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  Driving in General

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 to.

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 about. .