Most of the world drives on the right. But why do some countries drive on the left?
Driving isn’t something we give much thought, especially in a world of automation.
Essentially, it’s a way for us to get from Point A to Point B in a quick and efficient manner.
So that leads me to just one question:
Have you ever wondered why some countries drive on the left side of the road, while others drive on the right?
Let’s start with a history lesson.
In the past, almost everybody traveled on the left side of the road or path. I say ‘traveled’ instead of ‘drove’ because this didn’t necessarily involve just cars or any kind of moving vehicle.
Traveling on the left side was essentially a more convenient choice for most people, considering the fact that the majority of people in society are right-handed.
But what does right-handedness have to do with anything? A lot, apparently.
You see, back in the day – and I mean way, way back in the day – people lived in feudal societies and were more prone to violence when resolving even the most mundane of issues.
This resulted with a ton of fights between strangers, families, and clans.
You can look as far back as the Roman Empire to see unwritten, unspoken rules about engaging in combat. Roman gladiators would often travel on the left because they would use their right hands to wield their weapons when facing an adversary.
Their left hands were used to steer their chariots or carts.
For those that rode on horseback, it was a lot easier to mount their noble steeds from the left. It was also easier to dismount on the left side of the horse. This meant they would also ride their horses on the left side of the road, since it would be safer to do so away from the middle of the road.
Up until the 18th century, most countries were still driving on the left. But things started to change.
People in France and the U.S. started using horse-drawn wagons to carry large hauls of farming products around.
Each wagon would usually be pulled by several pairs of horses. But since there was no real driver’s seat, farmers would often sit on the rear-left horse so they could keep their right arms free to lash the rest of the team. Poor horses.
Since the ‘driver’ would be sitting on the left, he also made it a point to insist on other wagons to pass on his left. This was more convenient when it came to keeping an eye on the large wagon wheels of other passing farmers, making it easier to prevent unnecessary bumps and other damage associated with accidents.
French Emperor Napolean Bonaparte was also left-handed, which meant he preferred to mount his horse from the right. This trickled down into France’s colonies as well, further spreading the ‘right is right’ movement.
Despite a global shift to the right, Britain held onto its love for the left.
Naturally, this also trickled down to the British colonies at the time. That’s why places like Malaysia, India, Singapore, Brunei, and Australia still drive on the left to this day.
Even when the Dutch arrived in Indonesia in 1596, they brought along their left-side driving with them and incorporated it into Indonesian culture. But as soon as the French invaded the Netherlands, the Dutch shifted to the right.
However, their colonies, including Indonesia and Suriname, remained on the left.
But that’s not to say that all colonies stuck to the left. Canada, for instance, originally decided to continue driving on the left since part of the country was a British colony. But French-controlled Quebec naturally gravitated towards driving on the right.
It was only shortly after World War II that Canada decided to completely change their official rule of the road and switch to driving on the right. This was done so it would be easier for British-controlled parts of the country to fit in with the rest of Canada, as well as the United States.
The map below illustrates the countries that drive on the left (orange) and the ones that drive on the right (green):
As you can see, most of the world has switched to driving on the right. If your home country drives on the left, you’re the minority. That small minority only makes up about 35 percent of the world.
Which side of the road do you prefer driving on?
— Source: Danial Martinus / sea.mashable.com