Having access to a company car means that I have been doing a lot of driving in this country. At first driving in the Czech Republic was one of the most stressful things I had ever had to do. It wasn’t the death defying type of driving that was the commonality of Georgia, but it was stressful. The biggest reason for this stress was that I had never actually driven a manual more than four or five times. And those four or five times were in parking lots going less than 20 miles per hour.
My first Tuesday of classes oh so long ago was also my first day of driving a manual. The night before I had made my boyfriend take a bus from Sokolov to Karlovy Vary at 7:30pm to meet me at the office so that he could drive home with me in the manual. Was a very tense drive to Sokolov, but I managed it very well. I considered it beginners luck.
Once we were back in Sokolov, we drove over to the Tesco across that street where I did a solid two hours of starting and stopping and shifting gears practice. The starts were on hills facing both up and down and the shifting gear practice made it all the way up to third gear! I even had to practice reversing. I do not remember the number of times I stalled that evening and how frustrating it was. I am surprised that my relationship survived that trying time.
The next morning I dreaded having to drive and follow a coworker. We would be going on the motorway! I would have to shift to fourth gear if not fifth gear! I drove rather slowly. A little too slowly for my coworker since every time we got to a new school she would tell me how slow I had been driving. The motorway was the easiest part of driving. It was the little village/ small town driving with the roundabouts and stop lights that killed me! I stalled the time at least 4 times that day. The worst was in the middle of an intersection while attempting to make a left turn on an upward sloping hill. It was terrible. I held up traffic! But I survived.
Now driving is a pleasure! My Tuesday schedule has shifted a bit and there is more time for me to get from little school village to little school village, making the drive more enjoyable. I no longer have to stress about shifting gears or when and how to use the clutch. I also now know where I am going, so I do not have to constantly be in fear of getting hopelessly lost on my way to a school. I do still tend to get hopelessly lost when I am driving outside of my normal area, but hey, I celebrate the little victories in life!
Now that I am no longer having to think through every move I make while driving, I have had time to notice how Czech people drive in comparison with U.S. drivers as well as Georgian drivers. First of all, I don’t think it is possible to find worse drivers than Georgian drivers, but Czech drivers seem fairly reckless to me as well in some regards. Many of them have a terrible tendency to seriously tailgate. Of course many U.S. drivers are like this as well, but I notice it more here. When overtaking, Czechs have an obsession with immediately returning to the right lane. I mean they have barely finished overtaking the other car before they put their blinker on (which I appreciate) and move over. Czech drivers do seem to use blinkers more frequently and correctly than U.S. Drivers. Remember all of this is generalization. There are always outliers and exceptions to stereotypes. There is a Czech law were head lights must be turned on when a vehicle is in motion. I like this law. It makes cars more visible no rain or shine.
As an American, I never thought I would say that I liked roundabouts. They always seemed so confusing, pointless and a waste of space. But after having used them day after day for the past few months, they make so much sense and seem much safer than four way stops! America should think about introducing more roundabouts.
Anywho, Czech drivers do seem to have lead feet, but it is hard to gauge how heavy their lead is in comparison with U.S. Drivers lead feet due to everything being in kilometers. I don’t even try to convert kilometers into miles per hour, I just drive with the speed of traffic or on the posted speed limit sign (which are few and far between). Apparently drivers in the Czech Republic are supposed to know the speed limits in certain areas (aka, in cities, between cities, on motorways etc.). I am going off of the signs I see as well as what my coworkers have told me about the motorways. I am trusting them to tell me the speed limit and not how fast they think it is appropriate and safe to drive.
In Georgia I had to put my safety in a crazy marshutka driver, in the Czech Republic I am responsible for my own safety. It is nice to have that back. I still find it amazing how acclimated I became to the terrible driving in Georgia and how now that is wearing off and normal standards of driving safety are coming back to me. Ah the ability to adapt. Isn’t it wonderful.