Facts About Why We Drive On The Left Hand Side

7 Insane (But True) Facts About Why We Drive on the Left Hand Side

7 Insane (But True) Facts About Why We Drive on the Left Hand Side

Have you wondered why most of the world drives on the right and the other on the left? Why can’t the world decide to drive on one common side?

Cars came into picture in the last century, not before that. Yet as the world was trying to unify itself, it couldn’t decide on a common side to drive on. In this article let us look at this scenario in a historic point of view. There are some really wow and never-thought-of before facts that pop up and answer the question- why some part of the world decided to ‘keep left.’

1. It all Started because People were Right Handed

Way back in history, majority of the people were right handed. This meant that getting on a horse was easier done from the left hand side, holding the reigns of a horse in one hand and fighting a duel with the other was more convenient from the left side (provided your head was still on your shoulders) and greeting a friend coming from the opposite side without having to twist your body was better done from the left side. Owing to a large variety of reasons, humans generally preferred the left hand side to travel. Yet they never thought of making it a rule. A rule came a few centuries later, there was however a facsimile predecessor in the 1300s.

Facts About Why We Drive On The Left Hand Side
Left hand side traffic in Vienna, Austria in the 1930s

2. Compulsory Left for Pilgrims

Pope Boniface VIII at the turn of the 14th century wanted his followers to stick to a road pattern. In 1300 he made it compulsory for all pilgrims visiting Rome to keep left whilst on their journey. Since it was the Pope’s orders, people followed them. Although in 2017, Vatican City drives on the right hand side. Disobeying the Pope’s orders, huh?

Facts About Why We Drive On The Left Hand Side
Pope Boniface VIII made it compulsory for pilgrims to travel on the left
Attribute- Sailko [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

3. Roads were Dangerous

In ancient times, roads often ran through dense jungles. They were secluded and lonely with almost no travellers. This gave burglars a free reign to hold a stray traveller ransom. Travelling via road on horseback or carriage often required the traveler to be armed and alert. Most of them tied a sword with a scabbard to their waist. Since most people back then were right handed they would tie their sword to the left. This would make it quickly accessible in case on a sudden attack. To keep the right hand free in case of an attack and duel if necessary, horse riders rode on the left.

Facts About Why We Drive On The Left Hand Side
Turkish Troops, April 1917

4. Romans Loved their Left Hand Side

Romans designed special roads which made it imperative for travellers to stick to the left. It was also a safety measure to keep the whip from hitting another carriage. Most roman carriages were big. Driving on the left helped the driver to use his right hand for whipping the horses. And of course most drivers were right handed giving them more control over the whip. Driving on the left side would have caused a huge inconvenience. Image losing control over the whip and seeing it fly straight on the opposite drivers startled face!

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5. Left Hand Driving was made Legal during the British Raj

The British preferred the left hand side just like their predecessors, the Romans. Britain had narrow roads. Horse drawn wagons were small and the driver would often sit on a bench behind the horses but would keep left. In the cities like London a lot of traffic congestions due to lack of uniformity between travellers lead Britain to pass a law. According to it, travellers especially on the bridges across the Thames in London had to keep left. Left hand side driving was made compulsory across Britain in 1835. Needless to say, at that point in time Britain was expanding its empire worldwide. This law was applied to all British colonies. Thats the reason why India, New Zealand, Australia and some countries in Africa still drive on the left hand side.

Facts About Why We Drive On The Left Hand Side

 

6. Today Only 35% of the World Drives on the Left

Even though a highly populated country like India drives on the left, hardly any other nation prefers this side. Statistics say that out of the 190 countries recognised by the United Nations, a mere 54 of them follow the left hand drive rule. Major countries like the USA, Russia and China have all adopted to the right whereas Britain stays true to the left.

Facts About Why We Drive On The Left Hand Side
Red stands for right hand traffic and blue stands for left hand traffic

7. Oye, Its Safer!

A study done in 1969 by J.J. Leeming concurred that countries where traffic runs on the left hand side have lesser accidents than the ones running on the right. Right side isn’t always right! This might be because driving on the left gives the driver full control over the steering wheel of the car and a good view of curbs and buildings to the right. Changing gears also becomes easy while driving.

Facts About Why We Drive On The Left Hand Side
Sweden changing over to the right side on 3rd September, 1967

On which side do you drive in your country? Comment below and let me know.

Do you know any interesting facts about driving? Comment below to expand this article.

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Post Author: Shanaya Wagh

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