English for Drivers

“One thing a lot of people don’t know about me is that I’m a driver… I love driving… I’m driven. I’m open and ready to go to the next place, the next level, the next height.”

Alicia  Keys, an American  singer-songwriter, pianist, music producer, philanthropist and actress

Many people can’t imagine their life without driving. And even more people can’t imagine their life without cars, for even if you don’t have a driver’s license / driving licence (British English), you are still a passenger at least occasionally. Cars are always around us and that’s why it’s important for everyone to know essential car and driving vocabulary. Now, let’s start with a few traffic/road signs.

ROAD/TRAFFIC SIGNS

Screen Shot 2018-08-08 at 15.02.591. 50 mph speed limit = you must not travel faster than 50 miles per hour (about 80 kph/kilometers per hour).

2. No through road (British English)  / dead end – a road that is closed at one end to vehicles  /ˈviːɪk(ə)lz/ (cars, buses, trucks, lorries (British English)).

3. Crossroads (plural: crossroads) – a place where 2 roads cross each other.

4. The road bends to the right. You may also see a sign where the road bends to the left. Bend – noun: The crash occurred on a sharp bend. 

5. No overtaking (British English) / No passing = you must not pass another vehicle that is traveling in the same direction. To overtake / to pass – verbs: That’s a dangerous place to overtake. This is a no passing zone. 

6. Give way to oncoming vehicles – cars, buses etc. coming in the opposite direction are allowed to enter this part of the road before you do; they have priority, and you must give way to them.

7. Pedestrian/zebra crossing (British English) / crosswalk – a part of the road where vehicles must stop and allow pedestrians to cross.

8. Roundabout (British English) / traffic circle – a circular structure in the road at a place where several roads meet. You drive round it until you come to the road that you want.

9. Slippery road – a road which is difficult to move on, usually because it is wet or icy.

ON THE ROAD vs. IN THE ROAD

Consider these 2 sentences:

  • He hope to get a new car and go back on the road.
  • Don’t let children play in the road

If you are on the road, you are traveling (especially as a salesman), you are on tour or leading a wandering life. If you say that someone is on the road to something, you mean that they are likely to achieve it: That will help us test our progress on the road to global solidarity.

“In the road” is more specific than “on the road”. If you say that children can’t play in the road, you mean they can’t do it right in the middle of the road because it’s dangerous.

CARS

Screen Shot 2018-08-09 at 9.04.11

A manual car is a car with a manual/standard transmission / manual gearbox. An automatic car is a car with an automatic/self-shifting transmission.

  1. Rear-view mirror: She saw the reflection of a pair of headlamps/headlights in the rearview mirror.
  2. Windscreen (British English) / windshield: I think I need to replace my old windscreen wipers
  3. Wing/side view/side mirror: I need to understand how to adjust my wing mirrors properly.
  4. Dashboard: When something goes wrong with your car or if a feature you should know about gets activated, a signal funnels through the electrical system and into the dashboard.
  5. Satnav (= satellite navigation) / GPS (= Global Positioning System): I don’t know how to navigate without GPS.
  6. (Steering) wheel: When you are behind the wheel, stay focused on the road. 
  7. Horn: Someone has sounded the car horn. 
  8. Gear lever/gear stick (British English) / gearshift: She let go of the gearshift, turned off the motor, and opened the door.
  9. Clutch: Put your foot on the clutch in order to change gear
  10. Brake: The driver suddenly put on his brakes.
  11. Accelerator: I accelerated to overtake the bus.
  12. Seat belt: The fact I was wearing a seat belt saved my life.