I was at a wedding recently talking to an American who had moved to the UK and actually had to retake his driving test before he was allowed to drive there. And it got me thinking. Because in Austria, I was allowed to drive, on the wrong side of the road, in foreign language, with different road rules, immediately – no lessons or tests required!
The driving rules between Austria and Australia are similar in many way – ignoring the whole ‘driving on the other side of the road’ of course. Still, Austria has some quite interesting quirks when it comes to road rules and the way to drive.
- Clock Parking
In small towns, blue parking lines mean that the first hour is free. But how do they know when you actually parked your car, you ask? The answer: the parking clock. When you arrive, you simply move the clock hands to whatever time it is, and that is when your free hour starts.
The roundabout rules are slightly different between Oz and Austria. In Austria you only indicate upon leaving the roundabout, not as you’re going into it. And it does work – though don’t get me started on 2-lane roundabouts – Austrians + 2-lane roundabouts = disaster.
- The circle means NO
When I first saw this sign, I understood that it was some kind of warning, given the red colour. But I never would have expected that it mean I was NOT ALLOWED to go past it. To me, a circle means something along the lines of ‘go for it’.
- Orange before green
A great one. Not only do traffic lights go orange before they go red, they also go orange before they go green. That means that if there’s no one around, you can start off just that little bit earlier.
- Flashing green
On the same subject, before the light goes orange, and then to red, the green light will flash a few times to let you know that the light is about to go orange. Ok, it seems like a bit of overkill, but it does give you a bit more warning as to whether you’re going to have to stop or not.
- No traffic light at the far end
In Australia, there’ll be two traffic lights at each intersection – so one to look at as you’re approaching, and one to look at (on the other side) after you’ve stopped. In Austria they only have the first one, which means that if you’re the first car in line to go, sometimes you can’t actually see when the light goes green without craning your head out the side window.
In Australia, a car comes with a numberplate, so with each new car you get a new numberplate. In Austria the numberplate is allocated to the person, so you actually take it with you. And it’s allocated not just by state, but also by smaller regions, so you always have a pretty good idea of where the driver in front of you is from! This means that when I’m navigating scary city streets, everyone around me knows instantly I’m from the country, and possibly gives me a bit more leeway.
- Town sign means 50
In Australia, speeds are sign-posted everywhere, if you go into a 50 zone, there’s a 50 sign. In villages in Austria, the mere announcement that you’re entering a town means that you have to go 50. I was caught by this in my early days here, not realising that the speed had changed from 70 to 0. Grrr
- Interrupting the radio for the traffic report
This one I love. There’s a setting in cars which means that even if you are listening to a CD in the car, the traffic report will interrupt your music so you never miss it. That means you can happily avoid the crap radio, but still get the traffic report without having to try and guess when it’s going to come on! It is essential for when there are ghost drivers on the autobahn.
- The longest traffic report ever
On the subject of traffic reports, Austria has some of the longest I’ve ever heard. Even though Austria is not a big country, there are a lot of big cities, and a lot of traffic issues, so the country-wide radio station (Ö3) has to report on all of them – Salzburg, Vienna, Linz… you get the idea. On a normal day it’s a reasonable length, but take a long weekend… suddenly you’re listening to endless reports on delays on border crossings, traffic jams, tunnel closures and speed cameras!