As a rider or driver, we typically only experience our own region’s driving/riding practices on a daily basis. We may travel shorter or longer distances under varying conditions…with slight & local differences…but normally within the same state or country…so we get used to adopting our own strategies to deal with the road conditions and performances of other road users…as well as concentrating on our own standards.
It is only when we venture further afield, cross borders into a different state or even a different country that we are suddenly presented with stark contrast in environment, standards and practices…and even cultures and attitudes in some cases.
Sometimes that environment and standard is better than we are used to, and sometimes it is worse, but in both situations we need to quickly modify our coping strategies and ultimately learn from the experience…we may even wish to use some of these new skills when we return home….and some we may sooner forget.
Whether we’re taking a ‘driving/riding’ touring holiday or just renting a vehicle when we get there…or we’re driving/riding from our home region to another for business or pleasure…we need to quickly determine what are the local road laws…(we probably should have researched this prior to going)…and what we are going to do to be able to navigate our way through an area with different road signs and road markings and other road users with…let’s say…a different approach to road safety.
Usually, armed with a current road map or even Sat Nav (if you must) and you’ll soon get used to the new road signs and symbols that are largely familiar or can be determined. Even driving or riding on the ‘other side of the road’ with a different road layout, if applicable…you’ll soon be able to fathom the way to go just by following the same path as other vehicles take.
However, as you start on this new adventure is when you are potentially at your most vulnerable…hence why there are often many signs near international borders which may remind drivers that in that particular region they ‘drive on the left‘ or ‘drive on the right‘ as the case may be. These were mainly introduced many years ago due to the high incidence of accidents at or near borders involving foreign drivers or riders and when driving abroad became more popular.
During the first phase of this new experience, your concentration is operating at its maximum limit…or rather it should be, but it should soon settle from ‘paranoia’ to a heightened state of awareness and depending on the region, and traffic density and driving standards and practices will determine whether this state remains.
Usually, by following the traffic flow, by using good vision and awareness and allowing even greater space in between vehicles and at reduced speed…the ‘foreign’ driver or rider should be able to safety and comfortably contend with the new road experience.
However, what is more difficult to prepare for is the hazard perception or the unexpected errors or hazardous manoeuvres by other road users. The age old adage…‘needing eyes in the back of your head’ has never been more true. Although, regardless of where you normally drive…no area can claim to have perfect driving/riding standards and no area can necessarily be accused of having the worst standards, but rather it is a first or enduring impression of practices.
As a rider or driver in a new area, we need to go back to basics…take our time and not judge other road users by our own standards…rather judge our own by their standards. We need to be prepared for driving and riding practices that we will not be used to and be ever vigilant with good use of mirrors and good shoulder checks at all times. We need to be even more aware of blind spots and always consider that other drivers or riders have not seen us or have not looked properly.
Remember…this is their normal way of driving or riding and by complaining will not change anything, however we need to give them the room to carry on in the same manner in order that we can avoid being in an accident with them…we need to adopt an ultra defensive mode.
It would be very easy to start to copy their practices or standards…as in…‘When in Rome, act like the Romans!’ but the local riders and drivers are used to operating in that manner, however as a ‘tourist’…we are not…therefore ‘Prudence is the better part of valour’
One such practice which is a particular pet hate of mine is tailgating, and in some areas following vehicles will approach behind a vehicle, indicating wishing to overtake, but will remain very close until there is room to pass or if on a multilane road such as a motorway, will tailgate until the car in front moves over to let them pass.
Regardless of whatever other road users are doing, the tourist driver or rider should not be intimidated by other practices, should maintain course and speed, and when safe to do so move to let others pass and move away from oncoming traffic and avoid riding near the verges and allow extra margins to manoeuvre and to avoid.
We could argue that this should be standard practice regardless of where you are riding, but there is a difference between riding in a familiar region and one that is not. We need to modify our own practices and increase our own margins to adapt to the new environment and never be lured into reducing standards as a coping mechanism.