Which side?

The first thing to be considered is that fact that Americans drive on the RIGHT and in the Commonwealth you drive on the LEFT. Now if that isn't confusing enough, even the road markings are opposite. In America YELLOW lines signify the center of the road and white the edge while exactly the opposite occurs in most Commonwealth countries. Want to know why Commonwealth countries (apart from Canada) drive on the left and Americans on the right? Then go here.

Highways, Freeways, Motorways...

In the USA, highways are VERY specific in how you refer to them. For example, the 635 is pronounced the "six thirty-five" and NOT the "six three five" or the "six hundred and thirty five". Highways in Commonwealth countries begin with M for Motorway.

In the Commonwealth a "Dual Carriageway" is a road with 2 lanes going in each direction.

Striped pedestrian crosswalks in the Commonwealth are called Zebra Crossings, because of the stripes.

There is a very good reason behind the highway marking system in the USA. Highways marked "US" (i.e. the famous US 66), the lower numbers start in the northeast and get higher as they move southwest. However, for highways marked Interstate (such as I-75 going from Michigan to Florida), lower numbers start in the southwest, with road numbers getting higher as they go to the northwest. This was to help prevent confusion and overlapping numbering, as the Interstate highway system was created after many "US-##" highways had been created.

Also, three-digit highway numbers have a certain function depending on the first digit. If the first digit is even, it is a bypass, usually going around a city and meeting up with the original highway. If the first digit is odd, it is a spur, meaning it forks from the original highway and doesn't meet up again. Also, the second and third digit of the number is the highway of which it is a bypass or spur. (For instance, I-465 bypasses around the city of Indianapolis and comes back to I-65. US-131 spurs off of US-31 in Michigan and ends at the Indiana Toll Road without meeting up again.)

Shifting gear

In America most vehicles have an automatic transmission while in the Commonwealth the majority of cars are manual. This is especially the case with rental cars. It is as impossible to rent a manual in the States as it is impossible to rent an automatic in an economy or compact class in the Commonwealth. Cars in America generally have a higher spec (extras, such as power windows and cruise) than cars in the Commonwealth of the same price.


In the USA freeways or highways where you pay a toll are called "Turnpikes". In Commonwealth countries they are called toll roads or toll ways. BEWARE Commonwealth visitors to the USA! Traffic laws in the USA not only differ from state to state, but they differ VASTLY! For example the school zone speed limit in California is 25 mph, but in Maine it is 15 mph, while in Texas it is 20 mph. Motorcycle crash helmets MUST be worn in California and New York but are not necessary in Arizona, Florida, Texas or Maine. In the Commonwealth traffic laws are set by central government and apply throughout the country without exception. 

Drive through

Everything in America is a "Drive-through". Fast Food, such as MacDonald's, Burger King and even Chinese drive-throughs. There are also drive-through banks and ATMs,  drive-through  drycleaners, drive-through pharmacies, drive-through liquor stores and cigarette stores. Drive-throughs are not as common in the Commonwealth although rapidly increasing in popularity.

Drive safely!

Americans are safe and courteous drivers on the whole, and but for a few notable exceptions (New York, Boston) will invariably allow merging drivers in. Some of the worst drivers in the USA are found in Texas and Florida, while the most courteous are in California! Most drivers in the Commonwealth are courteous, with a few exceptions in such countries as India, Sri Lanka and certain other Commonwealth countries in Africa. In South Africa, "Black Taxis" are notorious for their deliberately poor and downright dangerous driving practices.


If you know of any words or differences I have missed please submit them to me here

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