Road to Whitfield near where I live in Kent
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That' Right Interesting
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Right is Wrong ... ... And Left is Right !

This page also dismisses this idea and shows that driving on the left hand side of the road is the right side (if you know what I mean).

Many of the points mentioned on this page can be found discussed in detail at the following websites...

<straightdope.com>
<wikipedia.org>
<brianlucas.ca>
<users.telenet.be/worldstandards>

If you ever get into a discussion with a Frenchman about which side of the road is the most logical side to drive on (as I did), he will undoubtedly tell you that driving on the right hand side is the most logical.

This page dispells this illogical belief.

Logically it would appear that driving on either side of the road is the same as long as you pick one and everyone sticks to it.

Just to throw a spanner in the works here, it has been said that horse and cart drivers traditionally sat on the left if they drove on the left. This was so that they could make sure the cart wheels didn't go off the edge of the track.
This is clearly contrary to both the left hand rule and the right hand rule. These days where overtaking is more commonplace than it used to be, left hand rule drivers need to sit on the right of the vehicle to ensure the road ahead is clear when overtaking. And vice versa for right hand rule drivers of course.
So I shall ignore this little snippet of information in this investigation.

First a brief historical look at why driving on the left (The left Hand Rule) was the first system to be used.

First and foremost it must be accepted that the majority of people are right handed and so favour the right side of the body.

Riding a horse at the left side of the road would mean that your right sword arm would be closest to those passing in the opposite direction - in case they were up to no good. And because right handed people get on horses from the left side you would get on your horse without having to walk out into the muddy road.

During the stage coach days the driver would sit on the right so that when his whip was in his right hand it would be clear of the wagon. Driving on the left side of the track would keep his whip clear of the trees that grew at the track edges and allowed stage coaches to pass with the drivers close to each other.

Sign for those that usually drive illogically.

OK so most countries are no longer feudal and violent so why stick to the left hand rule?

This question was posed by a somewhat myopic American with the quaintly red-necked title of "Billy-Bob from Tennessee".

He asked, "Why do people in Britain and some of their former colonies drive on the left side of the road? Is it just a case of clinging stubbornly to an outdated tradition?"

Well "Billy-Bob", to decide whether it's outdated, let's look at why some countries switched to the right hand rule.

First we'll look at the land of the self appointed rulers of the world and custodians of all worthwhile knowledge and invention...

In the past, travel and haulage across America was mostly done in trains of large wagons pulled by multiple horse teams. The larger haulage wagons had no driver's seat as such. To control a horse team pulling a large wagon the driver was required to sit on one of the rear horses in the team.

For right handed people it is easier to get on a horse from the left hand side and by sitting on the rear left horse the driver's whip (in his right hand) would be best placed to dish out encouragement to all of the the horses. This makes sense.
Consequently when wagon trains passed in opposite directions it would be better to pass on their left hand side, i.e. drive on the right hand side of the track, so that the drivers were in a more advantageous position to ensure they didn't get too close to each other.
This also makes sense.

It also makes sense that when driving from a wagon's seat the driver should sit on the right and drive on the left. And this is indeed what the wagon drivers did.

It all started here
Rob Roy
Up to the late 1700's, everybody travelled on the left side of the road because it's the sensible option for feudal, violent societies of mostly right-handed people.

And so...

OK, many of these points are minor and some possibly arguable but they are points none the less. And importantly they are the only points that differentiate between driving on the left or the right. The absence of any points in favour of driving on the right (other than if you're in the left-handed minority) is quite noticeable.

So is driving on the left just "Quirky"?, as one "knowledeable" author put it.

No, it is superior and the only quirkiness is deciding to change something for no good reason.

The fact that the right hand rule gets around 60% of the world's vote does not prove that it is the superior rule. After all, in 2004 around 60% of US states voted for George W. Bush. What does that tell you about the belief that a majority vote will get it right?

America used to be a left hand rule country and there is a train of thought that says America changed to the right hand rule solely because Britain drove on the left.

The story goes that the anti-British American forefathers simply chose to be different to the people that spawned their roots.
As with any new offspring, eventually the baby wants to be independent and will oppose any and all of its parent's ideals just to prove that it's all growed up.

America even changed the English language - and not for the better.

See <A Billion Colours> page.

But America doesn't have wagon trains any more so it could be equally valid to ask "Why does America (a former British colony that drove on the left) drive on the right side of the road? Is it just a case of patriotic obstinacy to break a tradition?"
But I won't ask that because these sort of questions are just so dumb.

 

Wagon Train
Throw the dummy out of the pram

My favourite reason for America's change to the right hand rule is that by sitting on the left side of the car one's gun hand is able to grab the gun from the glovebox for rapid deployment if inferior or troublesome road users need to be shot.
And with America's continued love of lethal weapons this reason for right hand driving has not yet become outdated.

The picture on the right
shows what some English
people prefer to keep in the
glovebox...

Equally effective in a road
rage argument.

Handy item for drivers
In an English Country glovebox
OK enough septic bashing, who else chose right?

Apparently France chose the right hand rule thanks to Napoleon who was left handed.

Everything I've said so far about right handed people and "the rule of the road" would in his case be reversed.

Everywhere that Napoleon conquered thus inherited the right hand rule.

I find this reason perfectly acceptable.

No compliment to the French intended.

"To the beach!"

Most countries that chose the right hand rule did so solely out of personal choice.

Some were forced to change after being conquered.

Some had to change simply because of bully boys with a right hand rule preference. As was the case during Hitler's reign when several European countries were "asked" to switch to the right (and not only their road rules!).

Bully boy tactics

Why?

A GLOBAL STANDARD

There is absolutely no reason why driving on the right hand side of the road should naturally become the global standard.
There is no evidence to support claims that the left hand rule is outdated or inferior. In fact it's just the opposite, as you'll see later.

Because of one absolutely deciding factor that has been mentioned throughout this page...

The vast majority of people are right handed.
"So what?" I hear you say.

If you are right handed then there are certain parts of your body that work better than others.
And there are certain things you prefer to do in a certain way.

It really all comes down to that.

So, why stick to driving on the left?

It's more natural...

If you are right handed you will favour getting on and off a bicycle or motorbike from the left hand side. Think about the last time you got on a bike, if you're right handed you will find this to be the case.
In left hand drive countries you will be naturally standing on the pavement (sidewalk) when you get on your bike.

In right hand rule countries on the other hand (excuse the pun) you'll have to walk into the traffic to get on your bike or you'll have to park it on the wrong side of the road. Or you could of course go through an unnatural mounting procedure whenever you wanted to go for a ride.

In left hand rule countries I can keep my more dextrous right hand on the steering wheel while I change gear (not important to people with no idea about gears and so drive automatics).

I use my right hand to open the door to get out of a car and my right hand works the window winder (again not a problem for people with no arm muscles that have to have powered windows).

However, it must be said that the higher accident rate in right hand rule countries could be attributed to the fact that "drivers" in many of these countries treat the rule with a certain amount of flexibility.

Extensive use of headlight flashing is often used to alert other road users that the rules have temporarily changed.

OOPs
Ta very much!

It's safer...

Research has shown that overall left side rule countries have a lower accident rate than their right rule counterparts.

It's better for the old folk...

Elder pedestrians tend to lose left eye acuity first so when crossing the road they have a better chance of not seeing, and hence stepping out in front of a car that is coming from the left, i.e. if it is driving on the right hand side of the road.

Left

In left hand rule cars the driver's wing mirror is on the right so the driver's right eye will be responsible for reacting to any possibly hazardous changes happening behind whilst the driver maintains main focus on the road ahead.

In right hand rule cars the mirror is on the left and the driver is relying on the weaker left eye to pick up hazards when focusing ahead.

A Canadian study sometime in the 70's or 80's showed that it might be a little safer to drive on the left. This is because most people are right-eyed in the same way that most people are right-handed. When driving on the left we have to overtake on the right and because our dominant right eyes are a few centimetres to the right of our left eyes we are able to see the road ahead just a little bit better, thus we can make better estimates of speed and distance. In those countries that drive on the right the situation is reversed and the dominant right eye is not in such a good position to see ahead. Overtaking is a risky manoeuvre and the Canadian study suggested that this might make a difference of a few lives every year.
Coyote
RoadRunner
Right

And...

One further point that's probably important to road hogs - If you want to give a finger to a driver that's not behaving in the same careless fashion that you are then you will tend to want to put your right arm out of the window to give the one finger gesture.

This is not possible in right hand drive countries so you'll have to make do with your left arm or maybe horn tooting or some other means of showing your displeasure at the other driver's carefulness.

(See Guns in the glovebox above).

meep meep!

So in light of no counter evidence to support the right hand rule...

I deem the case of Right is Wrong, Left is Right to be proven.

Case closed.

Right is Wrong
Left is Right

Oh, and just one final thing.

The discussion with the Frenchman that I mentioned earlier at the top of this page is what started me on this possibly pointless investigation.

But it won me 2 Omani Rials (about 3 quid) when he bet me that India was a right hand rule country.

 

Thanks Johan.

I won the bet