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   Driving in Florida:

American cars are different from ours. Most notably they put the steering wheel on the wrong side, so everyone has to drive on the right . This can take some getting used to, and particularly when you first set off, you need to be careful not to drift onto auto-pilot and drive on the wrong side.

The cars are all automatic so you don't have to change gear, but there will be plenty to occupy your mind. The parking brake is often a foot pedal under the dashboard, and if you haven't driven an automatic before, you need to know that you won't be able to take the keys out unless the vehicle is in Park (P on the gearstick). The important point is to make sure you are happy with the controls before you leave the airport, and if in doubt, ask. You should also be aware that American cars normally activate the central locking soon after you set off. This is a security feature and they open again when you turn the ignition off, but if you aren't expecting it it can unnerve you when you suddenly get locked in!

Driving is probably easier in Florida than in the UK, but there are some important differences which you need to be aware of. Firstly, they don't have roundabouts, so when you need to turn left (across traffic), pull into the centre lane and stop opposite your junction until the other carriageway is clear for you to complete the turn. This can be a bit disconcerting as vehicles coming the other way and wanting to turn will use the same lane and it looks like you are driving for a head-on collision!

The other important difference is that you can go through a red light if you are turning right and the road is clear (provided that there aren't signs to the contrary). If you are stopped at a red light waiting to turn right and the people behind start honking their horns you'll know why.

Traffic tends to be slower moving than back home, and they rigorously enforce the speed limit with on the spot fines, so don't be tempted to exceed the limit. Unlike the UK some roads have a minimum speed restriction, so watch out for these too.

You can't miss the bright yellow school buses, but if one stops in front of you, all traffic must stop (both directions) until it sets off again.

When it rains, you must put both your headlights and your wipers on immediately. If the rain becomes so heavy that you can't see the road (and they do get torrential rain storms sometimes) then pull over where it is safe to do so and wait for the storm to pass. It never takes long in Florida for the sun to return

Parking isn't usually a problem as America is car orientated so you'll find parking everywhere. At night try and park in a well lit area, and it helps if you leave something distinctive on the back seat. This will help you to find your vehicle when you return to the car park.

Don't leave any valuables visible in the car, and remember that temperatures will rise very high when the air conditioning isn't running so any food or camera film you leave in the vehicle is likely to be ruined if it is left for too long.

If you are pulled over by a police officer, stay in your car and let the officer approach you. Keep your hands visible on the steering wheel and don't make any sudden movements . Richard Madeley (of Richard & Judy fame) once made the mistake of getting out of the vehicle when stopped by an officer only to find him reaching for his gun.

If you do have an accident or are bumped from behind, particularly in a deserted area, drive to a well lit, public area (a gas station or shop carpark) before you get out of the car. You'll need to exchange details with the other driver, and note his registration number. Make sure that you notify the rental company as soon as you can. Drivers must carry their driving license and car rental documents at all times and produce them if requested by a police officer.

The drink driving message is simple. Don't do it. It is ilegal to even have alcohol in your vehicle, so when you've been shopping, always pack it out of reach in the boot. Then, if you want a drink, fire up the BBQ, relax by the pool, and watch the sun go down!

Driving the car is only half the problem, the remainder is finding where you want to go . You should be given a free area map when you collect your rental car, but for detailed maps and including a really helpful picture section which shows every stage of your journey from the airport car park to the area you are staying, click here


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