Have you ever thought about why some countries drive on the left side of the road while others drive on the right? The answer is tied to history, culture, and even a bit of science.
Driving on the left in a horse carriage? Fight with your right hand!
Way back in the day when people rode horses and carriages, it was common to keep to the left side of the road. This was because most people were right-handed, and it was easier for them to defend themselves with a weapon if they needed to.
When cars were introduced in the late 19th century, people continued to drive on the left side of the road. However, with the advent of faster and more dangerous gasoline-powered cars, many countries switched to driving on the right.
This switch was especially prevalent in countries that were part of the British Empire and achieved independence. The British themselves drove on the left. They still continue to do so.
Some continued on the left?
Yes. Ireland, Malta, and India used to be part of the British Empire but still drive on the left. This is because of older driving habits, the cost and inconvenience of switching, and the difficulty of retraining drivers.
Now, why did some countries switch to driving on the right?
There are several reasons, such as historical events like the French Revolution, where France switched to driving on the right in 1792 to align with revolutionary ideals.
In Sweden, the switch to driving on the right in 1967 was driven by the increasing number of cars imported from countries that drove on the right and the need for better road safety. In other countries, the switch was influenced by colonial powers and trade and military alliances.
Is driving on the right actually safer?
The idea that driving on the right is safer is based on the assumption that most people are right-handed, and it is easier and more natural for them to control a vehicle on the right side of the road. Driving on the right also allows drivers to see oncoming traffic more clearly and reduces the risk of head-on collisions.
Studies have been conducted to look into the relationship between the side of the road on which a country drives and its road safety record. The World Health Organization found that countries that drive on the right side of the road have lower road traffic fatalities compared to those that drive on the left. Another study by the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute found that switching from left to right-hand driving could reduce road traffic accidents by up to 40%.
No, we can’t be sure. The side of the road on which a country drives is just one of many factors that can impact road safety. Other factors like road infrastructure, traffic laws, and driver behavior can also play a big role.
The tradition of driving on the left or the right is largely historical and reflects the influence of early driving practices, imperial powers, and a bit of science. But, whether driving on the right is safer than driving on the left is still up for debate!