How to drive on the left side
Cayman is open for tourism and that means one thing! Drivers unfamiliar with driving on the left side of the roadway almost causing collisions.
The Cayman Islands are a British Overseas Territory, which means we drive on the left side of the road. For some, this is an exciting novelty, while for others, its a terrifying nightmare. However you feel about it, in this article we offer few pointers to help you from causing an accident.
Yield to the traffic in a roundabout
One of the biggest problems we see, is many drivers from North America are not used to the idea of roundabouts. You may know a roundabout as a traffic circle, road circle or rotary, but they are all the same thing. A roundabout is a type of circular intersection or junction in which road traffic is permitted to flow in one direction around a central island.
The first thing you must know is when approaching the roundabout, you must yield to traffic that is already in the roundabout. It doesn't matter where you think the car will go, if they are in the traffic circle, you need to stop and wait for them to pass. In the past 2 days I've seen drivers in traffic circles stand on their brake pedal to avoid smashing a car that just darted into the roundabout without yielding.
Turn from the correct lane
Once in a multi-lane roundabout, you cannot just turn any direction you want. You must make your turns from the correct lane.
It's common for the roundabouts along the Seven Mile Beach corridor to be multi-lane. Much like a multi-lane stoplight, you may only turn certain ways for the lane you are in. For example, at a multi-lane stoplight, if you were in the left lane, and suddenly make a right hand turn, you'd have a good chance of smashing into a car already in the right lane. Roundabouts are no different. As you approach the roundabout, you need to be in the correct lane for the direction you want to go in.
A picture speaks 1000 words in this case, so we will use one:
If you're the car in the pink lane, and you make a right hand turn, you'll collide with anyone in the inner orange lane.
When any resident of the Cayman Islands sees a rental car traveling next to them in the left lane, they know there is a 90% chance that car will make right turn in front of them at the next traffic circle. Don't be one of those people.
Don't stop in the roundabout
Once you are in the traffic circle, do not stop to let other cars in. Very commonly we see nervous drivers trying to be courteous, stopping in the roundabout to let another car in. Please don't do this, as what you will really do, is potentially cause someone to rear-end you.
Here's a good video which illustrates the correct way to negotiate roundabouts.
Watch your turns into parking lots
When moving to Cayman, I found this to be the really the tricky part of driving on the opposite side. Muscle memory will cause you to pull into the right side of driveways and parking lots. I see this commonly on hotels and parking lots which feature divided entrances and exits. Remind yourself as you begin the turn to keep to the left side of whatever you are turning into.
Adjust seats, mirrors, and radio stations before you start moving. Pull over to look at maps, or use your phone. Have the people in the car with you help serve as a navigator, and tell them to leave the interesting stories until you arrive at your destination. Pay constant attention. When your mind starts to wander off is when you fall back into muscle memory - on the wrong side of the road!
Don't use your cell phone
In addition to distracting you, use of your cell phone while driving is a $150 CI fine in the Cayman Islands. Section 78 of the Traffic Act (2021) says that the only way to legally use a cellular or mobile phone wile driving is if the device is securely mounted to the vehicle, and requires no more than one action of pressing a button to accept and end a call. Any other use of the phone while driving is unlawful.
Don't do anything unexpected
If you miss your turn or road you were supposed to take, relax. It's not the end of the world to go down the road and turn around somewhere. Please do this instead of making an unexpected panicked turn in front of an unsuspecting motorist. When you make rush choices, you tend to fall back into your old muscle memory and could pull into the right lane inadvertently.
Don't drink and drive
This shouldn't even need mentioning, but please don't drink and drive. Drinking even moderate amounts will slow your reaction time, and could cause confusion and will compound your left-side driving issues. Not only that, but the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service conduct aggressive DUI enforcement. If arrested, they will seize your passport until the resolution of the case. Just don't do it.
If possible, request a car with right-hand drive
Here in the Cayman Islands, there is no standard as to what side the steering wheel will be on. You may find cars with right-hand drive, and others will have left-hand drive. I personally found that driving from the right side of the vehicle can help serve as a constant reminder that things are opposite, and you need to stay on the left side of the road.
Fortunately, rental cars in the Cayman Islands have license plates that say "rental" on them. This lets the residents of Cayman recognize you as an out of towner and employ what's called 'Caymankind' - otherwise known as extreme courtesy and a wide berth.