Do you know that 35% of the population of the world drives on the left? Most of the countries that drive on the left are the old British colonies. In the old days, people used to travel on the left side of the road because they lived in the feudal violent societies. As most people are generally right-handed, the swordsmen used to keep to the left for having their right arm nearer to the opponent. It further reduced the chance of hitting other people. Read to below to find out what countries drive on the left and right as per history.
At the end of the 17th century, teamsters in the United States and France started hauling farm products in wagons pulled by horses. There wasn’t any driver’s seat in these wagons, the driver simply used to sit on the left rear horse to make sure his right arm was to lash the team.
Most of the traffic in Russia used to pass on the right. However, it was in 1752 when Empress Elizabeth passed the law to keep the traffic on the right. If you are wondering why most countries in Europe had right-hand travel in the 70s, then it was because of the French Revolution. When Napoleon conquered the region, keeping traffic to the right was spread in Switzerland, Spain, Poland, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. On the other hand, the states that were against Napoleon kept to the left. These included the Austro Hungarian Empire, Britain and Portugal. Europe was divided between left and right for more than 100 years until after the World War I.
Driving on a certain side of the road was just part of the custom. The roads were not paved, there were no traffic rules and the number of travelers was limited. When more and more people started driving, uniformity became a necessity. Henry Ford was one of the biggest influencers of directions while driving. He designed the Model T keeping driver to the left.
Over the years, the trend of driving to the right was common among nations. When road building and travel expanded in the 80s, each country had traffic regulations by then. Britain however, made left-hand driving mandatory. The countries that were a part of the British Empire such as India, Australia and some British colonies in Africa follow the left driving rule. Egypt, on the other hand, follows right driving as it was conquered by Napoleon before coming under British Rule.
Japan also falls in the list of the left hand drive countries although it was never ruled by the British. This is because of the Edo Period but the rule wasn’t official at that time. In 1872, the left-hand driving rule was made official. It was the same year when the first railway in the country was introduced by getting technical aid from British. Surprisingly, it was in 1924, when this driving rule was clearly mentioned in the law.
In 1596, when the Dutch moved to Indonesia, they brought the habit of left diving along with them. But when Napoleon conquered the Netherlands, the Dutch started following the right driving rule.
When there was English colonization in North America, the colonies used to drive on the left. When North America got independent, they cast off all their links with the British and switched to right-hand driving. The very first law in the United States to keep to the right was passed in 1792 in Pennsylvania. There were some regions in Canada that used to drive on the left but this changed after the World War II. The territory which was controlled by the French used to drive on the right whereas the territory that was controlled by the English kept to the left. Later on in the 1920s, the provinces of The Atlantic and British Columbia switched to right-hand driving for conforming to the rest of Canada.
Eventually, countries in the Europe started driving on the right too. Italy started driving on the right in the late 80s. American cars were designed to be driven on the right by keeping the controls on the left side of the vehicle. Pakistan considered changing to right-hand driving in the 1960s but it didn’t change the rule. It was mainly because the camel train used to drive through the night and drivers used to dozing at that time. Also, it was hard to teach camels new tricks so the rule remained unchanged.
There are about 50 countries that still dive on the left. Why? Most of them are stubborn. But some have genuine reasons. For example, London was designed to accommodate left-hand driving so switching to the right is not that simple. Furthermore, it is complex and expensive to change the rules of the road.
Here is the list of Right Hand Drive Countries and Left Hand Drive Countries:
|Sr. #||Right Hand Drive Countries||Left Hand Drive Countries|
|8||Central republic Africa||New Zealand|
|12||Dominican republic||The United Kingdom|
|13||Dubai||Isle of Man|
|16||France||The Caribbean Islands|
|26||United States of America||South Africa|
Facts about Right-Hand and Left-Hand Driving
- In order to prevent sea collision, international regulations were introduced to keep all the water traffic to the right when sea crafts pass even though they are going in an opposite direction. The steering oar for ships was historically designed to be on the boat’s right side. So, when crafts pass each other, on keeping to the left, their oars won’t collide.
- Even though America followed the keep-right rule, many early vehicles were designed with the steering wheel on the right-hand side of the vehicle. It was put to an end when Henry Ford introduced his cars keeping the steering wheel to the left. As Ford cars became highly popular in the country, all new cars that were later designed had their steering wheels to the left.
- As per a research conducted in 1969, the countries that keep left have lower collision rather than the countries that keep right. It is because most of the people use their right eye as their dominant eye.
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