Wrong Side of the Road

Stockholm, 1967, on the day that Sweden changed from driving on the left (i.e. right) to the right (i.e. wrong) side of the road.


Between downpours at the otherwise splendid Chiddingstone Castle event a few weeks ago, the subject of RHD versus LHD came up in conversation. ­ OK, a bit “anoracky”, but it was about to rain again.

Well, it’s all to do with most of us being right handed. Early road users kept to the left, so that they could draw swords or level lances with their right arms and generally kill and maim each other. In 1300, Pope Boniface VII (no, I’d never heard of him either, but some say he was a handsome chap), directed pilgrims to Rome to keep to the left. That’s what the Romans did for us!

Modernized Mark 2

Moving forward to the 18th century and moving countries, the carriage driver was usually seated on the right so that he could wield his whip in his right hand without interference from the load behind him, and he could see down the right­hand side of the wagon to ensure that the hubs and wheels didn’t clash when passing oncoming wagons. Consequently, all countries that were a part of the British Empire drove on the left.

So far, so good. Now the Americans got in on the act and altered the status quo. They took to the right side of the road as a result of the design of their freight wagons in the 1790’s. They were much bigger than ours and had no driver’s seat. Drivers controlled the horses by riding on the rear left horse, using a whip in their right hand. When wagons travelling in opposite directions had to pass, each instinctively moved to their right (it’s that right handed thing again). So, they thought that they might as well stay on the right.

Corvette Stingray

Now it’s time for the French to put a spoke in the wheels. Their wagons were designed in a similar way, and during the time that Napoleon was in the charts with his world tour, and resenting the old papal dictate, he drove on the right. As with us Brits, any country that he conquered had to follow the rules of his empire and a keep rightpolicy became and remained the rule.

So that’s it….unless anyone has other ideas.


I was told that an advantage of RHD is that if you are in a “car jack” situation it is not possible for the car jacker to reach over two pedals with his right leg and put his foot on the accelerater, whilst it is much easier for some one to do this with his left leg in a LHD car because that pedal is the first he will encounter…Hmmm!


For those still awake, there are still some countries that do, like us, drive on the correct side of the road, in fact, there are 74 of them, including; Australia, Japan, India (just!), Singapore, Malaysia, South Africa, Thailand and Nepal. However, more than double this drive on the other side: ­ 166 to be exact.

Neil Shanley