Every country has its own history and has chosen its tradition and culture on the basis of their ancient times only. Likewise, the decision to drive on which side of road has its roots in the past. Some countries have chosen the right lane to drive on while some has chosen the left side. As a matter of fact about two-third of the world’s traffic moves on the left-side of the road. But why some countries drive on the left, while others on the right? Why every country doesn’t drives on the same side of the road? Wasn’t that reduce complexities and make it easier for people who are moving to different country.
People still prefer to drive on the left-hand side of the road in most countries which were once British colonies such as India, Australia and Southern Africa as well as the Caribbean. An exception to this is Egypt, which before becoming a British colony was conquered by Napoleon. In Europe driving is done generally on the right hand side apart from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Malta and Cyprus. In fact, Guyana is the only country in South America that drives on the left. Some of the countries that drive on the right hand side include the USA, China and Russia. Earlier Canada drives on the left, but in order to make border crossings with the United States more convenient, it changed to the right-hand side. Let’s look into different reasons that constituted towards choosing a lane by different countries to drive onto.
Britons prefer to keep on left:-
In the past, people generally preferred to travel on the left hand side of the road because most people are right-handed, so swordsmen in order to keep their right hand nearer to opponents preferred to walk on the left side of the road. By walking on the left hand side they can keep their case further from other people. Riding on the left-hand side of the road allow them to keep their right arm free to offer greetings to passersby or to draw their sword.
Americans and French move on right-side:-
In late 1700, teamsters in USA and France started using wagons pulled by team of horses in order to transport farm goods. These wagons had no seats, so teamsters used to sit on the left hand horse and keep their right-hand free for whipping the other horses. Since they sat on the left horse they wanted people to pass on the left side only, so that they could avoid collision of the passing wagon’s wheels. Hence, they kept to the right side of the road.
The Napoleon said so:-
Some belief that a reason French has chosen to move on the right-hand side of the road was due to Napoleon. As Napoleon Bonaparte was a left hander, he made his army to march on the right hand side of the road, so that he can keep his left arm free to attack. Eventually, as Napoleon went on to conquer much of Europe, this was adopted and spread to various countries that were acquired by Napoleon. The nations that opposed Napoleon such as Britain, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Portugal, kept to the left-hand side of the roads.
Another belief that contributed towards choosing the lane is that Ancient Romans using chariots used to whip with their left and hold rein with their right hand. In order to avoid whipping the oncoming traffic, they prefer to move on the left-hand side of the road. Plus it’s also easier for right-handers to mount a horse from the left, and it would be very difficult to do otherwise if carrying a sword. Hence, left hand side was chosen to drive on.
Japan drives on the left:-
Japan was never acquired by British Empire, but still its traffic moves on the left-hand side of the road. The reason of this goes back to the Edo period (1603-1868). It was the time when the country was ruled by Samurai. But it was in 1872 that the rule became official. In that year only, Japan introduced its first railway. The country was aided by America, France and Britain for building a railway system. But the contribution of Britain was more in comparison to other countries. From there, a massive railways network was spread and all of which were on the left hand side.
Around 34% of the world’s population drives on the left-hand side of the road, whereas 66% keeps it to the right hand side. Every country has its fundamental rule of road to keep vehicles on either left or right side to prevent vehicles coming from opposite directions from colliding with each other. Though not necessary, but it can be concluded that countries that were under British and its influence kept left, while those under French and US influence kept right.
Below is the list of Left-Driving Countries:-
The below listed countries drive on the left hand side of the road. However, most of the vehicles in these countries have steering on the right-hand side.
Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Bermuda, Bhutan, Botswana, Brunei, Cayman Islands, Christmas Island (Australia), Cook, Islands, Cyprus, Dominica East, Timor Falkland, Islands Fiji, Grenada, Guernsey (Channel Islands), Guyana, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Isle of Man, Jamaica Japan, Jersey, (Channel Islands), Kenya, Kiribati, Cocos (Keeling), Islands (Australia), Lesotho, Macau, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Montserrat, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru Nepal New, Zealand, Niue, Norfolk, Island (Australia), Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn Islands(Britain), Saint Helena
,Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Seychelles, Singapore Solomon, Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Swaziland
,Tanzania, Thailand, Tokelau (New Zealand), Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Kingdom(England Wales Scotland and Northern Ireland), Virgin Islands (British), Virgin,Islands (US), Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Below is the list of Right-Driving Countries:-
The below listed countries drive on the right hand side of the road. However, most of the vehicles in these countries have steering on the left-hand side.
Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, American Samoa, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, British Indian Ocean Territory (Diego García), Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape, Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China People’s Republic of (Mainland China), Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Congo (former Republic of Zaire), Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Faroe Islands (Denmark), Finland, France, French Guiana, French Polynesia, Gabon, Gambia, Gaza Strip, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Gibraltar, Greece, Greenland, Guadeloupe (French West Indies), Guam, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Korea Democratic People’s Republic of (North Korea), Korea Republic of (South Korea), Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Madagascar, Mali, Marshall Islands, Martinique (French West Indies), Mauritania, Mayotte (France), Mexico, Micronesia Federated States of, Midway Islands (USA), Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles (Curaçao St. Maarten St. Eustatius Saba), New Caledonia, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Northern Mariana Islands, Norway, Oman, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Réunion, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Saint Barthélemy (French West Indies), Saint Martin French West Indies), Saint Pierre and Miquelon (France), Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome e Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia and Montenegro, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, Spain, Sudan, Svalbard (Norway), Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, Wake Island (USA), Wallis and Futuna Islands (France), West Bank, Western Sahara, Yemen.