Why Don't We All Drive on the Same Side of the Road?

Yesterday, the residents of Samoa began driving on the left side of the road instead of the right. This is the first major switch since the 1970s, when Ghana, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone made the change. Randy James of Time magazine has an article exploring how different nations came to use different sides of the road:

Theories differ, but there's no doubt Napoleon was a major influence. The French have used the right since at least the late 18th century (there's evidence of a Parisian "keep-right" law dating to 1794). Some say that before the French Revolution, aristocrats drove their carriages on the left, forcing the peasantry to the right. Amid the upheaval, fearful aristocrats sought to blend in with the proletariat by traveling on the right as well. Regardless of the origin, Napoleon brought right-hand traffic to the nations he conquered, including Russia, Switzerland and Germany. Hitler, in turn, ordered right-hand traffic in Czechoslovakia and Austria in the 1930s. Nations that escaped right-handed conquest, like Great Britain, preserved their left-handed tradition.

Link via Outside the Beltway

Image by flickr user multitrack used under creative commons license.

Newest 5
Newest 5 Comments

After a visit to Malaysia and sitting in a passenger seat of a car that is my usual driving seat I became disoriented when I arrived back in the States. Luckily a friend drove me most of the way home from the airport, because when I got in to drive I almost immediately veered to the left lane to drive. I still don't know what influenced that country to drive in the left lane, but after observing the numerous roudabouts and the number of bikes on the road, the Malaysians seem to have it under control.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I heard it was because of back in the days of yore....when people traveled by horse around the countryside, they would pass on the left so that they could easily draw their swords and defend themselves from attack. The reason the WEST never did this was because by that time, it really wasn't about swords as much as guns by that time and since most are right handed you would want to pass on the right and draw your gun across your body.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
2 billion people drive on the Left side,mostly due to India [and former British colonies]
Rest of the 4+ billion on the right.
I think we should just ride on the right in exchange for the 2 remaining Countries [including the US] to switch to Metric system.
How about it,hey? :)
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Login to comment.

Email This Post to a Friend
"Why Don't We All Drive on the Same Side of the Road?"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More