Right, going left

DRIVING DIFFERENCES: Sammanuel Nguyen from Vietnam
was not always so
comfortable driving on the ‘left-hand’ side of the
road. BOTH PHOTO: CORNELIA
KOPPANG HENRIKSEN
Driving on the opposite side of the road is one of the biggest challenges international students of James Cook University face.
By: Cornelia Koppang Henriksen
  DRIVING DIFFERENCES: Sammanuel Nguyen from Vietnam was not always so comfortable driving on the ‘left-hand’ side of the road. BOTH PHOTO: CORNELIA KOPPANG HENRIKSEN
DRIVING DIFFERENCES: Sammanuel Nguyen from Vietnam was not always so comfortable driving on the ‘left-hand’ side of the road.
BOTH PHOTO: CORNELIA KOPPANG HENRIKSEN

Many international students who drive themselves to university are struggling with the idea of driving on the opposite side of the road.

Student Sammanuel Nguyen of Vietnam has studied at JCU for the past three years and has had a lot of trouble adjusting to the different driving rules.

“I nearly hit another car once because I was driving on the wrong side of the road. I can get confused from time to time,” Sammanuel says.

As an international student at James Cook University, Sammanuel has to drive on the opposite side of the road compared to what he is accustomed to back home.

“I was very nervous and stressed in the beginning,” Sammanuel says

“But I got used to it after a month or so.”

After three years in Australian ‘left-hand’ traffic, Sammanuel now finds it slightly difficult to drive in his home country.

“Fortunately the transition period gets shorter and shorter for each time. But it has happened that I have driven on the wrong side of the road at home too. I have to really concentrate,” Sammanuel says.

Confusion in roundabouts

Graduate School of Motoring driving instructor, Heath Ward, has driven with many international students who already have a driving license in their own country.

“Intersections and roundabouts are the worse problem,” Mr Ward says.

“I recommend everyone to take a few driver lessons, especially if they are used to driving on
the other side of the road.”

Driver instructor, Heath Ward, says international drivers could need one to ten lessons, depending on culture and nationality.

DEPENDS: Driver instructor, Heath Ward, says international drivers could need one to ten lessons, depending on culture and nationality.

“Some might be apprehensive when they first start to drive in Australia. But it is never dangerous with a driving instructor.

“We are on the alert at all times, and we have an extra set of pedals on the passenger side and will not hesitate to take over the wheel if necessary,” he says.

“Start on small streets”

Townsville’s Abetaway2Drive director and driving trainer, Colin Reeves, advises international drivers to practice on small streets first.

“The driver needs to think that the passenger seat should always be close to the kerb or in the left lane,” he says.

“Sunday morning is a good time to start practicing, as there are not much traffic then.”

Prices for both Graduate School of Motoring and Abetway2drive range from $60 to $70 for an hour lesson and provide a safe and affordable option for students.