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I recently visited Las Vegas and although I can't tell you everything about my visit (what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas), what I can say is I was really aware of the difference in roads, styles of driving, and of course the sorts of vehicles you guys get to experience over in the US, so I thought rather than tell you about my visits to America, which is something you'd be already aware of, I would tell the rest of the world what the Ladies & Gents of the UK enjoy/endure on a daily basis. Hopefully if you guys keep reading I'll post something on a regular basis...
Ok so the first thing to say, I will try to never use official statistics, there is simply no need for that sort of thing, and if you really wanted to know about a fact you could always google it. Most of my observations could be similar to you guys in other countries, others maybe widely different, hopefully all will be an enjoyable read. I'll also post most prices as £s with $ in brackets.
So what is driving like in the UK? Well to understand that you have to go back to when we are allowed to get our licence. At the age of 17, at least at the time of writing, we can apply for a provisional licence, you then start paying someone to teach you to drive (some people try and persuade family members to teach them... Think of the arguments!), just chatting to a few people and this can cost up to £1,000 ($1.400)for 40 hours of tuition (and the various tests) this for someone who has never driven a car before, and in most cases it will be the first time they've driven one. Once you think you know what you are doing you can take your Theory Test, this is basically an exam on all things car and road. Then you have to drive with an examiner... Fingers crossed you'll pass that. I passed on the 9th attempt.
Assuming you haven't done anything stupid before you got your license (it is possible to lose your licence before you get it), you'll then have a clean driving licence. Penalty points are awarded after that if you are caught doing anything unlawful, like speeding, drink driving, and so on... For most people if you get over 12 points you get banned from driving for an amount of time, if you've just got your licence you can have up to 6 points in the first 2 years, if you get to 6 they'll take your licence back off you.
After that it's time to buy a car, now here's the thing, as with most countries, an average 17-18 year old has less money than say a 40 year old, so the younger generation tend to buy the best car they can get for the meagre amount of money that have. Meaning, more often than not, they'll buy a small hatchback... Something like a Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa, or VW Polo, probably £2,000 ($2,800) borrowed from your parents (you can buy a car for £150 ($210) but that will have been to the moon and back and will probably be a death trap), they'll be a number of years old and be petrol driven. One thing they'll all have in common is they'll be horribly expensive to insure and won't benefit from our low emissions tax breaks. How does £1,300 ($1,800) per year sound for a 1-litre hatchback and that's just to insure it! Road Tax, well it's not called that, as our roads are paid for from general taxation, but the tax you pay for your car to be on the road can cost anything from £0 to £500 ($700) per year, you pay less if you car pumps out less Carbon Dioxide (by the way I have a VW and I'll post about how all that was dealt with over another time).
Basically you'll be driving an uneconomical, polluting, old car, but it's your first wheels (unless you had a motor scooter!!?!?), and you are ready to drive. But just hold there for a second, before you even get in your first car you've paid something like £4,500 ($6,300) or will have in the first year, that's not far off the vast majority of the salary of a an 18 year old .... Luckily, though petrol is cheap, er, well, not really, as I write this we've got the cheapest fuel for nearly 7 years, the price? A penny less than a pound, I think the guys in the US are paying about $1.80 per gallon, oh wait, our price is per litre, so for comparison we are paying about £4.50 per gallon which equates to $6.30 per gallon!
Years ago there was a national strike to bring the price of fuel back to reasonable levels, it lasted a few weeks, people like their cars too much, pricing continued to rise.... Mostly due to taxation.
Once you have your car, insured it, taxed it, fueled it, you can do what you like (within the law) and that include jumping straight on our motorways at 70mph.... Have you ever seen The Matrix? The bit where one of the guys says don't got on the freeway because it's suicide, well those roads are a playground compared to the M25 (Motorway that rings London) and the M6 & M1 that go up and down the west and east of the country. Even outside of peak times, these motorways are full of trucks doing 55mph, cars doing 70mph (well that's the speed limit, think more like 90mph) and motorbikes doing as much as they can. It's against the law to undertake on the inside but hey when has that stopped anyone? You can get lessons around how to drive on the motorway, but let's be honest that's just another cost... So why bother?
Oh and to make things even more interesting, there are only a handful of countries in Europe that drive on the left and pretty much all of them are in the UK. So when we drive abroad to places like France, as many do, our steering wheels are on the wrong side. It doesn't make a difference in daily life, but for those 2 weeks holidays in Europe then it really changes your driving style.
Our roads are arguably the worst in Western Europe, when someone digs a hole to do some maintenance, they just fill it back in, meaning we tend to end up with a bumpy road surface that breaks down easily in our mostly wet climate.
So what does all that tell you about driving in the UK? Well it's expensive, we don't, in my opinion, prepare our drivers for properly for all types of driving and when we do drive it's a bit like Wacky Races... However what it is, is fun, I know no one that doesn't enjoy the act of driving in the UK, most would like better roads, all would like better cars, but everyone enjoys it.
I hope in the future to be able to give you a bit of an insight into what we drive, peoples experiences, observations out on the road, and you know any sort of general chat about what happens on this island in the North Atlantic.
Have a great day.