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     countries with right-hand traffic     countries with left-hand traffic

The terms right-hand traffic and left-hand traffic refer to regulations requiring all bidirectional traffic to keep either to the right or the left side of the road, respectively.[1] This is so fundamental to traffic flow that it is sometimes referred to as the rule of the road.[2] This basic rule eases traffic flow and reduces the risk of head-on collisions. Though originally most traffic drove on the left worldwide,[3] today about 66% of the world's people live in right-hand traffic countries and 34% in left-hand traffic countries. About 72% of the world's total road distance carries traffic on the right, and 28% on the left.[4]

Contents

Terminology

Universally (following a treaty; see below) each country specifies a uniform road traffic flow: left-hand traffic (LHT) in which traffic keeps to the left side of the road, or right-hand traffic (RHT) in which traffic keeps to the right.[5][6][7]

Vehicles are manufactured in left-hand drive (LHD) and right-hand drive (RHD) configurations, referring to the placement of the driving seat and controls within the vehicle.[8][9][10] Typically, the placement of the steering wheel is opposite to the rule of the road: LHT countries use RHD vehicles, and RHT countries use LHD vehicles. This is so that the driver's line of sight is as long as possible down the road past leading vehicles, an important consideration for overtaking (passing) manœuvres. However, there are LHT countries where most vehicles are LHD (see Caribbean islands and Sweden below)—and there are some countries with RHT and mostly RHD vehicles (see Afghanistan, Burma (Myanmar), and Russia below). Many countries permit both types of vehicles on their roads. Terminological confusion can arise from the misuse of left-hand drive or right-hand drive to indicate the side of the road along which vehicles are driven.

The terms nearside and offside are equestrian terms meaning left and right respectively, and are used both in LHT countries (e.g., the United Kingdom) and RHT countries (e.g., Denmark). The terms are often used in the British vehicle maintenance industry to mean the left and right hand side of a motor vehicle, but are commonly misunderstood to mean specifically kerbside and non-kerbside.[11] For example in Denmark, the offside is the kerbside.

Road traffic

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Uniformity

Map of the world showing the driving directions for all countries and any changes that have occurred, beginning with Finland's change in 1858
     drive on right      drove on left, now drive on right      drive on left      drove on right, now drive on left      had different rules of the road within borders, now drive on right

Signatory countries to the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic (1949)[12] have agreed to a uniform direction of traffic in each country. Article 9(1) provides that:

All vehicular traffic proceeding in the same direction on any road shall keep to the same side of the road, which shall be uniform in each country for all roads. Domestic regulations concerning one-way traffic shall not be affected.

In the past, there were several countries which had different rules in different parts of the country (e.g., Canada until the 1920s). Currently, China is the only country for which this is the case, as the bulk of it drives on the right, while the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau drive on the left.

Left-hand traffic

Left-hand traffic.svg

A sign on Australia's Great Ocean Road reminding foreign motorists to keep left.
  • All traffic is generally required to keep left unless overtaking.
  • Oncoming traffic is seen coming from the right.
  • Right-turning traffic must cross oncoming traffic.
  • Most traffic signs facing motorists are on the left side of the road.
  • Traffic on roundabouts (traffic circles or rotaries) goes clockwise.
  • Pedestrians crossing a two-way road look first for traffic from their right.
  • The lane designated for normal driving and turning left is on the left
  • Most dual carriageway (divided highway) exits are on the left
  • Other vehicles are overtaken (passed) on the right, though in some circumstances overtaking on the left is permitted.
  • Most vehicles have the driving seat on the right.
  • A left turn at a red light may be allowed after stopping.
  • On roads without a footpath pedestrians may be advised to walk on the right.

Right-hand traffic

Right-hand traffic.svg

  • All traffic is generally required to keep right unless overtaking.
  • Oncoming traffic is seen coming from the left.
  • Left-turning traffic must cross oncoming traffic.
  • Most traffic signs facing motorists are on the right side of the road.
  • Traffic on roundabouts (traffic circles or rotaries) goes anticlockwise.
  • Pedestrians crossing a two-way road look first for traffic from their left.
  • The lane designated for normal driving and turning right is on the right.
  • Most dual carriageway (divided highway) exits are on the right
  • Other vehicles are generally overtaken (passed) on the left, though in some circumstances overtaking on the right is permitted.
  • Most vehicles have the driving seat on the left.
  • A right turn at a red light may be allowed after stopping.
  • On roads without a footpath pedestrians may be advised to walk on the left.

Jurisdictions with left-hand traffic

Total: 76 countries, territories and dependencies

Today road traffic in the following seven European jurisdictions drives on the left: Cyprus, Guernsey, Ireland, Isle of Man, Jersey, Malta and the United Kingdom. None shares a land border with a country that drives on the right and all were once part of the British Empire. Some Commonwealth countries and other former British colonies, such as Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and South Africa drive on the left, but others such as Canada, Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and the United States drive on the right. Other countries that drive on the left in Asia are Thailand, Indonesia, Bhutan, Nepal, East Timor and Japan. In South America, only Guyana and Suriname drive on the left. Most of the Pacific countries drive on the left, in line with Australia and New Zealand, with Samoa joining most recently, on 7 September 2009, the first country for three decades to change the side on which it drives.[13]

Jurisdictions with right-hand traffic

Total: 163 countries and territories

Changing sides at borders

One of many road signs in the British county of Kent placed on the right hand side of the road
The change of traffic directions at the Laos–Thai border takes place on Lao territory just off the Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge
Vehicles entering and leaving Macau cross over each other at the Lotus Bridge

Several countries in Africa, Asia and South America have land borders where drivers must change to the other side of the road.

Where neighbouring countries drive on opposite sides of the road, drivers from one to the other must change sides when crossing the border. Thailand is particularly notable in this context. Thailand drives on the left; since Myanmar (Burma) changed from left to right in 1970, 90% of Thailand's borders are with countries that drive on the right (only Malaysia drives on the left). Thailand is the only sizable country with this issue.

Other notable borders where a changeover is necessary are between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and between Sudan and Uganda.

When borders coincide with natural barriers, such as mountains (which may be in remote areas) or rivers, the traffic volumes are relatively low and the number of border crossings is reduced. This is true of many borders where traffic changes sides of the road, especially in Asia.

The four most common ways of switching traffic from one side to the other at borders are

History

In 1998, archaeologists found a well-preserved track leading to a Roman quarry near Swindon, England. The grooves in the road on the left side (viewed facing down the track away from the quarry) were much deeper than those on the right side. These grooves suggest that the Romans drove on the left, at least in this particular location, since carts would exit the quarry heavily loaded, and enter it empty.[4]

Some historians, such as C. Northcote Parkinson, believed that ancient travellers on horseback generally rode on the left side of the road. As more people are right-handed, a horseman would thus be able to hold the reins with his left hand and keep his right hand free—to offer in friendship to passing riders or to defend himself with a sword, if necessary.[15]

The first legal reference in Britain to an order for traffic to remain on the left was in 1756 with regard to London Bridge. The Highway Act 1773 contained a recommendation that horse traffic should remain on the left and this is enshrined in the Highway Act 1835.[16]

In the late 1700s, the shift from left to right that took place in countries such as the United States was based on teamsters' use of large freight wagons pulled by several pairs of horses. The wagons had no driver’s seat, so a postilion sat on the left rear horse and held his whip in his right hand. Seated on the left, the driver preferred that other wagons pass him on the left so that he could be sure to keep clear of the wheels of oncoming wagons. He did that by driving on the right side of the road.[15]

Countries that became part of the British Empire adopted the British keep-left rule, although some have since changed. In Canada, the Maritime provinces and British Columbia initially drove on the left, but changed to the right in order to make border crossings to and from other provinces easier. Nova Scotia switched to driving on the right on 15 April 1923.

Changing to right-hand traffic

Over the course of the 20th century, there was a gradual worldwide shift from driving on the left to the right. Portugal changed to right-hand traffic in 1928, and the parts of Canada which were still driving on the left changed over by 1923 (although Newfoundland was not part of Canada until 1949, and its motorists drove on the left until 1947). The remainder of Italy changed over in the 1920s after Benito Mussolini came to power; Austria and Czechoslovakia changed when Germany annexed or occupied them in late 1930s, and Hungary followed suit. In Austria the build-up of new traffic lights and rebuilding of tram tracks was started before the annexation. The Latin American countries of Panama and Argentina changed in 1943 and 1945 respectively, and the Philippines and China followed suit in 1945 and 1946 respectively. Belize changed to right-hand traffic in 1961. Sweden changed in 1967 and Iceland did as well in 1968. Burma changed, allegedly on the advice of a wizard,[17] in 1970. (For the logistics involved, see the Swedish experience at Dagen H.)

Taiwan drove on the left under Japanese rule, but changed to driving on the right in 1946 after the government of the Republic of China assumed administration; the same happened in North and South Korea, another former Japanese colony. However, some trains in Taiwan and Seoul still keep to the left, as does pedestrian traffic in the Seoul subway system.

The most common reason for countries to switch to right-hand traffic is for conformity with neighbours, as it increases the safety of cross-border traffic. For example, several former British colonies in Africa, such as The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Ghana, have changed from driving on the left to the right, because they all share extensive borders with former French colonies, which drive on the right. The former Portuguese colony of Mozambique continues to drive on the left, which is a legacy of its Portuguese past; even though Portugal itself changed over in the 1920s. However, Mozambique continues to drive on the left because all its bordering countries do so. Decisions by countries to drive on the right typically centre on regional uniformity. There are historical exceptions, such as postilion riders in France, but such historical advantages do not apply to modern road vehicles.

There is a popular story that Napoleon changed the rule of the road in the countries he conquered from keep-left to keep-right. Some justifications are symbolic, such as that Napoleon himself was left- (or right-) handed, or that Britain, Napoleon's enemy, kept left. Alternatively, troops passing on the left may have been tempted to raise their right fists against each other. Forcing them to pass on the right reduced conflict. Hence, island nations such as Britain and Japan (using ships to move troops around and having less need to move them overland) continued to use the natural system. These stories have never been shown to have a factual basis and appear to be legends.[18]

Changing to left-hand traffic

The Japanese prefecture of Okinawa, under US military rule and driving on the right since June 24, 1945, switched back to the left-hand traffic used by the rest of Japan on July 30, 1978. The event is locally known as "730".

Samoa changed to left-hand traffic in September 2009.[19][20][21] The government brought about the change to bring Samoa into line with other South Pacific nations.

Foreign occupation and military transit

Many countries have temporarily or permanently changed their rule of the road as a result of foreign occupation. Examples include Austria and Czechoslovakia (details) under German rule or military transit in the 1930s and 1940s. The Channel Islands also changed to driving on the right under German occupation, but changed back after liberation in 1945. The Falkland Islands did the same under Argentine control during the 1982 Falklands War, although some islanders refused to observe the new rule and continued to drive on the left.[22] East Timor changed to driving on the left under Indonesian rule in 1976, and continues the practice as an independent state.

The Japanese region of Okinawa changed from left to right under US control; in 1972 Okinawa was returned to Japanese sovereignty, and six years later, in 1978, the driving rules reverted to left-hand traffic as in mainland Japan.

Korea also changed from left to right at the end of the Second World War. This occurred in September 1945, when Soviet-backed communist forces occupied the North and American forces arrived in the southern half of Korea. Shortly afterwards the peninsula was divided along the 38th parallel. Driving on the right was implemented in both territories because military vehicles were now either American-made or Russian-built LHD models.[23]

Safety factors

Research in 1969 by J. J. Leeming showed countries driving on the left have a lower collision rate than countries driving on the right. It has been suggested this is partly because humans are more commonly right-eye dominant than left-eye dominant.[24][25][26] In left-hand traffic, the predominantly better-performing right eye is used to monitor oncoming traffic and the driver's wing mirror. In right-hand traffic, oncoming traffic and the driver's wing mirror are handled by the predominantly weaker left eye. In addition, it has been argued that left sided driving is safer for elderly people given the likelihood of their having visual attention deficits on the left side and the need at intersections to watch out for vehicles approaching on the near-side lane.[27] Furthermore, in a RHD car, the driver has his right (i.e. in the majority of people, dominant) hand on the steering wheel at all times and uses his left hand to change gear.

Cyclists and horse riders[28] typically mount from the left hand side. This places them on the kerb when driving on the left.

Trams (streetcars)

Tram and streetcar systems generally follow the same rules as normal road traffic in the country concerned, both on road and on reserved sections, with the passenger doors on the kerbside. Various exceptions exist or have existed, examples including the now-removed system in London and the current system in Blackpool where some sections of tramway had or have both tracks on the same side of the road with no physical separation from road traffic.

The driver is usually positioned near the centre of the vehicle, although some single-operator trams have been developed wherein the driver sits nearer the centre of the road. On the left-hand running Blackpool system and Melbourne trams built between the 1970s and 1990s, the driver sits on the right. Before the extensive system was dismantled, Sydney trams also drove on the left-hand side.

When Sweden changed to driving on the right, its single-ended tram had the doors on the wrong side, and this was taken as an excuse to close down several systems. Gothenburg operated its trams in opposite-handed pairs, the left-hand-drive tram leading before the changeover and the right-hand-drive tram afterwards. Over time, all trams have been converted with many trams built in the sixties still being operated. In the north-eastern part of the system, the trams pass through a tunnel under Hammarkullen, which lies on top of a steep hill. Since building a single central platform was cheaper, the trams switch sides at Hjällbo and run on the left past the last four stops.

In Vienna, around the underground station Kagran, Tramline 26 changes to the left to prevent passengers from crossing the tram tracks.

Vehicles

Driver seating position

On most early motor vehicles, the driving seat was positioned centrally. Some car manufacturers later chose to place it on the side of the car closest to the kerb to help the driver avoid scraping walls, hedges, gutters and other obstacles. Other car manufacturers placed the driving seat on the side closest to the centre of the road to give the driver the longest possible seeing distance in traffic. This is the pattern that eventually prevailed. Today experimental versions of drive by wire and brake by wire vehicles are being developed which allow the driver to slide the steering wheel/brake controls from left to right with the gauges in the center dashboard. They are expected to become popular in countries such as Thailand that have land borders with opposite-drive countries. The newest Unimog models can be changed from left-hand drive to right-hand drive in the field to permit operators to work on the more convenient side of the truck.

Bicycles

As with horse riding, where riders tend to prefer mounting from the left, pedal cycles have evolved to be mounted from the same side. The common chain-based transmission systems used overwhelmingly by bicycles of all kinds are generally placed on the right hand side of the bike. Riders can thus walk along with their cycles held out to their right with less fear of their legs interfering with or being made dirty by the transmission system which is on the far side of the frame. This configuration suits the use of cycles on roads designed for driving on the left, where the cyclist can walk just off the side of the road with their bike on the road and between them and the traffic. From this position they can then mount their bike by elevating and extending their right leg which tends to be easier for right-handed individuals.

Legal restrictions on wrong-hand drive vehicles

For reasons of safety, politics, and/or economic market protection, some countries ban the sale or import of vehicles with the steering wheel on the "wrong" side.

In Australia, registration of non-vintage (i.e., less than 30 years old) LHD vehicles is illegal. Imported LHD vehicles must be converted to RHD (costing potentially thousands of dollars), or driven with a permit which imposes severe usage restrictions. However, Western Australia and the Northern Territory (both which have at various times hosted U.S. military facilities and had vehicles imported, used and sold by U.S. service personnel) have LHD vehicles in circulation. The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) previously allowed non-vintage LHD vehicles to be registered, but changed its legislation some years ago.

In India, LHD vehicles cannot be sold commercially to customers, but they can be imported for research and testing purposes under government approval.[29]

In New Zealand, LHD vehicles may be privately imported, and driven locally under a LHD permit. Since 1999, only LHD vehicles older than 20 years or cars owned and operated for at least 90 days may be privately imported. Diplomats and Operation Deep Freeze personnel are exempted from these restrictions.

In the Philippines, RHD vehicles are banned. Public buses and vans imported from Japan are converted to LHD, and passenger doors are created on the right side. This ban was thought to be the result of the increase of accidents involving RHD vehicles, most of which were trucks. However, some vans keep their doors on the left side, leading to the dangerous situation in which passengers have to exit toward oncoming traffic. Some RHD industrial cranes and other off-road vehicles remain.

Cambodia banned the use of RHD cars, many of which were smuggled from Thailand, from 2001, even though RHD vehicles accounted for 80 percent of vehicles in the country. The government threatened to confiscate all such vehicles unless they were converted to LHD, in spite of the considerable expense involved. According to a BBC report,[30] changing the steering column from right to left would cost between US$600 and US$2,000, in a country where average annual income was less than US$1,000.

RHD Toyota Landcruiser in front of a Pyongyang hotel

Although it drives on the right, North Korea has imported various used RHD vehicles from Japan, from tourist buses to Toyota Land Cruisers.

However, many used vehicles exported from Japan to countries like Russia and Peru are already converted to LHD. But even if the driver's position is left unchanged, some jurisdictions require at least replacement of the headlamps.

Singapore bans LHD vehicles from being imported for personal local registration, but temporary usage by tourists of LHD vehicles is allowed. However, diplomatic vehicles in Singapore are exempt from the RHD-only ruling, and there are a few hydrogen and fuel cell powered LHD vehicles currently undergoing trials in Singapore.

In Taiwan, Article 39 of the Road Traffic Security Rules requires a steering wheel to be on the left side of a vehicle to pass an inspection when registering the vehicle, so RHD vehicles may not be registered in Taiwan. This rule does not apply retroactively, so a RHD vehicle that was registered before this rule does not lose its registered status and may continue to be legally driven.

In Trinidad and Tobago, LHD vehicles are banned except for returning nationals who were resident in a foreign country and are importing a vehicle for personal use. LHD vehicles are also allowed to be imported for use as funeral hearses.

In West Africa, once-British Ghana and The Gambia have also banned RHD vehicles. Their traffic has been changed from on the left to on the right. Ghana prohibited new registrations of RHD vehicles after 1 August 1974, three days before the traffic change on 4 August 1974. RHD vehicles may be imported only temporarily into Sierra Leone, for example for humanitarian programmes, but must be exported at the end of the operation.

Most of the above bans on RHD and LHD vehicles apply only to locally registered vehicles. Countries that have signed the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic are not allowed to make such restrictions on foreign-registered vehicles. Paragraph 1 of Annex 5 states "All vehicles in international traffic must meet the technical requirements in force in their country of registration when they first entered into service". Therefore all signatory countries and most non-signatory countries allow the temporary import (e.g., by tourists) of foreign-registered vehicles, no matter which side the steering wheel is on. Oman, which has not signed the Vienna Convention, bans all foreign-registered RHD vehicles.[31]

Both RHD and LHD vehicles may generally be registered in any European Union member state, but there are some restrictions and regulations. Slovakia and Poland, despite being members of the European Union, do not allow the local registration of RHD vehicles,[32] even if the vehicle is imported from one of the four EU countries that drive on the left (UK, Ireland, Cyprus, and Malta). Lithuania has prohibited new RHD vehicle registration since 1993.

Buses

Comparison of continental door (left) against standard emergency exit door (right) on Plaxton Paramount coaches.

Buses typically have passenger doors only on the kerbside, which severely restricts their ability to operate effectively on the opposite side of the road to that for which they were designed. Increasingly, touring coaches, which are likely to cross frontiers of traffic-handedness during their duties, are fitted with a supplementary door on the opposite side from the kerb, to simplify access and egress in the foreign country. In Britain this is known as a "continental door", since its usefulness will be in continental Europe. It doubles as an emergency exit, but is much more user-friendly than an exit designed solely for emergency use.

It is usually fairly straightforward to retrofit a non-kerbside door on buses with relatively low floor height; the many traditional British double-deckers sold on for tourist use in the USA and Canada are examples.

Postal and other service vehicles

Post Office cars and vans in different countries such as the United States, Canada, Finland, Estonia and Sweden have the steering wheel on the opposite side to normal vehicles. This is so drivers can easily drive up next to mailboxes or get out straight onto the pavement (sidewalk) without having to walk around their vehicles, or put mail in boxes without getting out of their vehicles at all. In the US, rural mail carriers often must provide their own vehicles and have a limited selection of RHD vehicles that they can choose to buy or lease. Some utility service vehicles are also RHD to allow dismounting at the kerb and some newspaper carriers use RHD vehicles to deliver papers to kerbside boxes rather than drive along routes on the wrong side. The Jeep Wrangler is available in the United States in RHD configuration, since this particular model is popular with rural mail carriers who sometimes operate in less-than-optimal road conditions and thus appreciate the Wrangler's 4WD capabilities.[citation needed] Between 1991 and 1999, Subaru manufactured and sold a right-hand steering version of its All-Wheel-Drive Legacy station wagon model for use by U.S. Mail rural route and highway contract route box delivery carriers, and many of the vehicles remain in use, with the dwindling supply of used right-hand steering Subarus much sought after by mail and newspaper carriers.

In Australia and the UK, LHD street sweeper trucks are common for the purpose of the driver's having a better view of the left side kerb they are cleaning. Some styles of Wheelie bin collection trucks also have kerb side driver's seats to permit a better view of the bin as it is emptied. Additionally, some of these vehicles have dual-control systems, with a steering wheel and pedals on both sides of the cab, allowing the driver to operate from whichever side offers the best safety and visibility at the specific time. In the state of Victoria in Australia, when operating a dual-control garbage truck, you must only be driving from the left hand side of the cab when collecting wheelie bins. Driving on the right hand side when not collecting e.g. driving to the landfill or back to the truck yard can result in heavy fines. This law may also be present in other Australian states and territories.

Headlamps and other lighting equipment

Bird's-eye view of low beam light pattern for RH traffic, with long seeing range on the right and short cutoff on the left so oncoming drivers are not blinded.

Most low-beam headlamps produce an asymmetrical beam focused for use on only one side of the road. Headlamps for use in LH-traffic countries have low-beam headlamps that throw most of their light forward-leftward, while limiting the light range forward-rightward; the beam is distributed with a downward/leftward bias. Headlamps for RH-traffic countries have low-beam headlamps that throw most of their light forward-rightward, while limiting the light range forward-leftward; the beam is distributed with a downward/rightward bias. The beam thus lets the driver see obstacles and road signs on his own side of the road at a safe distance, without blinding oncoming traffic.

Within Europe, when driving a vehicle with RH-traffic headlamps in a LH-traffic country or vice versa for a limited time (as for example on holiday or in transit), it is a legal requirement to adjust the headlamps temporarily so that the wrong-side hot spot of the beam does not dazzle oncoming drivers. This may be achieved by adhering blackout strips or plastic prismatic lenses to a designated part of the lens, but some varieties of the projector-type headlamp can be made to produce a proper LH- or RH-traffic beam by shifting a lever or other movable element in or on the lamp assembly.

Because blackout strips and adhesive prismatic lenses reduce the safety performance of the headlamps, most countries require all vehicles registered or used on a permanent or semi-permanent basis within the country to be equipped with headlamps designed for the correct traffic-handedness.

Without sidecars attached, motorcycles, motor scooters, mopeds, and bicycles are almost symmetric with their handlebars in the centre. However, motorcycles are often equipped with automotive-type asymmetrical-beam headlamps that likewise require adjustments or replacement when brought into a country with opposite traffic-handedness.

Rear fog lamps

Within the European Union, each vehicle must be equipped with one or two red rear fog lamps. A single rear fog lamp may be located on the vehicle centreline, or on the driver's side of the vehicle. It may not be located on the passenger's side of the vehicle. This sometimes requires the purchase and installation of local-market lighting components.

Specific jurisdictions

Afghanistan

Right hand traffic was introduced in Afghanistan by Ghulam Mohammad Farhad the Mayor of Kabul.[33] in the early 1950s, first in Kabul and later in the rest of the country. Today most vehicles in much of the country, however, are RHD cars imported from neighbouring Pakistan (with the exception of Herat and other western provinces). In the capital Kabul, most drivers have adapted to this problem, leaning over the passenger seat (on the car's left side) before making a left turn or before overtaking other vehicles by veering into the left (oncoming traffic) lane. The country also has a large volume of military vehicle traffic from the U.S., Canada and EU militaries, much of which is LHD.

Argentina

When the Pan American Highway from Alaska to Cape Horn was planned in the 1930s, it was decided it should use one side of driving its entire length. A few countries along the route used left-hand traffic, one being Argentina. On 10 October 1944 Decreto Nacional 26965 [34] was issued, introducing right-hand traffic in Argentina eight months later, on 10 June 1945. Strict speed limits kept the number of fatal accidents low after the conversion. 10 June is still observed each year as Dia de la Seguridad Vial [35] (Road Safety Day) in Argentina.

Trains built by the British, as well as underground in Buenos Aires, run on the left.

Australia

Australia drives on the left. The decision to drive on the left side of the road was made in the early 19th century in the early period of the British colony of New South Wales by Governor Lachlan Macquarie after the first road was built, and followed the British practice. Australian states and territories had used the "give way to the right" rule; in the absence of regulations specific to a particular situation, drivers must yield the right of way to all vehicles to their right.[36] This applies to most uncontrolled intersections except for T-intersections.[37] Give way to the right does not apply to merging lanes, in that instance vehicles must give way to any vehicle which is ahead. This is sometimes called zip merging. If lines are marked, vehicles are not zip merging but changing lanes, and must give way accordingly.[37] All LHD vehicles must be converted to RHD if under 30 years old, except in Western Australia where they are only required to be 15 years old for registration.

Austria-Hungary

The Austro-Hungarian Empire drove on the left. Successor countries switched to the right separately. Austria did it in stages, beginning from the west:

  • Vorarlberg: 1919,
  • Tirol and western half of Salzburg: 1930,
  • Carinthia and East Tirol: 1935,
  • Upper Austria, Styria, eastern half of Salzburg: 1 June 1938,
  • Lower Austria: 19 September 1938.

Poland's Galicia switched to the right around 1924. Czechoslovakia planned to start driving on the right on 1 May 1939, but the change in Bohemia and Moravia was prompted by the German occupation forces (Bohemia: 17 March 1939, Prague: 26 March, see switch to right hand traffic in Czechoslovakia for details). Hungary also acted later than planned: the government decided about the change in June 1939 but postponed it and finally introduced it at 3am on 6 July 1941 outside Budapest and at 3am on 9 November 1941 in Budapest.

Bangladesh

Being a former British colony, Bangladesh follows driving on the left hand side of the road and all vehicles are RHD. Due to traffic safety regulations, all vehicles that are imported has to have RHD. However, cars imported by foreign Embassies or Consulates may have LHD because of their diplomatic status.

Belgium

Before 1899, there was no uniform system in Belgium. In some cities or provinces traffic drove on the left and in others on the right. Beginning on 1 August 1899, right-hand traffic was introduced in the whole country.[38]

Belize

As a former British colony, Belize drove on the left until 1961, when it changed to the right in anticipation of the Pan-American Highway being built to pass through the country. However, after Hurricane Hattie the government had to divert funds earmarked for the construction of the highway to disaster relief, so the highway does not in fact run through Belize.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina was part of the Austro Hungarian Empire at the beginning of the 20th century, and after the collapse of the empire, it started driving on the right.

Bolivia

Bolivia, like most South American countries, drives on the right with the exception of the notorious "El Camino de la Muerte" or simply known as Yungas Road where it drives on left.The reason for this configuration is to help drivers see their outer wheel while traversing the road.

Burma (Myanmar)

As a former British colony, cars in Burma (Myanmar) drove on the left; but the military administration of Ne Win decreed that traffic would drive on the right hand side of the road beginning 7 December 1970.[39] It is alleged that this was because Ne Win had been advised by his soothsayer, who had said "move to the right".[40] In spite of the change, most passenger vehicles in the country continue to be RHD, being pre-changeover vehicles and second-hand vehicles imported from Japan, Thailand, and Singapore. Buses imported from Japan that were never converted from RHD to LHD, have doors on the right side in offset position, unlike their counterparts in the Philippines. However, government limousines, imported from the People's Republic of China, are LHD. Virtually all vehicles are driven with a passenger in place to watch the oncoming traffic and inform the driver as to whether it is safe to overtake or not, as the driver cannot see this from the RHD position.[41]

Cambodia

Cambodia follows a keep-to-the-right rule derived from France. In 2001 RHD cars, usually second hand from Thailand, were banned.[42]

Canada

Until the 1920s, the rule of the road in Canada varied by province, with British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island having cars driving on the left, and the other provinces and territories having motorists driving on the right. Starting with inland British Columbia on 15 July 1920 and ending with Prince Edward Island on 1 May 1924, these provinces changed to driving on the right.[43] Newfoundland was not part of Canada until 1949, and its motorists drove on the left until 2 January 1947.[44]

One of the very few places in Canada where traffic appears to drive on the left is in Montreal on Autoroute 20 for the 3 kilometres (2 mi) between its junctions with Route 138 and Autoroute 15.[45] The two roadways remain separated by a railway right-of-way for this entire distance, and the changing of sides does not interfere with the flow of traffic.

Hundreds of thousands of right-hand drive (RHD) vehicles were built in Canada during World War II for the military from 1940 to 1945. Most of these were DND Pattern (later called Canadian Military Pattern) as well as some of the MCP (Modified Conventional Pattern i.e. civilian pattern) vehicles. The reason is that Canada's military forces were at that time intended to fight alongside of the British military who used RHD vehicles. Britain also lost most of her military vehicles in France in the 1940 retreat and so she ordered thousands of new vehicles from Canada. Canadian Military Pattern (CMP) vehicles became the most standardized vehicles in the British Commonwealth. They were supplied to Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India. Others were supplied to the USSR after they changed sides in the war. A few, diverted from shipment to Canadian troops in Hong Kong, were supplied to the US Army in the Philippines and were used there until the Japanese captured the islands. Post-war, thousands of RHD Canadian-made vehicles were supplied to the United Nations for relief (UNRRA) of countries that had suffered greatly in World War II and went to countries such as Czechoslovakia and Greece. During the Cold War in the 1950s, Canada gave many more to allies such as Norway, Holland, France and Italy. During the War, Canada had built RHD armoured vehicles such as tanks, armoured cars, armoured trucks, scout cars, universal carriers, tracked jeeps, etc. One of these was the Ram tank which was the inspiration[citation needed] for the later Sherman M4 tank.

There are some officially offered RHD vehicles in Canada, such as Canada Post mail delivery trucks. These have extra mirrors to increase driver visibility. Some garbage trucks and street sweepers have dual controls—both LHD and RHD. This allows the driver to enter and exit the vehicle quickly no matter which side of the street is being serviced. General-purpose RHD vehicles are allowed in Canada, providing they comply with all applicable Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards or are more than 15 years old and therefore eligible for import regardless of compliance with Canadian Federal regulations.

Caribbean

The English-speaking Caribbean typically follows the keep-to-the-left rule and as a result, most cars have a RHD configuration. Examples of this may be noted in such countries as Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago. In certain islands (mostly Lesser Antilles) such as the British Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas, as well as Turks and Caicos Islands, most passenger cars are LHD, being imported from the United States or Brazil.[46] Only some government cars and those imported from RHD countries (Japan and the United Kingdom among others) are RHD. The U.S. Virgin Islands are particularly known for having a high accident rate caused by American tourists from the mainland who are unfamiliar with driving on the left in their LHD rental cars.[citation needed] Bonaire and Curaçao drive on the right.

China (see also Hong Kong and Macau)

Before 1946, driving in China was mixed, with cars in the northern provinces driving on the right, and cars in the southern provinces such as Guangdong driving on the left. From 1946, China became a right hand traffic-only country.[47] However, Hong Kong and Macau continue to observe left-hand traffic after returning to Chinese control in 1997 from UK and 1999 from Portugal respectively.

Croatia

Croatia was part of the Austro Hungarian Empire before the First World War, and after the collapse of the empire, it started driving on the right. Sometimes, on parking garage entrances of the left side of a one-way street the lanes on the entrance are reversed to provide for unrestricted flow of traffic between the garage and the street. One such example is the Importanne Gallery parking garage.[48] This was done so the traffic lanes in the one way street from which one enters the garage would not cross.

Cyprus

A former British colony, Cyprus drives on the left, and cars sold locally are right hand drive, including those used by the British forces in the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia. However, owing to its economic and political isolation, there is a sizeable number of left-hand drive vehicles in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus which were imported from Turkey. Since Cyprus is now an EU member it is common to find left-hand drive vehicles also (tourists overland or else second hand imports from other EU countries with LHD vehicles).[49] An increasing number of right hand drive grey import vehicles from Japan are now sold in both parts of the island.

Ethiopia and Eritrea

Ethiopia changed from left-hand to right-hand traffic on 8 June 1964. Eritrea was at that time part of Ethiopia, so the same date is applicable for that country. The reason for the change is not clearly understood, as neighbouring Kenya in the south and Sudan in the west were driving on the left.

France

France has long been a right-hand traffic country. However, along the 350 metres (380 yd) of Avenue du Général Lemonnier in Paris, which connects the Pont Royal to the Rue de Rivoli, traffic drives on the left, separated only by a hump.

Gibraltar

Although the British overseas territory of Gibraltar changed to driving on the right on 16 June 1929, in order to avoid accidents involving vehicles from Spain, some public buses until recently were RHD, with a special door allowing passengers to enter on the right hand side. However, most passenger cars are LHD, as in Spain, with the exception of second-hand cars brought in from the UK and Japan as well as UK registered military vehicles used by the British Forces.

Guyana and Suriname

Guyana and Suriname are the only two remaining countries in the mainland Americas that drive on the left. As a result of the construction of the Pan-American Highway, four mainland American countries switched to driving on the right between 1943 and 1961, the last of which was Belize. Both Guyana and Suriname are separated from their neighbours by large rivers, with the first bridge crossing one of these only opening in April 2009. The inland south of both countries is sparsely populated with very few roads and hence no border crossings.

In the south west of Guyana near Lethem, work was finally completed[50] on 26 April 2009 on the Takutu River Bridge across the Takutu River into neighbouring Brazil, which drives on the right. The changeover system is on the Guyana side, with one lane passing under the other on the bridge's access road.[51][52] Construction proceeded slowly over the years before being completed by the Brazilian army. Brazil had been keen to open the bridge, as it now gives Brazil access to Caribbean sea ports on the north coast of South America. Brazil intends to permit Guyana registered (RHD) vehicles to go no further than the Brazilian border town of Bonfim. It is expected that Brazilian (LHD) vehicles will be able to drive all the way through Guyana to the coast. The Takutu Bridge is the Americas' only border crossing where traffic changes sides of the road.

In Suriname most of the privately owned buses are imported from Japan, and the exits are designed for driving on the left. Most state-owned buses, however, are from the US (LHD) and often the placement of the exits has to be adjusted.

Hong Kong and Macau

Being a former British colony, Hong Kong follows the United Kingdom in driving on the left. Macau, a former Portuguese colony, historically followed Hong Kong in driving on the left because most of the RHD cars in Macau were imported through Hong Kong. Macau did not follow either Portugal in 1928 or China in 1946 in switching to driving on the right.

Under the auspices of the "one country, two systems" arrangement, the practice of driving on the left continues in Hong Kong and Macau, now Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China. Most vehicles, even those of the armed forces, are RHD. LHD exceptions include some buses providing services to and from the mainland.

There are four road border crossing points between mainland China and Hong Kong. The largest and busiest is Lok Ma Chau Control Point (aerial map), which features two separate changeover systems on the mainland side. In 2006, the daily average number of vehicle trips recorded at Lok Ma Chau was 31,100.[53] The next largest is Man Kam To, where there is no changeover system and the border roads on the mainland side simply intersect as one-way streets with a main road. There are two border crossing points between mainland China and Macau. The newer crossing point is the Lotus Bridge, which crosses a narrow channel of sea between the mainland and Macau, and was opened at the end of 1999 (aerial map). The Lotus Bridge was designed to cater for high traffic volumes and features three lanes in each direction as well as a full changeover system on the mainland side, comprising bridges that loop around each other by 360° to swap the direction of the traffic. At the older Macau crossing point, there is no changeover system and the border roads continue with traffic on the left on the mainland side, and simply intersect on to a roundabout. All of these Chinese changeover systems can be viewed in high resolution using Google Earth.

Iceland

Iceland switched traffic from left to right at 06:00 on Sunday 26 May 1968, known as H-dagurinn. As in Sweden, most passenger cars were already left hand drive.[54] The only injury from the changeover was a boy on a bicycle who broke his leg.[55] Numerous buses were also stuck in traffic jams.

India

India continued with the practice of driving on the left hand side of the road introduced by British before independence. Now all vehicles are RHD with the government banning all new LHD vehicles in the country except under special circumstances, such as cars imported duty free by foreign embassies. Such vehicles are often left hand drive so that they cannot be registered in India, and are subsequently resold undercutting the nascent luxury car industry which is subject to high duty levels.

Indonesia

Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country, drives on the left, despite being a former colony of the Netherlands, which drives on the right. This originated from British rule in Indonesia under Thomas Stamford Raffles between 1811 and 1816. Even though the country is an archipelago there are three land borders, those with Malaysia, East Timor and Papua New Guinea. All of these countries also drive on the left, Malaysia as a legacy of British rule, East Timor as a result of previous Indonesian occupation and Papua New Guinea as a result of Australian rule following World War I until 1975. However, cars imported from the US are left hand drive, and trains keep to the right hand side of the track, as in the Netherlands.

However, there is one exception: In Surabaya city, on Praban Street (one of the main streets in central Surabaya), traffic drives in both directions on the right hand side for approximately 500 metres (550 yards). The street is very crowded and the right hand drive style helps the efficient flow of traffic, especially from Gemblongan Street, from which vehicles can directly turn right to Praban Street. Vehicles from Blauran Street can similarly turn directly right. Because there is a separator dividing the two sides of the street, local drivers have little difficulty.

Ireland

The Republic of Ireland is the second largest European state, after the United Kingdom, with a left-hand traffic system. Visitors are likely to encounter warning signs (in English, French and German) near Irish airports, seaports and major tourist attractions, as well as outside major urban areas, reminding them to drive on the left. The state's only land border is with Northern Ireland, a constituent part of the UK, so there is no change-over to impede the large volume of cross-border traffic between the two parts of Ireland.

Italy

Ponte Palatino in Rome

Which side of the road the Romans drove on is disputed. Archaeological evidence in Britain seems to indicate driving on the left but old Roman roads in Turkey suggest Romans used the right hand side of the road.[56] In Italy the practice of traffic driving on the right first began in the late 1890s, but it was not until the mid 1920s that it became standard throughout the country. There was a long period when traffic in the countryside drove on the right while major cities continued to drive on the left.[57] Rome, for example, did not change from left to right until 20 October 1924. Milan was the last Italian city to change to driving on the right (3 August 1926). Cars had remained right-hand drive (RHD) until this time. Alfa Romeo and Lancia did not produce LHD cars until as late as 1950 and 1953, respectively.[58]

A few highways have some sections of road where the directions cross, resulting in traffic driving on the left, such the A6 highway between Savona and Torino (map), the A20 highway between Messina and Palermo (map), and the A19 highway between Palermo and Catania (map). However, these are short segments of motorway, where the different directions do not interact, therefore vehicles still overtake on the left on these sections.
Furthermore, exceptions to the rule can be necessary in urban contexts. For example, the Ponte Palatino bridge in Rome is known to Romans to be "all'inglese" (English-style), because drivers are required to drive on the left hand side of the bridge. This situation is analogous to (although obviously reversed from) that of Savoy Court in London.[59]

Japan

Japan is one of the modest number of countries outside the Commonwealth of Nations to drive on the left. An informal practice of left-hand passage dates at least to the Edo period, when samurai are said to have passed each other to the left in order to avoid knocking their longer katana swords with each other (as swords were always worn to the left side)[citation needed]. During the late 1800s, Japan built its first railways with British technical assistance, and double-tracked railways adopted the British practice of running on the left. Stage Coach Order issued in 1870 and its revision in 1872, followed in 1881 by a further order, stipulated that mutually approaching horses had to avoid each other by shifting to the left.[60] An order issued in 1885 stated that general horses and vehicles had to avoid to the left, but they also had to avoid to the right when they met army troops, until the double standard was legally resolved in 1924.[61]

After the defeat of Japan during World War II, Okinawa was under control of the United States and compelled to drive on the right. Okinawa was returned to Japanese control in 1972 and changed back to driving on the left six years later, at 06:00 on 30 July 1978, as certain treaties required nations to have one system throughout their territory.[62] The changeover operation was known as 730 (Nana-San-Maru). Okinawa is one of very few places to have changed from right- to left- traffic in the late 20th century.

Japan does allow both RHD and LHD vehicles on their roads. In some cases the same vehicle is available in both LHD and RHD configurations.

Korea (North and South)

Since the end of the Second World War, traffic in both North and South Korea drive on the right. However this was not the case for historic Korea. In the 19th century traffic travelled on the left as the country was under nominal influence of China's Qing Dynasty. When Japan annexed Korea in 1910 it also maintained the left-hand rule.[23]

On September 8, 1945, American forces arrived in the southern half of Korea while at the same time Russian-backed communist forces were occupying the North. Shortly afterwards the peninsula was divided along the 38th parallel. Driving on the right was implemented in both countries as the vehicles (particularly military) used by the Korean states were either American-made or Russian-built LHD models.[23]

Malaysia

Malaysia has been driving on the left side of the road since British colonial times. However, right-hand traffic can be found at the Damansara-Puchong Expressway in the short tunnel under the Damansara Perdana flyover and the Sunway Bridge at the Federal Highway Route 1 interchange.

Until it was pedestrianised, the northern section of Penang Road in George Town, Penang, now known as Upper Penang Road, had traffic passing on the right hand side of the road, with a concrete kerb in the middle. This was to allow clockwise traffic from the one-way sections of Northam Road and Farquhar Street (at either end of the road) to pass clockwise through the road without crossing oncoming traffic.

Malta

Malta was a British colony from 1800 to 1964, and continues with left-hand traffic. As a standard on new imported cars, local vehicles are right hand drive. Since Malta is now a EU member it is now common to find left hand drive vehicles also (tourists overland[citation needed] or else second hand imports from other EU countries with LHD vehicles).

Mongolia

Mongolia is a right-hand drive country, with steering wheels mounted on the left-hand side of vehicles. There are, however, a number of second-hand vehicles from Japan in use, with the steering wheel mounted on the right-hand side.

There have been plans to prohibit the driving of vehicles with the steering wheel mounted on the right-hand side, but none have been passed by the parliament.

New Zealand

Right-side traffic on the access road to the Manapouri Power Station.

New Zealand drives on the left, mainly due to its British colonial heritage.

At intersections, the general rule for priority in New Zealand is "Give way to the right, and turning traffic give way to traffic not turning", but there is an unusual variation compared with other countries. When turning left at an intersection, traffic must also give way to traffic turning right from the opposing road onto the road into which both vehicles intend to turn. The reason for this rule is to reduce the possibility of an impact with the driver's side of the vehicle (right-hand side). This rule also used to apply in the Australian state of Victoria until the early 1990s.

On the underground access road to the Manapouri Power Station vehicles must drive on the right. The tunnel is one long spiral and drivers have very limited forward visibility. Initially, tour buses drove on the left, but there were many collisions, with buses wiping each other's wing mirrors off. The change to driving on the right made it easier for drivers to see how close they are to the tunnel wall.[63] The road is, however, only used by authorized vehicles and is not open to the public.

Pakistan

The M2: Lahore to Islamabad

"Here people drive on the left side of the road because Pakistan is a former British colony. Though, sometimes, people prefer to drive on the right-side of the road. I have seen cars, motorcycles, and bikes going the wrong way. Despite the number of horns blaring at them, the drivers really don't care they're going the wrong way.

Jeanette Khan, Huffington Post[64]

Pakistan continued the British practice of driving on the left hand side of the road after its independence in 1947. Pakistan is the westernmost country in Asia to drive on the left. The Khyber Pass border crossing with Afghanistan is one of the most well known places where traffic changes sides of the road.

Philippines

Right-hand traffic was introduced in the Philippines on the last day of the Battle of Manila, 10 March 1945, to facilitate the combined Filipino and American troop movements.[65]

Poland

Poland was recreated in 1918 as a sovereign republic from territories former belonging to the Austro-Hungarian, German and Russian Empires. In the former Austrian areas left-hand driving was in force. This was changed in the 1920s. In Lwow (at that time in Poland) the change-over took place in 1922 and in Kraków in 1925.[66]

Portugal

Portugal changed from left-hand to right-hand traffic on 1 June 1928. This change was also implemented in most of its overseas territories, except Goa, Macau and Mozambique, which had land borders with countries that drove on the left. In East Timor right-hand traffic was introduced in 1928, but changed back by Indonesia in 1975.

Russian Federation

Driving on the right was introduced in Russia by the decree of Empress Elisaveta Petrovna on 5 February 1752.[67]

Although Russia drives on the right, cheaper used cars from Japan are almost as popular as LHD cars of the same class. Russia is estimated to have more than 1.5 million RHD vehicles on its roads. In the far eastern regions, such as Vladivostok or Khabarovsk, RHD vehicles make up to 90% of the total. This includes not only private cars, but also police cars, ambulances, and many other municipal and governmental vehicles.

During spring 2005, the rumour that RHD vehicles would be completely banned from the roads drove thousands of Russian protesters to the streets[citation needed]. On 19 May 2005 the Russian Minister of Industry and Energy Viktor Khristenko announced that RHD vehicles would be allowed on the roads but would have to conform to all Russian traffic safety requirements.[citation needed] Many automobile owners blocked the roads (in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Vladivostok and many other cities), protesting against such an interdiction.[citation needed] On 19 May 2005 two automobile movements were born defending the interests of RHD automobile owners.[citation needed]

Rwanda

Rwanda, a former Belgian colony in central Africa, currently drives on the right. In 2005, a Presidential Decree was issued banning the import of RHD cars, eventually requiring them to be phased out completely by the end of 2009.[68]

In early August 2009 several African newspapers reported that, following the results of a public survey, Rwanda was considering switching to driving on the left, a practice in line with other members of the East African Community (EAC).[68] Burundi is the only other EAC member to drive on the right.

The survey, carried out by the Ministry of Infrastructure, indicated that 54% of Rwandans were in favour of the switch, compared to just 32% who were opposed to it.[69] Reasons cited were the perceived lower costs of RHD vehicles as opposed to LHD versions of the same model, easier maintenance and the political benefit of harmonisation of traffic regulations with other EAC countries. Furthermore, in November 2009, Rwanda's application to join the Commonwealth of Nations was approved, another group which is overwhelmingly dominated by LHT countries.[68] The switch is currently being deliberated, and no decision has been made yet (February 2010). However, Infrastructure Minister Eng. Linda Bihire added that within the government, plans to drive on the left have been "in the pipeline" since joining the EAC in June 2007.[70]

Samoa

Samoa used to be a German colony until occupied by New Zealand at the beginning of the First World War. Until September 2009 it maintained the German practice of driving on the right-hand side of the road. This practice had been in place for more than a century.[71] A plan to drive on the left was first announced by the Samoan government in September 2007 and was confirmed on 18 April 2008 when Samoa's parliament passed the Road Transport Reform Act 2008.[72][73] On 24 July 2008 Tuisugaletaua Avea, the Minister of Transport, announced that the switch would come into effect at 6:00 am on Monday, 7 September 2009. He also announced that the 7th and 8th would be public holidays, so that residents were able to familiarise themselves with the new rules of the road.[74] Samoa is the first territory in over 30 years to change which side of the road is driven on, the most recent to change being Nigeria, Ghana, Yemen and Okinawa.[71][75][76]

A new political party, The People's Party, had formed to try to block the change but was unsuccessful as was the People Against Switching Sides protest group which launched a last-minute legal challenge against the decision.[71][77][78] The decision remains controversial, with an estimated 18,000 people attending demonstrations against it in Apia in April 2008 and road signs reminding people of the change having been vandalised.[76][79] The motor industry was also opposed to the decision as 14,000 of Samoa's 18,000 vehicles are designed for right-hand traffic and the government has refused to meet the cost of conversion.[76] Bus drivers whose doors are now on the wrong side of the road threatened to strike in protest at the change.[80]

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi says the purpose of adopting left-hand traffic is to allow Samoans to use cheaper right-hand-drive vehicles sourced from Australia, New Zealand, or Japan, and so that the large number of Samoans living in Australia and New Zealand can drive on the same side of the road when they visit their country of origin.[77] In order to reduce accidents, the government has widened roads, added new road markings, erected signs and installed speed humps.[75] The speed limit was also reduced and sales of alcohol banned for three days.[80] The Congregational Christian Church of Samoa has held prayer sessions for an accident-free changeover and Samoa's Red Cross carried out a blood donation campaign in case of a surge of accidents.[75][80]

The change came into force following a radio announcement at 5.50 local time (16.50 GMT) which halted traffic and an announcement at 6.00 local time (17.00 GMT) for traffic to switch from the right to the left-hand side of the road.[71]

South Africa

A road approaching Cape Town.

Being a former British colony and dominion, South Africans today drive on the left. This has also influenced neighboring countries. After Germany's defeat in World War I, South-West Africa (now Namibia) was made a South African mandate. Being a former German colony it used to drive on the right.

South Yemen

South Yemen, formerly the British colony of Aden, changed to driving on the right on 1 January 1977. North Yemen already drove on the right.

Singapore

In Singapore, all traffic drives on the left hand side with drivers on the right hand side of the vehicle, a legacy of British colonial rule as a crown colony. This is also adopted in pedestrian traffic, where people keep left voluntarily, or with the aid of signs in crowded walkways, MRTs, stairs, pavements. In escalators and travellators, users are also encouraged to stand to the left and let more urgent users pass them on the right side, like the inside lane-outside lane system on a motorway. Cycling lanes in parks also practice the keep left rule. All roads are designed for driving on the left hand side, except Grange Road between Orchard Road and Somerset Road which is separated by a refuge island. Certain small roads and car park entrances on the right side of one way streets have driving on the right observed, such as Carver Street by North Bridge Road. This is to prevent the crossing of cars into the opposite lane of these small roads and interfering with the natural flow of drivers exiting the small road, if driving on the left was observed on these special roads.

Spain

A highway close to Madrid (Spain).

Spain has right traffic. In the capital city, Madrid, left-hand traffic was, however, in force until 10 April 1924.[81] However, Madrid Metro trains still run on the left-hand side on all lines, as the original design engineers were British.

Sudan

After the Ethiopian change-over from driving on the left to driving on the right in 1964, Sudan only had short borders with two other countries driving on the left (Kenya and Uganda) in the south. In August 1973 Sudan swapped sides to correspond with most other countries of the Arab world.

Suriname

See Guyana and Suriname.

Sweden

Sweden had legal left-hand traffic (vänstertrafik in Swedish) from approximately 1734, when it changed back from a short period of right-hand traffic starting in 1718. With or without legal rule, traditionally the left side was used for carriages. Finland, under Swedish rule until 1809, also drove on the left, and continued to do so as a Russian Grand Duchy until 1858.[82]

This continued well into the 20th century, despite the fact that virtually all the cars on the road in Sweden were LHD. (One argument for this was that it was necessary to keep an eye on the edge of the road, something that was important on the narrow roads in use at the time). Also, Sweden's neighbours Norway and Finland already drove on the right, leading to confusion at border crossings.

In 1955 a referendum was held on the issue, resulting in an 82.9%-to-15.5% vote against a change to driving on the right. Nevertheless, in 1963 the Swedish parliament passed legislation ordering the switch to right-hand traffic. The changeover took place at 5am on Sunday, 3 September 1967, which was known in Swedish as Dagen H (H-Day), the 'H' being for Högertrafik or right traffic.

Since Swedish cars were LHD, experts had suggested that changing to driving on the right would be safer, because drivers would have a better view of the road ahead.[83] However, the accident rate soon rose back to its original level.[20] The speed limits were temporarily lowered.

United Kingdom

Vehicles driving on the left on the A1(M) Motorway near Washington Services in Tyne and Wear, England, heading towards Scotland.

The UK has left traffic. Many countries owe the fact that they drive on the left to British colonial influence.

As a result of European Union legislation ensuring the free movement of goods, many British consumers exercise their right to buy RHD cars from car dealers in any other EU country, where they are often cheaper, despite originating from the same factories as UK-sourced cars. Models obtained from other EU countries often have a lower value upon resale due to shorter warranty periods and UK dealers refusing to buy them or accept them in part-exchange.[84]

Although the United Kingdom is separated from Continental Europe by the English Channel, the level of cross-Channel traffic is very high; the Channel Tunnel alone carries 3.5 million vehicles per year between the UK and France. Most vehicles crossing the English Channel, whether via the Channel Tunnel or on ferries, are UK-registered RHD vehicles. Relatively few drivers from Continental Europe take their LHD cars to the UK, but large numbers of British drivers take their RHD cars to Continental Europe for holidays and even for one-day shopping trips. It was reported[85] in 2000 that Eurotunnel wished to build a second Channel Tunnel because the existing rail services are expected to outgrow their capacity by 2025. Unlike the existing rail tunnels, a drive-through road tunnel was planned, comprising a single bore tunnel containing one carriageway on top of the other. The current status of this project is unclear.

Today, UK motor vehicles including postal delivery vehicles and waste collection vehicles are normally RHD. The main exceptions are service vehicles such as road sweepers and gritters where view of the kerb is more important than of the centre line. These are generally LHD, although some have controls on both sides.

In cities with heavy tourism, LHD coaches can cause problems as their passengers get off the vehicle into the path of traffic, rather than on a pavement. Some fleet operators who regularly tour from Continental Europe to the UK use coaches with doors on both sides. Conversely, some double-decker buses exported to LHD countries for tourist purposes are converted to have their doors on the other side.

For a variety of reasons, Continental European LHD heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) have become common on the UK's roads, particularly on major routes radiating from ports and the Channel tunnel. An issue arising from this concerns the safety of large LHD vehicles, with blind-spots arising from the LHD and the probable inexperience of drivers with these problems[86]

Exceptions to the rule

Traffic driving on the right in Savoy Court in London.

There are some locations in the UK where road routing and layout causes traffic to approximate or mimic right-hand traffic patterns and practice. The most notable is Savoy Court outside the Savoy Hotel. Another example is the short links between the two carriageways of Russell Lane in Whetstone.

It is also permissible to drive in any lane on a one-way street. The Highway Code usually says 'keep to the left' and this is the norm on motorways and other fast roads, i.e. use the leftmost lane available. But on small roads in towns and cities it is common for one-way streets to split direction at some point, so drivers choose the most appropriate lane, and are encouraged to do so with lane markings, signage, and so on.

During the Lockerbie bomb trial of 2000–02, Camp Zeist in the Netherlands was decreed to be British territory subject to Scots law. However, Dumfries and Galloway Police, who were responsible for policing traffic movements within the compound, effected a clause which required drivers to comply with the Continental European practice of driving on the right.

Traffic drives on the left in the service tunnel of the Channel Tunnel, part of which is in France.[87] This is not, however, a public highway.

Military fleets and bases

On some British Army training locations, where the army once trained for conflict in Eastern Europe during the Cold War, traffic is meant to travel on the right. Most military bases in the UK, though, have the normal rule of driving on the left.

Vehicles within United States visiting forces bases in the United Kingdom drive on the left, even though the United States does not provide right-hand drive vehicles for its green fleet. However, its white fleet does have some right-hand drive vehicles for elements such as Non-Appropriated Fund activities and UK-only specialist vehicles. Most white fleet vehicles (known as "GSA" or "TMP" vehicles) are shipped over from the United States and are LHD. This is unlike British practice in Germany, where even UK green fleet vehicles for British Forces Germany have been left-hand drive.

During World War II, American truck makers Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge built 'Canadian Military Pattern truck' [CMP] for use throughout the British Empire and most were right-hand drive to use in left-traffic countries.[citation needed]

On the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, traffic drives on the right due to the large US military presence there even though it is part of the British Indian Ocean Territory.

United States

The U.S. drives on the right, in LHD (left-hand-drive) vehicles.

The first keep-right law in the United States, passed in 1792, applied to the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike, between Lancaster and Philadelphia. New York (in 1804) and New Jersey (in 1813) also enacted keep-right rules.

Early American motor vehicles were produced in RHD, following the practice established by horse-drawn buggies. This changed in the early years of the 20th century: Ford changed to LHD production in 1908 with the Model T,[88] and Cadillac in 1916.

Today, U.S. motor vehicles are normally LHD. Common exceptions include garbage trucks and mail vans. Imported RHD cars are also found on the road in the United States, mostly Tuner Cars, classics, or other collectors' items. Also a large number of vehicles used for rural mail delivery are RHD, thus enabling the driver to access roadside mail receptacles without leaving the vehicle.

American motorists nearly always drive on the right and overtake (pass) on the left, but are sometimes permitted to overtake on the right on multi-lane highways, one-way streets, or when passing other vehicles preparing to turn left. The laws vary from state to state.

The United States Virgin Islands is the only entire U.S. territory with left-hand traffic, which was inherited at the time the U.S. took over the Danish West Indies. Although Denmark drove and drives on the right, the majority of the European aristocracy of the islands was of British descent, and thus drove on the left-hand side according to British practice. Another explanation is that the first cars in the USVI were imported from Barbados - a British territory. There is also a local anecdote that in the days before cars were introduced, donkeys had a habit of straying to the left side of the road, as they were ridden.

Some limited-access freeways in the US have small sections of road where the directions cross, resulting in traffic driving on the left. Examples include the Golden State Freeway (I-5) in southern California during the descent/ascent of the Castaic Grade, several miles of Interstate 85 in Davidson County, North Carolina (map), a very brief section of Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg, Florida (map), the I-8 Freeway east of Yuma, AZ (map) state route 87 in Maricopa County, Arizona through Rincon Pass (map) and small parts of approaches to Interstate 64 running through Chesapeake, Virginia as part of the Hampton Roads Beltway. Diverging Diamond Interchanges are another example. Because of the limited-access restrictions the left-hand/right-hand orientation of the oncoming traffic is of no consequence to the driver.

Traffic at Phoenix's Sky Harbor airport also drives on the left around most of terminal 2 (map).

Two blocks of Bainbridge Street in Philadelphia are divided with traffic driving on the left due to flows from nearby streets and the one-way nature of the street on undivided blocks.

Some parking garages on the left-hand side of one-way streets have left-hand traffic in the driveway, as described above under Croatia.

During Carnival in New Orleans Mardi Gras Parades drive on the left of Canal Street and against the normal flow of traffic on St. Charles Avenue. In the New Orleans suburb of Metairie, LA all Mardi Gras parades travel down Veterans Memorial Boulevard on the left side of the roadway.

Uruguay

Uruguay had a law in place since 1918 requiring all vehicles or carriages to drive on the left, but as in many other countries in South America, this was changed in 1945, exactly at 4:00am on Sunday September 2.[89] A speed limit of 30 km/h was observed until September 30 so as to avoid major collisions and help ease the public into the new system.

Vanuatu

Vanuatu, formerly the New Hebrides, was a British-French Condominium for much of the 20th century, with two parallel governmental systems (British and French). This caused confusion on Vanuatu's roads, as British subjects drove on the left side of the road, while French citizens drove on the right side of the road. Unable to decide which system would prevail over the whole territory, authorities decided on an arbitrary plan whereby the side of the road on which the territory would drive would be decided by whichever side of the road the next horse and buggy getting off a ship drove on. The next person off the ship happened to be a French priest, and it was agreed to drive on the right.[citation needed] This explanation may be apocryphal.

Trains

The entrance to the Channel Tunnel from France

Trains may or may not adhere to the same directionality as cars. In France, for instance, cars keep to the right, but the first train lines were built by British engineers, so kept to the left. The Paris RER trains keep left, but have to operate on separate tracks within the Paris Metro area which was designed to run on the right. Another anomaly occurs in the Alsace-Moselle region, where trains keep to the right because the lines were built in the late 19th century when Alsace-Moselle was part of Germany. Bridges at the former border allow the trains to swap sides. High-speed TGV trains, however, operate on dedicated lines which were built more recently, but they keep left because they interface with older lines. Madrid Metro trains, as well as Rome Metro (but not Milan) also operate to the left. Through specific stations of the London Underground's Victoria, Northern and Central Lines, trains run on the right. On Victoria Line it makes passenger interchange easier at Euston and Kings Cross stations. This does not confuse drivers, since the two lines are in separate tunnels. However, White City on the Central Line is above ground. In the United States, the former Chicago & North Western railroad ran on the left because when the C&NW built their depots, they were on the left hand side when headed into Chicago. Later a second track was built outside the first one, but because commuters headed into Chicago made more use of a depot building than on their return journey, the railroad ran its trains on the left. However, when it was bought by the Union Pacific in 1995, some of these lines were switched. In the case of the North Line tracks between downtown Chicago and Kenosha, trains still operate left-handed.

In India trains generally run on the left hand side. In electric locomotives the driver seats on left, and in diesel locomotives seats are on both sides and the driver may use whichever is most suitable.

Exceptions to the general of left or right hand traffic are much more common for trains than for cars. Initially most steam engines were RHD, with the engineer sitting on the right and the fireman on the left. This was customary in the UK and it spread to the USA and elsewhere in the world. RHD was never converted to LHD even if the trains switched to right-hand running. RHD remains the customary way for operating trains, with the driver on the right and the assistant on the left. Some railways, particularly, the London Underground, switched to LHD with left-hand running. Left Hand Drive with left hand running also became common on UK mainline railways, with the Great Western Railway being the only of the "big four" to keep the driver on the right. To ease visibility, GWR signals were also occasionally placed on the right-hand side of the tracks, even though this meant that they were between the running lines, and a few examples of this have managed to survive. Nowadays all British trains (except a few preserved locomotives and a number of narrow-gauge railways) have the driver on the left side of the train, and the signals are also on the left-hand side of the track.

There is potential safety benefit for the train driver to sit on the nearside, farthest away from a collision with whatever might protrude from an oncoming train on the opposite track, such as an open cargo door. The driver's placement on the nearside can facilitate his or her view rearward of station platforms either directly or using mirrors, and of signs and signals usually placed on the outside of double tracks—on the right for right-hand traffic and on the left for left-hand traffic. If 'train orders' or 'tokens' (permission to continue) need to be handed up to the driver while the locomotive is in motion, he or she is best able to receive them from the nearside.

Unlike the road, it is possible for trains safely to run on the "wrong" side if bi-directional signalling is in place. This is generally not done, as junctions and other infrastructure are usually optimised for running in one direction.

Generally, the left/right principle in a country is followed mostly on double track. On single track, when trains meet, the train that shall not stop often uses the straight path in the turnout, which can be left or right. If the meeting place contains a passenger station, it is possible that the left/right rule is followed, for passenger predictability.

Vessels and aircraft

Generally, all water traffic keeps to the right, under the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea. This is historically because, before the use of a rudder, the boat was steered by a steering oar, which was located on the right-hand side, also called starboard side of the boat, because the helmsman, standing in the middle of the boat and looking ahead, used his right hand to operate it. Traditionally, boats would also moor with the left hand side to the quay to prevent damage to the steering oar, and this was referred to as larboard (loading side), later replaced by port to prevent confusion from the similar sounding words. By keeping to the right, boats pass "port-to-port", protecting the steering oar. When modern style rudders fixed to the stern were developed, the helmsman was moved amidships (on the centreline), and when steering wheels replaced tillers this generally remained the same. Many motor yachts and other small craft are RHD, but some boats, typically smaller pleasure craft and wooden speedboats are built LHD, to give a better view of approaching and passing traffic.

However, there are many exceptions, often indicated on the particular bridge itself.[4]

The rule of the road at sea is that powered vessels give way to sailing vessels; but as between two powered vessels, if they are crossing the rule is to give way to the starboard, while if they are head on each must navigate to starboard so as to pass port-to-port. q.v. The upshot is that the vessel attempting to "pass on the wrong side" must give way.

For aircraft and vessels, the U.S. Federal Aviation Regulations provide for passing on the right, both in the air,[92] and on water.[93]

In dual-control airplanes, the captain sits on the left part of the cockpit and the first officer on the right part. In helicopters, however, the captain sits on the right and the first officer on the left.

See also

References

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  2. ^ Kincaid, Peter (December 1986). The Rule of the Road: An International Guide to History and Practice. Greenwood Press. ISBN 0313252491. 
  3. ^ "Why do some countries drive on the right and others on the left?". http://users.pandora.be/worldstandards/driving%20on%20the%20left.htm. 
  4. ^ a b c d Lucas, Brian (2005). "Which side of the road do they drive on?". http://www.brianlucas.ca/roadside/. Retrieved 2006-08-03. 
  5. ^ Klodt, Henning; Oliver Lorz (March 2008). "The coordinate plane of global governance" (PDF). The Review of International Organizations (Springer Boston) 3 (1): 3. doi:10.1007/s11558-007-9016-z. http://www.springerlink.com/content/38756vk808j67x22/fulltext.pdf. Retrieved 2008-05-06. PDF (178.2 KiB)
  6. ^ ECE R112 pp. 5–7, 9, 12, 14–15, 22–25, 27, 29–33, 35, 41, 44
  7. ^ ECE R98 pp. 6, 8, 11, 14, 18–19, 29–33, 45–47, 52, 57, 67, 71
  8. ^ ECE R94
  9. ^ US Patent 6,276,476
  10. ^ Australian Drivers Training Association
  11. ^ Kincaid, Peter (December 1986). The Rule of the Road: An International Guide to History and Practice. Greenwood Press. pp. 3,4. ISBN 0313252491. 
  12. ^ "Geneva Convention on Road Traffic (1949)". United Nations. http://untreaty.un.org/ENGLISH/bible/englishinternetbible/partI/chapterXI/subchapB/treaty1.asp.  (requires subscription)
  13. ^ Samoans now drive on left side of the road, Seattle Times
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  15. ^ a b The Straight Dope: "Why do the British Drive on the Left?" November 11, 1988.
  16. ^ Section 78
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  18. ^ Kincaid, pp. 14, 99–100
  19. ^ The Age: Samoa road switch protest
  20. ^ a b Salon News: Whose side of the road are you on?
  21. ^ BBC News: Samoan cars ready to switch sides
  22. ^ '82 Falklands Conflict Left a Legacy of Tragedy, Hope, Los Angeles Times, April 1, 2002
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  27. ^ Foerch C, Steinmetz H. (2009). Left-sided traffic directionality may be the safer "rule of the road" for ageing populations. Med Hypotheses. 73(1):20-3. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2009.01.044 PMID 19327893
  28. ^ Horse riders mounting from the left can apparently be traced to medieval knights, who mounted from the left side so that their scabbard would not be in the way. The scabbard was on their left hip because most men are right-handed; the sword would be drawn by the right hand across their body.
  29. ^ Left-hand drive car imports allowed by Govt-India Business-Business-The Times of India
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  33. ^ "(دافغان ټولنپال ولسواک ګوند (افغان ملت Afghan Mellat". Afghanmellat.org. http://www.afghanmellat.org/farhad_page.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-25. 
  34. ^ "TRÁNSITO ALREDEDOR DEL KILÓMETRO 0". Cai.org.ar. http://www.cai.org.ar/dep_tecnico/comisiones/CTECO/trabajos/transito-alrkm.htm. Retrieved 2009-05-11. 
  35. ^ "Día de la Seguridad Vial | Canal Encuentro". Encuentro.gov.ar. http://www.encuentro.gov.ar/content.aspx?id=2213. Retrieved 2009-05-11. 
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  38. ^ Strassenbau und Strassenverkehrstechnik 25/1963
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  44. ^ A triumph for left over right Winnipeg Free Press, August 30, 2009
  45. ^ Google Maps
  46. ^ "Avis Bahamas". http://www.avis.com.bs/rentalfleet.html. 
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  49. ^ Frank and Joan's Adventures in Northern Cyprus, 2006-12-9. Retrieved 2008-3-19.
  50. ^ Takutu bridge opens to traffic
  51. ^ http://static.panoramio.com/photos/original/21839270.jpg
  52. ^ http://static.panoramio.com/photos/original/21825479.jpg
  53. ^ Hong Kong 2006 - Transport – Cross-Boundary Traffic
  54. ^ Iceland Review Online - Ask Eygló: Q&A, FAQ about Iceland
  55. ^ (New York Times, 28 May 1968, p. 94)
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  57. ^ "Sight for sure eyes", Honest John's Agony Column, The Daily Telegraph, 28 March 2008
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  59. ^ Satellite imagery shows this very clearly
  60. ^ Traffic and transportation conditions 1868~1891 JETRO (Japanese) なお馬車は当初から左側通行と定められていたが,この1872(明治5)年の規則では,人力車もふくめて左側通行が明示された
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  62. ^ Andrew H. Malcolm, "U-Turn for Okinawa: From Right-Hand Driving to Left; Extra Policemen Assigned" The New York Times, July 5, 1978, Page A2.
  63. ^ Verbal information from manager operating the power plant.
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  66. ^ "Krakowska Komunikacja Miejska - autobusy, tramwaje i krakowskie inwestycje drogowe - History of the Cracow tram network". Komunikacja.krakow.eurocity.pl. 1982-11-28. http://komunikacja.krakow.eurocity.pl/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=412&Itemid=226. Retrieved 2009-05-11. 
  67. ^ (in Russian)
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  69. ^ [2], 'Rwanda could drive on left', East African Business Week, 02 August 2009
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  72. ^ "Samoan government defeats challenge to road switch plan". http://www.mvariety.com/?module=displaystory&story_id=10151&format=html. 
  73. ^ "Samoan prime minister defends decision to switch driving to left side of the road". http://www.rnzi.com/pages/news.php?op=read&id=35367. 
  74. ^ "Samoa announces driving switch date". http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/2/story.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10523412. 
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  78. ^ Right-to-left driving switch upsets Samoans, Radio Australia, August 12, 2008
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  90. ^ Which side of the road do they drive on?
  91. ^ a b El Sentido de la circulación de los trenes en la vía doble
  92. ^ FAR Sec. 91.113(e): "When aircraft are approaching each other head-on, or nearly so, each pilot of an aircraft shall alter course to the right."
  93. ^ FAR Sec. 91.115(c): "When aircraft, or an aircraft and a vessel, are approaching head-on, or nearly so, each shall alter its course to the right to keep well clear."

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