What I’ve Learned from Driving in Sydney
Driving is Sydney is a daunting task whether you’re in the ‘burbs or in the city proper. Well, so I’m told. As someone who only learned to drive 5 or so years ago, I don’t really know any different and spend a fair bit of time driving in both the city and the suburbs. And let me tell you- driving in Sydney has taught me a thing or two.
Driving in Sydney: An Odyssey in itself
This is what we have to work with, people. It’s no wonder that we are all driving around in various states of confusion and anxiety. Some things, however, stand out to me on an almost-daily basis.
Driving in Sydney? You’re on your own, mate
There is very little camaraderie on Sydney roads. If you have to merge onto a motorway of some kind, people will jealously guard their position in the slow-crawling traffic queues without a second thought. None of this zipper-like efficiency where everyone lets someone in and we all roll along steadily. This is where the wave comes in.
If someone slows and lets you in and you give them a thank you wave, 100% of other drivers will appreciate this. It is seen as the decent and courteous thing to do. Failure to wave is considered poor form. If this is you, think yourself lucky that you can’t actually hear what the other driver is saying about you. It’s a known fact that Sydney children learn 90% of their swearing vocabulary in their first 10 years of life exclusively from the back seat of their parent’s cars.
Sydney drivers want to keep you guessing
Like a coy and mysterious partner, Sydney drivers often keep their fellow road users in suspense. With a Mona Lisa smile, they’ll refuse to give any indication of their intentions. Literally. Whether it’s a surprise lane-change or a situation at a roundabout that has left me with serious trust issues, you quickly learn that Sydney drivers don’t want you to have any idea of what they’ll do next. Is it paranoia or is it laziness? We’ll never know!
Know where you’re going
If you dare to be in the wrong lane, you cannot expect anyone to let you in. When you’re driving in Sydney, you are expected to simply go the wrong way. If you try to change to the correct lane, other drivers will take this as a personal attack.
Just this morning, it happened to me. I was in the wrong lane in an unfamiliar area. I went to change lanes and the oncoming vehicle sped up. The driver did not let me change lanes. I did not force the issue- I waited for a gap. This did not stop the driver from looking at me with outrage, completely affronted at my unfamiliarity with her fine suburb. I ended up alongside her further down the road. She made sure to peer at me in disgust, shaking her head slowly. There was no way to explain that it was nothing personal. Despite causing her zero inconvenience, I managed to ruin her day.
Dare to change lanes? Sydney drivers be like:
Horns: What are they even for?
According to the law, you’re meant to use them to warn other drivers and random animals of danger.
Driving in Sydney, however, the horn is used to send a variety of messages to other drivers, such as:
- “I am tailgating you even though you are doing the legal speed limit because I want you to go faster, because reasons!”
- “I cannot believe you just stopped at that stop sign!”
- “The light is green. Stop looking at your goddamn phone and DRIVE!”
- “I want you to drive out into traffic even if there is no gap. Do it.”
Choose your own adventure!
There is a small subset of Sydney drivers who march to the beat of their own drums. They see things like lane markers and “no right turn” signs as optional. Why wait in the queue to merge when you can simply fly up the outside of the lane and force your way across? Sure, you might take out a mirror or two, but everyone will be SO IMPRESSED by what a
fucking asshole brilliant driver you are, right? Turning wherever you like, regardless of signage, might cause a near-miss or an actual prang, but what of it? You’re a rebel without a brain cause, baby!
When a wave isn’t enough
If someone lets you in or shows some other courtesy to you on the roads, a wave is an acceptable acknowledgement. However, if you pull a dick move like flying out of a driveway or side-street into oncoming traffic, causing me to slam on my breaks to avoid colliding with you at 60km/hr, a wave isn’t really enough. A wave says “Thanks for letting me in!” not “Nearly killed you all, soz!” This can be easily avoided by just not doing those things.
Me, driving to work:
Driving and mobile phones
We have all these laws around the use of phones while driving. Don’t text and drive, ever. Don’t hold and use mobile phone while driving. Some Sydney drivers- quite a few, in fact- don’t realise that putting your call on speaker and holding it in front of your face while you drive is a terrible idea. And, you know, illegal. I saw a driver recently holding her phone with it’s cover opened, book like, at the top of her steering wheel in bumper to bumper traffic.
Have you seen these things while driving in Sydney or elsewhere??