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Friday, April 06, 2007 Bookmark Now! | Email to a friend  

Why do some countries drive on the right side of the road and others the left?

A vacation to Great Britain involves good theater, interesting "food," and at least one heart attack due to the whole "driving on the wrong side of the road" thing. So, why do Great Britain, Japan, India, and many others drive on one side when most countries do the opposite? Read on for an abbreviated explanation...
We say "abbreviated" because the actual history of this phenomenon is long enough to fill a graduate thesis. According to this page on World Standards, nearly all societies used to travel on the left side of the road. This made sense because life was a lot more violent back then. "Since most people are right-handed, swordsmen preferred to keep to the left in order to have their right arm nearer to an opponent." Again, there are others reasons (including the different types of animal-drawn wagons ), but near as we can tell, this is the main one.

As for why the United States and other countries drive on the other side of the road, perhaps we should blame Napoleon. France always drove on the right side of the road and as Napoleon conquered Europe, he allegedly "required the countries he conquered to conform to French practice." Kind of a jerky thing to do, but there ya have it.

Today, many folks still drive on the left. According to World Standards, 34% of people drive on the left hand side of the road. And that means you should always follow your mother's advice and look both ways.

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