the absence of stop…

There can be no doubt that I love the Keep Left signs, here in Australia. As I get more comfortable driving on the left side of the road, I’m afraid I’ll grown forgetful, and do something stupid. But these signs are perched on almost every median that I come to, and I feel like thanking someone, every time I see one. Who knows but I might’ve driven around the wrong side, for once, just because it seemed easier. And because it just seemed right. Er, I mean, correct.

But as I said, the driving is becoming easier. I no longer grip the steering wheel with a two-handed death grip. I can actually drive with one hand, and get a look at some of my surroundings, as I try and learn where more things are in town. And something else has come to my attention. When was the last time I saw a stop sign? Not a stop light, we have plenty of those at large intersections. But on small streets, where are the stop signs? Do Australians not stop?

I finally realized that they just aren’t there. Every sign I’ve seen says Give Way instead of Stop. Or there’s a circle of arrows, referring to an upcoming roundabout. Or the Keep Left signs, which are low down to the road. In Emerald, there is no stop. Is it like that everywhere else in Australia?

So, I did some looking online, and it seems that there really are very few actual stop signs in Australia. Or maybe they’re in the process of phasing them out. But it isn’t just my imagination!

Instead of stop signs, as I said, I see plenty of Give Way signs and mini roundabouts. When I left to come over here, somebody warned me that they might have roundabouts here. I hate roundabouts, in general, or at least I do, in the U.S. If it’s a large one, you brake before entering, and eye all the cars that are circling around it. When do they decide to dive in? What rules do we follow here? How do you tell if they’re about to turn, because they may have a signal on, but that doesn’t alert you to which road they’re about to take! I sometimes refer to them as “roundy-rounds”, and they have never been a favorite thing of mine.

You can imagine, then, coming to Australia, and discovering mini roundabouts on almost every corner. Well, you drive through a neighborhood, and a roundabout is at every junction of streets, as you progress towards your destination. The first time I drove through one, on my own, and saw an oncoming car, I stopped, and they waited for me, so I went on, feeling like an idiot. I immediately asked someone what the rules of the mini roundabout were, and since we drive left, you look to the right, and see if someone is coming. If someone is already in the roundabout, and coming towards you from the right, then you… you’ve got it, GIVE WAY, and let them through. If you’re the first one in, then you get to go, and those on your left wait for you.

It sounds so simple, but maybe it only applies to the little roundabouts? There’s room for about two cars in a roundabout, so there aren’t the difficulties of “roundy-rounds” in the U.S. Well, I’ll be figuring this out, won’t I?

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