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Left- & right-driving countries!

Közzétéve ekkor: 2019. június 19. 07:01



This world map shows which side of the road traffic drives on. Green coloured countries drive on the right, orange countries drive on the left. As you can see, most former British colonies, with some exceptions, drive on the left side of the road, whereas the United States of America, Latin American countries and European countries drive on the right. Almost always, in countries where one drives on the right-hand side of the road, the cars are built so that the driver sits on the left-hand side of the car.

About a 35% of the world populationDrives on the left, and the countries that do are mostly old British colonies. This strange quirk perplexes the rest of the world, but there is a perfectly good reason. In the past, almost everybody travelled on the left side of the road because that was the most sensible option for feudal, violent societies.

Why do we drive on the left in Great Britain?

In fact everybody from all over the world used to travel on the left side of the road until the end of the 18th century. The reason makes perfect sense. During that time, people travelled on horseback and when they passed a stranger coming the opposite direction, they wanted the other person to pass them on the side of their right arm so that they could defend themselves properly with their sword! Since most people are right-handed, swordsmen preferred to keep to the left in order to have their right arm nearer to an opponent and their scabbard further from him. Moreover, it reduced the chance of the scabbard (worn on the left) hitting other people.

Other countries changed after the French revolution because Napoleon was left-handed and he wanted to approach his enemies from the opposite side. From that time, countries who were colonised by the French drove on the right and countries who were colonised by the British chose to drive on the left. Since the USA was partly colonised by the French, Spanish and Portugese (who all drove on the right) and only partly colonised by the British, the USA decided to drive on the right. Once the USA had decided to drive on the right, most other countries followed.

The trend among nations over the years has been toward driving on the right, but Britain has done its best to stave off global homogenisation. With the expansion of travel and road building in the 1800s, traffic regulations were made in every country. Left-hand driving was made mandatory in Britain in 1835. Countries which were part of the British Empire followed suit. This is why to this very day, India, Australasia and the former British colonies in Africa go left. An exception to the rule, however, is Egypt, which had been conquered by Napoleon before becoming a British dependency.

Japan was never part of the British Empire, but its traffic also goes to the left. Although the origin of this habit goes back to the Edo period (1603-1868), it wasn’t until 1872 that this unwritten rule became more or less official. That was the year when Japan’s first railway was introduced, built with technical aid from the British. Gradually, a massive network of railways and tram tracks was built, and of course all trains and trams drove on the left-hand side. Still, it took another half century till in 1924 left-side driving was clearly written in a law.

Driving on the left!

The biggest shock for foreigners driving in England or Britain is driving on the left side of the road. Everything is reversed when compared to driving on the right side of the road. When you want to overtake, you overtake by the right, when you go around a roundabout, you go around in a clockwise direction. You must take extra care when you want to turn right because you will be crossing another lane of traffic.

It is easy to remember to drive on the left side of the road when there is lots of other traffic because you can simply follow the other cars in front of you but it is a lot harder to remember when you are on an empty road and perhaps feeling a little tired. Also, in London, there are signs on the roads for pedestrians to remind them to look to the right for cars!


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