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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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  1. ketan raval says

    the content is wrong in some places
    india is showing left-hand drive — it’s NOT TRUE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Chris Malikoff says

    Your terminology is fundamentally incorrect. The acronym “RHD” or Right Hand Drive refers to the position of the driver within a vehicle – i.e. the driver sits in the right hand seat. Australia, UK, much of Asia is RHD, not “LHD” as you’ve stated. “RHT” or Right Hand Traffic refers to the position of the vehicle itself on the road – such as where vehicles rive in the USA and much of Europe. Australia, UK, etc, conforms to the LHT rule.

  3. JohnM says

    I agree with Chris that the author is constantly getting LHD/RHD mixed up with LHT/RHT, which makes this article entirely confusing. To be honest, the best bit has to be near the start when the author states that “Approximately 35% of the world population drives on the left.”, followed by “..from one of the 75% of the countries that adhere to the right hand drive”. Not only does it show the misunderstanding above (since driving on the left is usually done with right hand drive vehicles) BUT somehow 35 + 75 equates to 100 🙂

    1. TheOwlScribe says

      It’a okay because the writer’s arithmetic is poor.

      If traffic is driven on the left of the road then the driver sits on the right of the vehicle and vice-versa. I wonder why the driver gets himself all confused over such a simple matter. If he has to write about soemthing more complicating I guess he’d have to commit hara-kiri LOL.

  4. TheOneWhoCares says

    This article is a travesty of confused nonsense. Next time employ an editor.

  5. Ivanj says

    HAHA, love these comments! My brain melted trying to read this utterly confusing article. Geez man, is it that hard?!

  6. AJ says

    The Author confuses himself with Right Hand Drive and Right Hand Traffic. If a degree holder and in the car industry for over 20 years and to top it off a car enthusiast can make this simple mistake, It begs the question if he even knows what is right from wrong, oops i mean left.

    Internet is like a minefield. You get information easily but sadly, some of them are wrong like this one. Imagine those who doesn’t know any better and it’s shocking such wrong info comes about without proper vetting.

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