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Posted by on Oct 20, 2015 in Tell Me Why |

Why Do the English Drive on the Left Side of the Road?

Why Do the English Drive on the Left Side of the Road?

The English custom of driving on the left side of the road probably began in the days when men carried swords as they rode about on horseback.

By keeping to the left side of the road, a rider could keep his sword arm toward an approaching traveler, in case he had to defend himself.

Sitting on the left however made it difficult to judge the traffic coming the other way, as anyone who has driven a left-hand drive car along the winding lanes of Britain will agree!

Traffic congestion in 18th century London led to a law being passed to make all traffic on London Bridge keep to the left in order to reduce collisions.

This rule was incorporated into the Highway Act of 1835 and was adopted throughout the British Empire.

In the United States, traffic keeps to the right. The right-hand custom was started by the drivers of the early freight wagons, who often walked along the left-hand side of the wagon.

So the walker could have a clear view of the road, the wagon had to be kept to the right.

Today, only 35% of countries drive on the left. These include India, Indonesia, Ireland, Malta, Cyprus, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and most recently, Samoa in 2009.

Most of these countries are islands but where land borders require a change from left to right, this is usually accomplished using traffic lights, cross-over bridges, one-way systems or similar.

Content for this question contributed by Kimberly Swabsky, resident of Munhall, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA