Why are we driving on the wrong side of the road?

     

The terms right-hand traffic (RHT) and left-hand traffic (LHT) refer to the practice, in bidirectional traffic, to keep to the right side or to the left side of the road, respectively. This is so fundamental to traffic flow that it is sometimes referred to as the rule of the road.

About a 35% of the world population drives 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.

Historically, before the creation of the automobile, people mostly rode on the left-hand side, since most people were right-handed and would whip their horses with their left hands. On top of that, warriors in battle could also use their right hand to hold and control their weapon.

Ben Collins, better known as The Stig from BBC’s internationally acclaimed Top Gear TV Show, brilliantly explains how people switched to the right-hand traffic and why it’s wrong.

The vast majority of humans are right-handed and right-eye dominant; by hanging left, they could most easily identify and wield a weapon against any oncoming threat.

” The Romans were a clever bunch; they built straight roads across their burgeoning empire, from the Appian Way in Italy to the trunk roads that still connect Great Britain. With reins in their left hand and f whip in their right, Roman riders were as ergonomically sound as modern-day right-seated drivers whose dominant right hand never leaves the steering wheel. The entire world followed the logic — until the French got involved. I blame Napoleon.” 

In 1794, France passed the first right-hand driving laws, and this law would spread with Napolean’s conquests.

LHT
RHT

 

 

 

 

 

Teamsters in France and the United States began hauling farm products in big wagons pulled by several pairs of horses. These wagons had no driver’s seat; instead the driver sat on the left rear horse, so he could keep his right arm free to lash the team. Since he was sitting on the left, he naturally wanted everybody to pass on the left so he could look down and make sure he kept clear of the oncoming wagon’s wheels. Therefore he kept to the right side of the road.

So today, two-thirds of the world’s population drives on the wrong side of the road, using the weaker left eye to check the left side mirror and pass other cars, all because of a little Frenchman and a disagreement over some tea in Boston. Britain, India, Australia, and Japan remain notable exceptions to the global decline in common sense.


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