It’s one of those “i’ve-never-really-wondered-that” kind of things but, why do some countries drive on the left and some on the right?
Well, because i’m pretty sure that now that i’ve mentioned it you are curious as to why this is happening, here’s how it goes.
It may sound strange to modern societies, but it seems that the “keep-left” rule was pretty much the way to go since ancient times. For example, this was the side they used in the Roman Empire and we know that due to archaeological evidence. (the article continues after the ad)
Moving on a couple of centuries, during the Middle Ages, people had one more reason to keep on the left. Survival. Meeting people along the road during those times was not always a pleasant experience since there was always the element of attack. This is why, people retained the “keep-left” rule because, if you were right-handed (and most of the people are) it would be easier to draw your weapon which was typically attached to your left side. Of course, the keep-left rule was always helpful when you met a friend on the road; you could easily offer your hand without the need to reach across your body when on the horseback.
This was the situation until the late 1700s, but what changed and we went from a keep-left to a keep-right world?
During the 18th century, teamsters (large wagons with team of horses) started to show up in the US. Because these wagons didn’t have a seat, the drivers, who were mostly right-handed, would typically sit on the rear left so they could easily drive the horses with the lash being in their right hand. As the number of these wagons started to increase, there was a necessity for an oncoming left traffic, because it was much easier to keep an eye on the traffic if you are sitting on the left side. And that was pretty much it! In 1792 the US passed a law that officially made the “keep-right rule”, a law of the country.
The trend quickly spread into Canada and, some years later into Europe (the first European country to adopt it was France, then Germany). Historians believe that the reason why the “keep-right” rule never caught up in the England was because wagons wasn’t very popular in the country since the roads were much narrower than in the other countries and that’s the reason why in England and its colonies, people drive on the left.
Here’s a map with the right-handed and left-handed driving countries today:
* Red: Countries that drive on the right-hand side
* Blue: Countries that drive on the left-hand side