It's never too late to learn rules of the road

I've had my driver's license since I was 16 years old. Granted, the test that I took in Middletown, Rhode Island, was easy. No highway driving and no parallel parking were required, (although I had practiced it with my instructor). All I was required to do was drive around the block, use my blinker and execute a three point turn. Voilà!

The most valuable driving knowledge I have collected during the past 24 years, I've learned on the road.

Like the day I drove a friend from Newport to Cape Cod and forgot to look over my shoulder to check the blind spot before passing a car on the highway. Thank goodness my friend yelped, as I could swerve back into my lane on time and avoid an accident.

Or the four times, I lightly hit a car in a parking lot, because I misjudged the distances or forgot to use my mirrors.

Or when I slid into a speeding car that was going uphill on an icy single lane road. I learned that even though the driver of that car was speeding, she had the right of way being the car going uphill, and I, being the car going downhill, must always have control over my vehicle no matter the condition of the road.

So, after living in the Swiss Alps for the past nine years, I am still learning valuable information about driving, and especially about driving in Europe. And, now I know why I've had the following strange and unpleasant experiences at two intersections in my village:

  1. near-collisions;

  2. drivers honking at me;

  3. drivers wildly gesturing with their mouths open;

  4. my uttering of swearwords (out of earshot of those outside my car) at what I perceived to be the rudeness of other drivers.

It was a good Swiss friend who educated me.

It's called priority to the right or 'priorité à droite' in French. Here it is. If you are driving along in a village, anyone joining that road from your right hand side (even if they are on a small side road and you are on a major road) has priority over you. They don't have to stop, (as they do in the USA), you do... even if you are traveling at a good clip. This rule is valid unless otherwise indicated by a stop or yield sign.

If in doubt, slow down, keep you eyes open and your foot near the brake, and be ready to be courteous (but don't expect any thanks)!

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