Common folklore has it that Europeans drive chaotically
without rules or laws. The simple fact of the matter
is that it is safer and easier to drive in Europe than
it is in many congested areas of the United States.
Without having to write an essay on the psychological
differences between Americans and Europeans, suffice
it to say that European drivers are more literal and
law-abiding than most Americans.
Europeans generally obey all driving laws. When the
light changes from green to amber, Europeans do something
seldom seen on the East or West coasts: they stop! The
New York notion that the last three cars on amber get
to run the red light is simply unthinkable in Europe!
When pulling up to a crosswalk at an intersection, Europeans
stop precisely before the line.
Paris and Rome are two notable exceptions to the above
description of driving conditions. However, folklore
has once again exaggerated driving in these cities completely
out of proportion. Most Europeans follow the American
practice of driving defensively and giving way out of
courtesy and safety. Most will likely give way to you
or forgive your indecision simply because they see your
tourist license plates. Not so in Paris and Rome. There
people seem to drive offensively: eyes straight ahead,
weaving in and out of lanes. But after a while, you'll
come to realize that they are all following a clear-cut
set of rules for driving that everyone there is used
Yet in spite of this, driving in Paris and Rome is
no more difficult than negotiating the roads of New
York City, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles or Chicago.
After about a day, you'll get into their tempo of driving.
Driving around the Arc de Triomphe is actually fun,
once you get the hang of it! Believe it or not, once
you've negotiated your way around it a few times, you'll
look forward to doing it again.
Caution: In the past few years more and more
cities in Europe have installed recording cameras at
intersections. Failure to stop when the light changes,
even nosing the front end of your car into the crosswalk
will result in a photo being taken. And they will track
you down by way of your car rental or leasing agency.
Obey traffic laws and you'll have nothing to worry