice but they are a great way to keep traffic moving.

5 Sights On The Way

Almost every street in Europe is rife with history. If you are lucky enough to travel in Europe, you are bound to catch a glimpse of historical buildings and you might even see a castle from your car. Historical sights and architecture will be sure to provide beautiful views. North America, on the other hand, is filled with a vast variety of beautiful landscapes that make the trip just as compelling as the destination. There are many breath-taking scenic drives for whatever suits your mood; mountains, surf, woodlands, or desert. In the fall there are many states in the US where you can enjoy the colorful changing of the leaves.

4 Process Of Fueling Up

Gas is more expensive in Europe than in North America and the process of fueling can be different depending on what country you are visiting. European gas stations encourage self-service and you are required to fill your tank by yourself. The payment can be done at the cash counter, although some stations have automated payment kiosks. Gas stations are similar in the US, although some places may require you to pay before you pump your gas. Although many pumps have credit card readers on the pump for convenience or allow you to pay in the store. Signs are typically posted on the pump to alert patrons of the correct payment procedure.

3 Traffic Lights

A crucial part of every main road are traffic lights.They help to maintain a steady flow of traffic and keep driver’s safe. How traffic lights are positioned might not be something you typically noticed but there is a difference between Europe and the US. In Europe the lights are located on the near side of the intersection, which will require you to bend your neck to see it. Because of this it is important to stop the car far enough back in order to get a clear view of the lights. On the contrary, the lights are conveniently placed after the intersection in America.

2 Traffic Fines

Traffic fines are universally loathed by drivers across the globe, but some countries make the experience worse by penalizing rule-breakers with hefty amounts. Norway, in Europe, is ranked as the most expensive place to get a ticket with a $768 dollar fine for speeding. Several other European countries like Sweden, Italy, and Iceland also make the list of the top 10 most expensive countries for speeding. The US ranks 25th in this list with a fine of $70. However, it must be noted that the severity of breaking speed limit also depends on the state that you are driving in.

1 Traffic Signs

One of the biggest differences between driving in Europe and North America are the traffic signs. Most of the countries in Europe follow the guidelines created by the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals. In the United States the road signs follow federally regulated standards, most notably the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Although both systems work towards the common goal of ensuring road safety, the signage appearance is quite different.. For instance, warning signs in America are represented by a yellow diamond, whereas the same is represented in Europe by triangular signs with a red border.

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