I rented a car for the ET Conference. This was the first time I’ve ever driven outside the UK and Ireland, and it’s a strange experience. I’m not really sure whether the lanes here are narrower, or that the cars are wider, or that my perspective is confused by being on the wrong side of the car, but I had difficulty keeping to the lanes for a few days. This wasn’t too bad most of the time I would get an aural warning if I hit the edge of the lane, but it made me really uncomfortable in places where they were working on the road, and there was a solid wall at the edge of the lane!
I also found the road signs really confusing. In the UK we get signs fairly regulary on the motorways letting you know the distances to places that you might be going (even if the road you’re currently on doesn’t actually go there). This seems to happen much less in the US. If you’re not totally sure you’re on the correct road (i.e. you’re stupid enough to not have a map), you’ll spend a much longer time being uncertain. Signs tend to only tell you where the next two or three exits go. (And, if you happen miss the exit that you wanted, good luck trying to find your way back.)
Someone should also fire whomever was responsible for the road signs for car rental return at SFO. Going north on 101, as you’re approaching the exit for the airport, there’s a large sign that says something like “Rental Car Return – take San Bruno Avenue”. It’s quite nice of them to provide a separate sign for rental return – but they don’t tell you where this avenue actually is! Do you come off at the normal airport exit, and then find San Bruno Avenue? Or is it the next it? Or what? This is very confusing – and as most people who rent a car at an airport probably aren’t local, I can’t be the only person it confused. Having overshot an exit before, and spent nearly an hour trying to get back to where I wanted, I figured it would be safer to come off at the airport, even if I was meant to go to the next exit. It worked – I had to drive around a maze of twisty turny roads, but I got there. I think I was meant to take the next exit off the freeway – but I’m still not sure.