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Why Drive On The Left?  
User currently offlineSwisskloten From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 2396 times:

British A.netters, I always wondered, how did your country wind up driving on the left? I've never found a satisfactory history about this custom. I did come across an old book that tried to explain it but I have trouble believing it since it sounds a bit silly. The book claims: Long ago, the coach drivers in Britain couldn't crack a whip sitting on the left side because almost all of them were right handed. Therefore, they switched to the left so they would be sitting on the right. This prevented the driver from hitting the whip on the seats.
Is this true? Sounds made up to me but again, I couldn't find anything to back this up.

Another "explanation" I found in another book: it was supposed to make it hard to shoot someone from a moving vehicle. The book claims most people are right handed. Therefore, they will risk damaging their car since they have to shoot across the passenger side if they want to hit someone standing on the sidewalk. This doesn't make sense. Just hire someone to "ride shotgun." Ironically, the term "to ride shotgun" refers back to stage coaches when it was so dangerous out in the countryside that coach drivers often hired an armed guard to sit on the left seat. Again, I don't believe this explanation either. If the killer was LEFT handed, he/she could just make a U-turn, pop a shot and take off. I don't see how driving on the left will stop drive-by shootings like the book claimed.

60 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineDavid L From United Kingdom, joined May 1999, 9533 posts, RR: 42
Reply 1, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 2380 times:

Quoting Swisskloten (Thread starter):
since they have to shoot across the passenger side if they want to hit someone standing on the sidewalk.

Whichever side you drive on, the driver is on the side furthest from the nearest pavement/sidewalk.

Why drive on the right?  Smile


User currently offlineAndz From South Africa, joined Feb 2004, 8458 posts, RR: 10
Reply 2, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 2372 times:
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Not just the UK but many countries drive on the left:

Anguilla
Antigua & Barbuda
Australia
Bahamas
Bangladesh
Barbados
Bermuda
Bhutan
Botswana
British Virgin Islands
Brunei
Cayman Islands
Channel Islands
Cyprus
Dominica
Eire-Ireland
Falkland Islands
Fiji
Grenada
Guyana
Hong Kong
India
Indonesia
Jamaica
Japan
Kenya
Lesotho
Macau
Malawi
Malaysia
Malta
Mauritius
Montserrat
Mozambique
Namibia
Nepal
New Zealand
Pakistan
Papua New Guinea
Seychelles
Singapore
Solomon Islands
South Africa
Sri Lanka
St Kitts & Nevis
St. Helena
St. Lucia
Surinam
Swaziland
Tanzania
Thailand
Tonga
Trinidad and Tobago
Turks and Caicos Islands
Uganda
US Virgin Islands
Zambia
Zimbabwe
St. Vincent & Grenadines



After Monday and Tuesday even the calendar says WTF...
User currently offlineSlamClick From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 10062 posts, RR: 68
Reply 3, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 2371 times:

The whip-cracking explanation sounds a lot more credible than the shooting-out-the-window one. Honestly, how often did that happen back in the teens and twenties? In fact, horseless carriages in both the UK and US might have had the driver position on either side, even on centerline or in the back seat. It did not standardize for a few years. I think one might argue that the steering wheel position was well-standardized before auto bodies were enclosed. Most of the early ones were open.

There were still a lot of wagons around town when I was a kid, though I only remember seeing ranchers use them occasionally. (trained draft horses were probably dying off by then) They all had the driver position on the right, and there was a footbrake for the rear wheels mounted on that side. I remember so many of the seats were rumpsprung and sagged on the right.

I don't think any nation saw the advent of the automobile as an opportunity to reinvent their traffic systems. They just adapted to existing conventions. Rather like "standard gauge" railroad being 5' 8.5" carrying over from axle widths used as far back as Roman times, being dictated by the width of a span of horses or oxen.



Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
User currently offline11Bravo From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 1722 posts, RR: 10
Reply 4, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 2366 times:

Quoting David L (Reply 1):
Why drive on the right?

...because the Brits drive on the left.

Signed,

Everyone Else



WhaleJets Rule!
User currently offlineAndz From South Africa, joined Feb 2004, 8458 posts, RR: 10
Reply 5, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 2363 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

One of the Scandinavian countries used to drive on the left and switched to the right in 1967 I think, don't remember which country though.


After Monday and Tuesday even the calendar says WTF...
User currently offlineWhiteHatter From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 6, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 2352 times:

The British drive on the left to enable the sword arm to be kept free.

Handy should you have the urge to joust in your Rover Metro. But if you are left handed then sorry....

There are also superstitious and religious reasons for it, as passing someone to the left is deemed to be insulting. One of which is that the left hand of God indicates where the damned should stand on Judgment Day.


User currently offlineDavid L From United Kingdom, joined May 1999, 9533 posts, RR: 42
Reply 7, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 2339 times:

Quoting 11Bravo (Reply 4):
...because the Brits drive on the left.

Signed,

Everyone Else

Having partaken in the ongoing September 11th discussion, I have learned a trick or two from certain fellow a.netters: everyone else is wrong!

As SlamClick says, it's just the way it happened and there's no point in changing it (although I'm sure the EU is working on it).


User currently offlineMidnightMike From United States of America, joined Mar 2003, 2892 posts, RR: 14
Reply 8, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 1 day ago) and read 2331 times:

Quoting David L (Reply 7):
As SlamClick says, it's just the way it happened and there's no point in changing it (although I'm sure the EU is working on it).

Don't worry, after you change from the Pound to the Euro, the EU will start to work you over so that you will change & drive on the right, if not, you will be considered an anti-EU country.  Smile



NO URLS in signature
User currently offlineBraybuddy From Nepal, joined Aug 2004, 5793 posts, RR: 32
Reply 9, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 1 day ago) and read 2313 times:

Quoting MidnightMike (Reply 8):
Don't worry, after you change from the Pound to the Euro, the EU will start to work you over so that you will change & drive on the right, if not, you will be considered an anti-EU country.

I know your reply is tongue-in-cheek, but funnily enough that's one thing the EU doesn't seem to be concerned about. I have never even heard a rumour (such as straight bananas) that the EU want us to change. It's too costly (all traffic lights and buses would need to be changed, among other things) and there would be huge resistance to it.


User currently offlineDavid L From United Kingdom, joined May 1999, 9533 posts, RR: 42
Reply 10, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 1 day ago) and read 2297 times:

Quoting Braybuddy (Reply 9):
funnily enough that's one thing the EU doesn't seem to be concerned about

I was taking the wotsit.  Smile

Quoting MidnightMike (Reply 8):
Don't worry, after you change from the Pound to the Euro, the EU will start to work you over so that you will change & drive on the right

If that happens, I shall be changing from the Pound to the Dollar, be it US or Australian. I will then be able to choose whether to drive on the left or right (not every day, obviously - I'd have to stick to the side appropriate to the country I chose).  Smile

Quoting MidnightMike (Reply 8):
if not, you will be considered an anti-EU country.

Who? Us? Never!  Smile


User currently offlineLjungdahl From Sweden, joined Apr 2002, 908 posts, RR: 36
Reply 11, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 1 day ago) and read 2295 times:

Quoting Andz (Reply 5):
One of the Scandinavian countries used to drive on the left and switched to the right in 1967 I think, don't remember which country though.

That's correct mate, Sweden is the country, and the switch took place on September 3rd, 1967.

 Smile
/Johan


User currently offlineSlamClick From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 10062 posts, RR: 68
Reply 12, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 1 day ago) and read 2290 times:

On a related note: All the TV programs I've watched about the digging of the Chunnel skipped right over the traffic issue. Where and how does one change from left to right or vice versa?

I guess it would be routine at the ferry landings, since all cars are leaving the ferry at once, then all cars board it, that would be the crossover point, but how about the Chunnel?



Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
User currently offlineAeroWesty From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 20782 posts, RR: 62
Reply 13, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 1 day ago) and read 2291 times:

Quoting Andz (Reply 5):
One of the Scandinavian countries used to drive on the left and switched to the right in 1967 I think, don't remember which country though.

It was Sweden, which interestingly enough, drove on the left with left-hand-drive cars.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rules_of_the_road#Sweden

This article also states that the reason driving on the left came about was because it was natural to hold a horse's head with the right hand and walk to its left.



International Homo of Mystery
User currently offlineBraybuddy From Nepal, joined Aug 2004, 5793 posts, RR: 32
Reply 14, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 1 day ago) and read 2288 times:

Quoting David L (Reply 10):
I was taking the wotsit.

No shit.

Actually Ireland WILL be changing from left to right, starting with buses in 2006, lorries 2007 and cars 2008.


User currently offlineLewis From Greece, joined Jul 1999, 3671 posts, RR: 5
Reply 15, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 1 day ago) and read 2280 times:

Quoting SlamClick (Reply 12):
On a related note: All the TV programs I've watched about the digging of the Chunnel skipped right over the traffic issue. Where and how does one change from left to right or vice versa?

When the cars leave the train, they go to the right lane. As far as I know only trains go through the channel tunnel and cars are loaded on train wagons for the trip across.


User currently offlineDavid L From United Kingdom, joined May 1999, 9533 posts, RR: 42
Reply 16, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 1 day ago) and read 2280 times:

Quoting Braybuddy (Reply 14):
No shit.

Fair enough. I just didn't expect the contradiction  Smile

Quoting Braybuddy (Reply 14):
Actually Ireland WILL be changing from left to right, starting with buses in 2006, lorries 2007 and cars 2008

NIce one  Smile. I'm sure Edinburgh's transport officials could come up with something like that - I'm not joking about that one.  Sad


User currently offlineOldeuropean From Germany, joined May 2005, 2091 posts, RR: 4
Reply 17, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 23 hours ago) and read 2250 times:

Quoting MidnightMike (Reply 8):
Don't worry, after you change from the Pound to the Euro, the EU will start to work you over so that you will change & drive on the right, if not, you will be considered an anti-EU country.



Quoting David L (Reply 7):
As SlamClick says, it's just the way it happened and there's no point in changing it (although I'm sure the EU is working on it).

Yeah, these evil EU countries.
I`ve heart they want to prohibit the English language!

Axel  Yeah sure



Wer nichts weiss muss alles glauben
User currently offlineDavid L From United Kingdom, joined May 1999, 9533 posts, RR: 42
Reply 18, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 22 hours ago) and read 2224 times:

Quoting Oldeuropean (Reply 17):
I`ve heart they want to prohibit the English language!

Axel   

Here we go again. I guess I should have added the biggest smiley I could find.   

Actually, now that I think about it, that "sarcastic" icon looks more like a "for goodness' sake" icon.

[Edited 2005-10-15 21:30:47]

User currently offlineNoelG From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 19, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 22 hours ago) and read 2198 times:

It's not us that are odd - it's everybody else who's the wrong way round!

You wouldn't believe how difficult it is crossing the road every time you go to a foreign country - you'd think I'd learn but I still end up looking the wrong way!  Smile

We went to Malaysia who drive on the left, and it was really wierd stepping off a 13 hour flight to find people still drive on the left!

Noel.


User currently offlineCaptaink From Mexico, joined May 2001, 5109 posts, RR: 12
Reply 20, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 21 hours ago) and read 2187 times:

Driving on the left with right hand drive vehicles are very handy when coming up onto a roundabout. The rule is give way to traffic on the right. If you have a left hand drive vehicle it is really difficult to see the traffic on the right. I don't think you guys have many roundabouts in the US do you?


There is something special about planes....
User currently offlineRobertNL070 From Netherlands, joined Sep 2003, 4533 posts, RR: 9
Reply 21, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 21 hours ago) and read 2183 times:

Quoting Captaink (Reply 20):
If you have a left hand drive vehicle it is really difficult to see the traffic on the right.

I regularly drive in the UK in my LHD Peugeot without any problems. Its just a question of being able to 'read' the road ahead, which every driver should be able to do whether driving on the 'wrong' side of the road or not.

Regards, Robert  bouncy 



Youth is a gift of nature. Age is a work of art.
User currently offlineDavid L From United Kingdom, joined May 1999, 9533 posts, RR: 42
Reply 22, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 20 hours ago) and read 2164 times:

Quoting Captaink (Reply 20):
If you have a left hand drive vehicle it is really difficult to see the traffic on the right. I don't think you guys have many roundabouts in the US do you?

There was a discussion about this in Tech/Ops (don't ask).
Aircraft Edge Of Wing Lights (by Jetset7E7 Jul 14 2005 in Tech Ops)

In countries where they drive on the right with left-hand drive cars, you still give way to traffic already on the roundabout, which travels anti-clockwise. There are/have been some exceptions which were discussed near the end of the thread.


User currently offlineHT From Germany, joined May 2005, 6525 posts, RR: 23
Reply 23, posted (9 years 1 month 1 week 1 hour ago) and read 2046 times:

Some years ago I my LHD-car to the U.K. by ferry. I didn´t have any problems driving it on the left side of the road. Since then I´ve logged 20.000+ km in England and Scotland using my own car as well as RHD-rental car with automatic and manual shifting. Those km´s have been on all kinds of roads: from motorways to single-track roads. From inside London to rural Scotland.

The only problem with a LHD-car in the U.K. in encountered: If you´re aöone in your car, it´s difficult to operate those machines located to the right of your car when entering/exiting a car park. Add to that: Toll booths. Most times I use the truck lane and get ot of my car  Smile
-HT



Carpe diem ! Life is too short to waste your time ! Keep in mind, that today is the first day of the rest of your life !
User currently offlineMdsh00 From United States of America, joined May 2004, 4128 posts, RR: 8
Reply 24, posted (9 years 1 month 6 days 23 hours ago) and read 2024 times:

Quoting Andz (Reply 2):
Not just the UK but many countries drive on the left:

And theres something very similar to many of those countries, being former colonies of Great Britain.



"Look Lois, the two symbols of the Republican Party: an elephant, and a big fat white guy who is threatened by change."
25 Post contains images Banco : Everyone "drove" on the left in the centuries before mechanised transport. It was Napoleon who made the change to driving on the right, and he enforce
26 Post contains images Swisskloten : Uh oh, is an English/French war going to erupt on this forum soon?
27 Post contains images Banco : Erupt? As in start? Where have you been for the last thousand years?
28 B707321C : To me it doesn't really matter. I recently moved to the UK and have gotten used to driving on the "wrong" side. What I can't get used to, is to drink
29 Geoffm : As somebody else pointed out, you can't drive through the tunnel. However, trains going through the tunnel use the left hand track - as indeed they d
30 Andz : While the discussion is deviating from roads to trains and other things, I always wondered why the signs on the escalators in the London Underground s
31 Post contains images Scbriml : We just do it to confuse and annoy foreigners!
32 777DadandJr : Curious that almost 70% of the list in reply 2, are islands, or island nations. Any correlation? Russ
33 Post contains images BigOrange : Not a clue why, but just a suggestion, the reason it's that way is the left side is the side that keeps moving, while the right side is static
34 Jush : Believe me mate i almost died when i lived in your country. But eventually i got used to it and now i can do it both. I see no problem. U drive left
35 Andz : Interesting observation, the link to the UK might be more plausible, although where Japan fits in is beyond me.
36 Post contains images PA110 :
37 Post contains images CVG777 : That made my day.
38 Braybuddy : It's the same as driving on the road: ie moving on the left. Pray tell?
39 Geoffm : Prices went up, plus the exchange rate went down (roughly 1.8 initially, down to 1.4 currently against the GBP). Geoff M.
40 Post contains images LTBEWR : Besides ex-UK empire countries, Japan is a RHD country. Probably due to the early imports of British RHD cars, later making British cars under license
41 Geoffm : More to the point, why did the US decide on the right 36 years after the British decided on the left? To be different? Geoff M.
42 Jush : Could you explain that. Have lived in the UK but i don't understand that.
43 Geoffm : He means "tell me more" or "tell me why". He's suggesting you might know something he doesn't, and therefore he'd like to know. Geoff M.
44 Braybuddy : Yes, Geoffm is right. I'm curious as to why you think the changeover to the euro didn't end up very good. Sorry for not making myself clearer to some
45 BHMBAGLOCK : British Navy maybe? The story I've heard regarding the reason for driving on the left is that when riding horses it allowed two travelers going in op
46 Geoffm : Ok, but the American Dollar went from 1.4 to 1.8 in the same timeframe - so the value of Sterling didn't go up against the dollar; it was only agains
47 B707321C : I don’t think anyone can say yet if the introduction of Euro has been successful or not. And you can’t tell from the currency movements. if the E
48 Braybuddy : You're probably right, but the exchange rate hasn't made any noticeable difference to the money in our pockets. If it did it was minisucle, and quite
49 Jush : Well the problem in Germany (and for example in the Netherlands as well) the exchange course from Deutschmark to Euro (or Gilds to Euro) meant that ev
50 Braybuddy : I'm amazed and you are the first person I've heard say this! Surely with the slow growth and high unemployment in Germany the last several years this
51 Geoffm : Well, actually I was under the impression Ireland (and virtually every other country that converted) suffered the same fate, to a more or lesser degr
52 Braybuddy : Oh sure, there was rounding up after a while, but to be honest most of it was harmless and less of an inconvenience. There was heavy advertising befo
53 Nighthawk : the reason the Uk drivesont he right stems back to medieval times. As most knights were right handed, they carried their swords to their left, allowin
54 Post contains images RobertNL070 : Remarkable. Regards, Robert
55 Jush : At least you can say it didn't help much in terms of employment and economic growth. Regards jush
56 Braybuddy : But the reasons for that are far more fundamental, going back to the takeover of the DDR and the crazy, but understandable, decision to give a 1 to 1
57 BHXFAOTIPYYC : ... and we drive in the shade ....
58 Runway23 : And a poupinette has told me that a poupinou often drives on the left when he is either: -phoning whilst driving -being flashed -Sleeping whilst driv
59 Amy : I get how that's funny, i'd just like to point out that the power of the EU has taken a huge hit recently due to refurrendums in various countriews (
60 Post contains images Banco : I think it was Barfbag a little while ago who made the splendid observation in a similar discussion that Indians actually drive on whichever side of
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