Hi Guys and Gals! A recent travel question made me wonder about driving tests and licences in countries other than the UK. In the UK you can take your driving test in either a manual gear change car or an automatic one, but if you take the test in an automatic car, then you are NOT allowed to drive a manual change car. How about in your own country? I wondered because, for instance, if visiting from the USA, your license (US spelling now!!), may NOT be valid in the UK. I'm not sure just how this might work, but your replies could be very interesting! Geoff
Good question. This could be interesting.
Well, yes. Many of us go abroad without knowledge of local laws. For instance, in many European Continental countries it is mandatory to carry items such as tow ropes, warning triangles, florescent vests, first aid kits and so on in your vehicle. As far as I know, none of these are a requirement in the UK, although very sensible equipment to carry. Oh yes, almost forgot - fire extinguisher!!
Hmpf, I never heard about different licenses for manual and automatic cars in the UK. But since we in the US don't issue different licenses in any state (so far as I know) for type of transmission, either the UK has to accept them all or reject them all... So, is the conclusion that it is illegal for a UK resident (who knows how to drive on the left) to drive a manual with an automatic license, but it's legal for an American (who doesn't know how to drive on the left) to drive a manual on a US license - even if they have never driven a manual in the States (as the majority have not)? Hmmmn, doesn't seem to make sense, does it? ;-) Really, I imagine that the majority of drivers in the US have never driven a stick and wouldn't know how to do it...which is why we constantly warn US visitors that manual transmissions are still the "standard" (excuse me) in Europe... Bill
In Germany, manual cars are standard and if you do your test on a manual car you can drive everything. If you obtain your driving licence on an automatic car, however, this will be stated in your licence and you cannot drive manual cars with it.
So, the same problem in Germany...the US licenses don't state which type of transmission the driver is competent at...so you are taking it on faith that the US driver has any idea what he/she is doing with a manual transmission....aaayyy!!! another reason to stay off the Autobahn when there are US drivers present!!! ;-) Bill
I have a friend who is a retired traffic police officer. He has told me (and others) of a case where he pulled in behind a car stopped in a lay-by/parking lot. The lady driver (sorry, but he says it was a lady) was American and had picked up her rental car at Heathrow airport. Some time after leaving, the engine started to overheat, so she stopped to find out what the problem might be. The police officer quizzed her about the car and her driving experience. It transpired that she has only ever driven a car with automatic transmission, but this one was a manual. She had driven for miles in first gear!!! She did say, also, that she wondered why the fuel consumption was rather high!
It's a lot easier the other way round. On my first visit to the USA I walked out of the car rental office to find a monster the size of a small bus. With automatic transmission. And the ride was typically American: I swayed and wallowed and tilted as I drove along, conscientiously keeping to the 25 mph limit. But I took to it like a duck to water. Or should that be like a DUKW to water? Things improved on subsequent visits: On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair.
Hi Geoff, Here in France it is the same as Kathrin says for Germany. Pass on a manual = drive anything, pass on an automatic = only drive automatic. The licence itself is not special, it's just typed on the back in "observations". Same thing for wearing glasses if you passed the visual part of the test with glasses on and the doctor noted it, it will be written on the licence "with glasses". Even if you change over to contact lenses after, you still have to have glasses in the car.
The Ontario Driving Licence for cars, vans, etc does not designate any restriction for the cars transmission. Years ago, if you wanted to drive a standard you had to take the driving test in a car with a standard transmission. I usually pickup an International driving licence whenevr I plan to drive in Europe. I am not sure if its necessary but at least it is multilingual. In that licence there is no restriction on the transmission. In 2009 we went to France and I prebooked a car( automatic) from Hertz at CDG airport . When we arrived to pickup the car the attendant started waffling around when he tried to get the car. I then said " You do not have an automatic available do you? He said yes and offered a standard. The last time I drove a standard was in 2004. Anyway I took the standard that Hertz had available and drove all over NW France without any problems. Most of these standart transmissions nowadays are really semi- automatic transmissions.
I've known lots of Americans and Canadians that have done it, doesn't make it legal though.
What is semi-automatic transmission? I know there are some fancy cars where you can switch between manual and automatic, but I am sure that the majority of cars - here in Britain at any rate - are definitely manual.
In the US, the majority of people who drive standard transmissions are long haul truckers, the guys who do valet parking at restaurants and clubs, and old fogeys like me. I once asked a valet how many cars did he see that had manual transmissions. His answer was, "Expensive sports cars, and your Subaru." ;-) that put me in good company ;-) Bill
In Switzerland it's the same as Kathrin said for Gemany.
For "semi-automatic" see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semi-a... It doesn't seem that American manufacturers used them much, and honestly, I've never been in a car that had one... Bill
When I took Driver's Ed in high school they started us off in an automatic and when we were comfortable on the road they switched us to a VW Beetle with a stick. You couldn't pass the course without mastering a stick shift, and given the terrain we lived in---steep hills and curvy dirt roads--it made sense. I still very much prefer a stick shift. What I find disconcerting about driving in Europe is the feel of the transmission in a diesel car, which is quite different from a regular gas car, and a bit scary if you're starting off in a city with steep hills. People can be so unsympathetic when you stall out at a traffic light. As for license validity, when I look at my last International Driving License, there's mention of an international convention on reciprocity, and no mention of specific restrictions. If a license is valid at home it's valid abroad.
Interesting. My lic. was originally issued while driving a manual transmission but I've not owned a vehicle with one in over 30 years. Still I've driven manuals in various countries where that was the only option for a rental. No one ever checked my lic. for validity, but I've not driven in the UK in over 20 years so perhaps things have changed.
In the US for a commercial drivers license it varies by state, but the state mine is issued from you can only drive a manual transmission if you took your driving test with one
Well, I suppose that when the law first drawn up it wasn't considered a major issue. I'm not sure it is a major issue now, really (I have no data on how many accidents are caused by foreign automatic drivers using manual cars but suspect it's pretty tiny). It's not really a problem for us in the UK because the vast majority of us pass a manual test anyway.
My first experience with an automatic was when I collected one at Oklahoma Airport; thank goodness it was one of the biggest (Airport, that is - the car was one of the smallest available (well, there was only me)), so had plenty of practice in the car park before venturing onwards....
>>>>>>(I have no data on how many accidents are caused by foreign automatic drivers using manual cars but suspect it's pretty tiny) Foolish as people can be, I suspect the number of people foolish enough to venture forth on foreign roads using equipment they don't understand is tiny indeed.
In Australia if you take your test in a car with manual gears you can drive both automatic and geared cars. If,however,you are tested in an 'automatic' car then you are not permitted to drive a manual.This is shown on your licence.
> In the US, the majority of people who drive standard transmissions are long haul truckers, the guys who do valet parking at restaurants and clubs, and old fogeys like me. I'm in the old fogey department no doubt, but I know some younger people (still in their 20s) that prefer manual. Then again, people seem to have different tastes in Oregon and Washington than in much of the rest of the USA. Automatics are OK in heavy traffic, but I make a point of avoiding heavy traffic by taking the bus during those periods of the day. I'm not fond of driving automatics downhill. There are a number of places around here where we have 8 miles of 6% downhill grade and the like. I've driven one of my relatives automatic cars down such a hill, and no matter what gear I put it in there was no way of controlling the speed with the transmission. I had to ride the brakes all the way down the hill, which I found really annoying. In my (rather ancient pile of rust with manual transmission) I can put it into 4th gear and just use the brakes to adjust the speed as needed. I doubt very much, though, that I could drive a manual transmission in the UK or Africa or Australia due to the gearshift being on the opposite side.
"Oregon and Washington" Yep, people there like their all-wheel drive Subarus - hilly terrain, snowy weather...it's a bit weird that we bought not one but two Foresters down here in flat old Texas. Earlier this year, though, we did get to use the all-wheel drive. One week in February (the week of the Super Bowl, if you recall seeing to snow and ice in Texas for the game), my wife was supposed to have FedEx deliver a new laptop. No laptop Monday nor Tuesday nor Wednesday. It turns out that the trucks were having trouble making deliveries because of the snow and ice on the roads. Yep, same problem on Thursday. So Thursday night, we went online and told FedEx to "hold for pickup"...and on Friday morning, we just drove ourselves in our little standard transmission all-wheel drive Subaru over to the office and picked the laptop up...not a great week for FedEx. Bill
-->> Glenn, no problem with the stick, since many years the boxes are the same way round whether you're in a LHD or RHD as the UK? Ireland and others, so it's just getting used to changing with the other hand.
Exactly. I seem to be extremely right handed and am quite certain it would take a while to get used to changing the gearshift with my left hand.
My drivers license is from the US but I've owned cars in South Africa and Australia and have driven in other countries. I've never been questioned what my license allows me to drive. In the US there are less cars for sale that are standard shift so there are more and more people who can not drive a manual shift car. No wonder they call some truck drivers "steering wheel holders".
I just returned from the UK, and my rental was upgraded to an automatic. I was very thankful of that since there is more than enough trouble staying on the left side of the road, and then having to shift gears with your left hand lol We foreigners should be allowed to drive on the right side in England!!!
It think it was in Sweden many years ago, when they change from left to right hand driving, they changed it for cars first then trucks and buses 2 weeks later (veeeeery old joke lol)
@daarth I think it was about 1966. and none the fears of disaster and the doom-sayers came to anything; I haven't had any problems in driving in continental Europe - if anything, being on a differnt side of the road makes more more alert