Drive on the Left in Australia

During travel, people expect to experience different things. The more different, the better. Driving on the left is obviously one major difference between Australia and China.

Look Right!

On the major roads visitors first arrive in the city, there are sign on the road to remind people to look right first.

I saw many signs like this in Hong Kong also. The sign above is shot in the Metro Museum Station (Cnr Liverpool & Elizabeth)

Keep Left

It seems obvious but since it is too important to do that, there are countless Keep Left sign throughout Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and, I believe, in all other Australia cities.

Keep left sign on the Great Ocean Road, Victoria

No Entry

Some other places use the No Entry to notify people not to go to the wrong way.

Wrong Way! Go Back!

On the freeway, imagine what happens if someone go to the wrong way and drive the car onto the freeway with 100+ km/hour only to find out all other cars are running at the same speed toward them?

In Australia, I found more “Wrong Way” sign than in any other countries.

The Wrong Way sign in Brisbane, near the North Quay of Birsbane river

The Wrong Way sign on the M1 freeway near Melbourne

My Experience of Converting from Driving on Right to on Left

The shift was not hard – after several km out of the parking lot, I start to get used to it. However, the road width in Australia seems to be narrower than in China or the States, which is very scary for me.

The gas paddle and the brake paddle are of the same position. The problem is about the turning lights. In cars running on the right side, the shift to turn on left or right turn sign is on the left of the wheel. In the car of Australia, it is on the right side. The other side is the wind glass brush.

In the first half an hour or so, I kept turning on the wind glass brush in the Sunny coastal freeway.

P.S. When I am back to Shanghai, and drove for the first few km, everything is perfect OK, but I just turn on the wind glass brush when I turned right.

Other Traffic Signs in Australia

The speed limit sign is everywhere.

Speed limitation

The traffic signs in Australia are maybe the most interesting signs I saw in the world. They have details! Look at this pedestrian crossing sign. It is the only traffic sign that shows the shoes of the people on it!

22 thoughts on “Drive on the Left in Australia

  1. Shrek7

    it seems silly to me that Australia wants to stick with driving on the left when most of the world drives on the right.

  2. jqian

    It’s not a matter of sticking or not. It’s a matter of unwilling to change the habbit inherited from one generation to the next. Humans are lazy in nature, without brute force, they don’t change habbit. Why change? as long as the majority of Australian feel fine and comfortable, they are not going to change anything for a few thousand tourists.

  3. Jian Shuo Wang

    Shrek7, maybe this is the first or second time I commented on your comment. I do believe every country or every people has the right to choose the way they want to be. There are so many difference in the world. It is called diversity. Please don’t assume everyone in the world should behave the way you do, so in the future, there will be no one coming to your door and use forces to make you behave in other way. I do respect the rules in Australia, and in UK. I don’t suggest you to use the word silly too often, since it hurt people (for people in Australia in this case, and in many other cases, for people in China).

  4. Jian Shuo Wang

    So what is your definition of diversity and multiculturalism? In my definition (English is no my mother language though), multiculturalism is one kind of diversity.

    Recently, when I read books about the nature, I found diversity dominate the nature world. However, in human society, we often forget about it and have the wrong believe that we can create a completely unified world – like the attempt in globalization, and industrialization. So I put all the different aspects of the difference between people to people, country to country into the umbrella of diversity.

    This is my definition.

    I know everyone has different definition of a word. What is yours? :-)

  5. Jian Shuo Wang

    Also, regarding changing the direction of driving. History makes big impact on the future. To change from left-side to right-side driving is not that easy, if people really want to do that. The work related to the re-construction of roads, signs, and more difficult, people’s driving, and walking habit is out of my imagination. It must be very very hard.

    If for cars, it is not easy, for the train system, it is even harder. China used to driv on the left, in the early years of automobile. Later, it changes to right. However, the train system is still running on the left, just because the railways and branches were constructed on the left.

    The change is not neccessary if we consider the cost. It is the same to attempt to change the electronic power (the outlet, the 220/110/240… stuff), the language, or anything that people feel not home in another land.

  6. stephen

    Multiculturalism is an ideology advocating people of all races and cultures with equal status and without racism. I think it is an appropriate term to express the interface of human.

    I apologize of my alleged wording and should never overwhelm your comment.

  7. Shrek7

    Jian Shuo

    I respect the laws, including rules of the road, in all countries I visit but that in no way implies that I believe they are wise or prudent. If you enjoy driving on the left, that’s fine.

  8. Jian Shuo Wang

    Stephen, it is completely OK. No worries. I agree that multiculturalism is a better term, although “diversity” may not be the “wrong” word. Keep fine-tuning the terms, since English is not my native language anyway, and I didn’t know the word called multiculturism, and other rarely used words.

    James, in Sydney, there were no sign like the one on the Great Ocean Road, but the sign saying “Keep on Left” on divided road. It is the same in China – there will be an arrow pointing to the right way to drive.

  9. Herbert

    James: We don’t have “drive on left”, but we do have “keep left” signs in NSW.

    Stephen: It does seem a bit weird to me to describe driving on different sides of the road as multiculturalism. After all, not many people would call a party with Aussies and Yanks (throw in a few Poms^H^H^H^HBrits for good measure) as multicultural :)

  10. Olaha

    Jianshuo, good post. As for Stephen, trust me, English is not his mother tongue either, at least thats my conclusion after reading all his old comments. I think he just likes to prove that his english is better than yours. I don’t know why would Stephen say its not diversity but multiculturalism in there when you obviously said that “there are many differences in this world, which we called diversity”. So, yes diversity is absolutely the correct word in the context of your sentence.

  11. nebodyhome

    I can’t believe anyone would suggest Australians changing from driving from the left to the right. We are quite happy driving on the left, and changing to make other people happy is simply stupid. If you have a problem driving on the left then either don’t drive when you’re here or don;t come at all. It simple.

  12. Torque

    From where i come, we drive on the left. and now I study in australia and I drive on the right side. its not a big deal, you just need to drive 2 or 3 times to get used to it and feel comfortable with it.

    the only problem i have is that i cannot import my corvette to australia because its a left side driving car :(

    I’m not saying that they should allow me to drive my car in here. I just feel like talking about it because I miss my car.

  13. sjb

    lol torque

    you do realise that they will let you drive your corvette here in australia, you just need to let them know, and have a visible sticker that says “left hand drive”

  14. Bazz

    as an aussie it makes me proud that we have such detail in our signs – its just a shame we have too dam many signs!!

    BTW those “drive on left in australia” signs, i have only seen on the great ocean road which is quite ironic as it takes 3hrs of driving to get to them from the airport!! (hopefully by the time your there you know to keep left.)

    also just to comment on the indicator shift and wiper shift on the steering wheel – i depends on which cars you drive – BMW (and any other euro/US car) has the shifters in the same place as any other country – only cars like toyotas and aussie built holdens have the shifters the other way round

    btw good post!!

  15. Myrtone

    Another point is road rule differences other than traffic directionality. For example, we drive on the left and give way to the right (at uncontrolled intersections). I don’t know about china, but in North America and on mainland Europe, where they drive on the right, they also give way to the right.

  16. Shaun

    This country pisses me off. The automobile was invented in the USA and they chose to drive on the right side. Why are we in Australia driving on the left side. It makes no sense, are they trying to be different or just plain annoying. What was the point of this??? Does anyone know the answer? It’s the same as metric vs imperial system. Australia is trying to be independent but it is not working just annoying.

  17. rightyright

    Ok…. for a start… Im always right! It makes perfect sence to have a car steering wheel on the right and navigate your way through life on the left. When turning left it is more comfortable for the natural turn of the head to go right. All chiropractors will tell you that! I always get my passanger to look left for me when turning right, if I have no passanger, I usually shut my eyes and hope for the best. Just joking… actually not really! Its more comfortable to have your right arm hanging out the window during summer, pointing your finger at the annoying kids from the left… Its usually more emphatic that way. When I pass an annoying driver, its automatic to show your disgust with the bird flip on the right, followed by a right hand head tilt and stare as the car passes.. Left is not as free flowing. Clearly, all countries should convert to the “drive on left and steer on right” rule…

  18. John

    @Shrek7

    It seems silly to me, that America would continue to use the imperial form of measurement when most of the world uses metric :)

    Each country has developed their own system. How is it a problem? You don’t drive here every day, we do :)

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