Left Hand Drive vs Right Hand Drive: The Reasons behind the Differences

Traveling from one country to another comes with a bundle of surprises – new culture, new people, different food, cultural shocks, and many more. Another thing that could be included in this package is the driving rules – especially to those visiting from a right-hand driving country to a left-hand driving (LHD vs RHD) country or vice versa. Left hand drive vs right hand drive is a dilemma that many people cannot wrap their head around.

Some facts about Left Hand Drive vs Right Hand Drive

  • Approximately 35% of the world population drives on the left. The countries that follow the left hand drive rule are mostly old British colonies. It will be a tad shocking for anyone when they visit a country like England, Bangladesh, or Japan from one of the 75% of the countries that adhere to the right hand drive
  • According to one study, the incidence of accidents in countries with lower left-hand driving laws is lower than that of the right-hand drive countries.
left hand drive
Less than 50 countries follow the left-hand drive rule. Source: Get in Gear
  • In Africa, Mozambique – the former Portuguese colony – still retains the driving tradition on the left, although Portugal has shifted to the right hand drive in the 1920s. The reason is that all the bordering countries is a former British colony and is influenced by the British style of driving.
  • Another country in Oceania, Samoa, has also enacted a new law to adapt the South Pacific nations to the left-hand drive to adapt to other East African Community (EAC) countries.
  • For some African countries, Kenya for more specific, left-hand drive vehicles are not allowed except in cases of diplomats from left-hand drive car countries and they want to bring their car. In addition, vehicles with left hand drive used in mining and construction are allowed to circulate.

Left Hand Drive vs Right Hand Drive, which one comes first?

The history of left walking comes from the Greek, Egyptian and Roman times and is more widely used than the right walking. From a habit, going left becomes a tradition and then becoming the law. Left-handed rule was well established in Rome by cities with dense traffic.

History of left hand drive vs right hand drive
History of left hand drive vs right hand drive. Source: Wikimedia Commons

By sitting on the left, you will naturally want the person to go in the opposite direction also to their left so you can look down and make sure that under their wheels there is nothing suspicious. For this reason, you are forced to go to the right of the road. The first law of the United States was introduced in Pennsylvania in 1792, and many years later, many other states and counties in Canada adopted the law.

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Left Hand Drive vs Right Hand Drive: The Reasons for Differences

The automobile is a 20th-century invention. So, it seems confusing that there are two different standard systems for driving in all over the world. Well, the car is a modern conception but the roads are there for centuries.

Reasons for differences between Left hand drive vs Right hand drive
Reasons for differences between Left hand drive vs Right hand drive. Source: PxHere

In ancient Rome, people used to drove chariots. As most human beings are right-handed, the Romans chose the right hand side of the road to drive so that they can hold the reins with their right hand and whip a horse with the left hand. It also eliminated the risk of whipping a passing chariot but made it possible to attack a passing enemy with the right (stronger) hand. The British people inherited that custom and later executed it in the colonies they ruled.

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On the other hand, Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, was the pioneer in changing the driving side. He designed his Model T automobile with the left hand drive. It enabled the drivers to drive on the road’s right, allowing the passengers to exit onto the pavement.

Mr. Ford started the clash between left hand drive vs right hand drive in which the former standard came out as victorious. Many countries gradually followed this standard, with Spain, Italy, and Canada in the 1920s and most Eastern European countries in the ‘30s.

Left Hand Drive vs Right Hand Drive, which one is safer?

According to a study conducted in 1969 by J. J. Leeming, the countries applying the driving law on the left have lower rates of traffic crashes than those applying the right driving laws.

Left Hand Drive vs Right Hand Drive, which one is safer?
Left Hand Drive vs Right Hand Drive, which one is safer? Source: Sunbeam Tiger / Flickr

When driving on the left, the right eye with better power is used more to monitor the opposite direction of traffic and the rearview mirror near the driver. In addition, there are also suggestions that driving on the left is safer for older people because it seems that aging results in decreased ability to focus on the left. Vehicles are moving to the left at intersections.

Cities that Apply The Left Hand Drive vs Right Hand Drive

Left hand drive vs Right hand drive countries
Left hand drive vs Right hand drive countries
Left hand drive Right hand drive
UK Territories and British Autonomous Region: Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Isle of Man, Montserrat, St. Helena, Turks & Caicos Islands.
Asia: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand.
Europe: Cyprus, Ireland and Northern Ireland, Malta, Scotland, Wales.
Africa: Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Suriname, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad & Tobago, Rwanda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
America: Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, US Virgin Islands, St. Lucia Vincent & Grenadines.
Oceania: Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands.
The rest with red color in picture

What Is the Current Condition?

Left hand drive vs Right hand drive
Countries have designed the roads and cities according to the way the drive. Source: Top Gear

It is obvious from the left hand drive vs right hand drive discussion that all the countries started driving on the right side of the road but most of them eventually switched the side. Today, almost 50 countries still stick to the tradition of driving on the left. The only apparent reason for this stubbornness seems to be the unwillingness to change a tradition. However, the logical cause is the left hand drive countries have designed their roads and cities to accommodate left-handed driving. Changing the driving side is not a viable option for these countries because they have to alter the design of their cities.

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