Driving On The RIGHT - Driving On The LEFT - Why ?

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DavidTHR

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I was wondering how the two different standards of driving came about: The USA / North American standard of driving on the "right side" with the steering wheel on the left, and the UK / Japan standard of driving on the "left side" with the steering wheel on the right.

I would think it would be in the early auto makers interest to establish a single driving standard as it would save them millions, and eventually billions, of dollars in manufacturing costs.

Does anyone have any idea as to how and why these two driving standards evolved?

/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/tongue.gif /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif

Thanks.
 
bindibadgi

bindibadgi

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I think it started ages ago when you would want to use your sword hand to fend off any approaching traffic (on horses of course). This would mean driving on the left for most places (right handedness was "standard"). I assume that Napoleon had something to do with the driving on the right thang. He was pretty influential. /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/tongue.gif
 
The_LED_Museum

The_LED_Museum

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The standard for the width of railroad tracks was traced back to the wheelbase on Roman chariots; so it is equally plausible that this has roots that extend back many centuries as well.
 
idleprocess

idleprocess

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That seems to be the standard explaination. There's another theory on keep-right locations ... most of those were settled/colonized during the gunpowder age, and one traditionally keeps a gun on the right hip or shoulder for quick access.

Save for Japan, most "drive left" nations seem to be present or former members of the British Commonwealth.
 
tvodrd

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Re: Driving On The RIGHT - Driving On The LEFT - W

Slightly O.T, but my Director has "requested" my hands-on presence in Ireland in a couple weeks. (While the expidited Passport is processed.) I asked him which side of the road they drive on, and he replied "Cab-it." (Whew!) My former Director drug his wife to England and rented a car. He turned around after a couple blocks and returned the rental! /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/crackup.gif The real Bi*ch is I think I will have to go to Belgium from there, and the destination is 50+ miles from Brussels! Color me honestly, terrified! It will require my use of public transit! Hopefully, as it draws closer, I will get some help here!

Larry
 
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nerdgineer

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Re: Driving On The RIGHT - Driving On The LEFT - W

I heard once that driving on the right came from wagon drivers who would flick a whip in their right hand at their horses. To prevent accidentally hitting opposing traffic with one's whip, one would drive on the right side.

Or....who knows...
 
gregw

gregw

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Re: Driving On The RIGHT - Driving On The LEFT - W

Well, having learnt to drive on the left side of the road (Singapore), then living in the US for close to 10 years and driving on the right side of the road, I have to say that I'm pretty proficient in driving on either side of the road and it doesn't really matter to me. /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif

The trick I've learnt is to mentally prepare myself when getting off the plane, and to constantly remind myself which side of the road I'm supposed to be driving on, at least for the first few miles.. /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif Obviously, having sat in a plane for 12+ hours while crossing half the world, and having jet-lag doesn't help matters any. /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif

My preference is to drive on the right side of the road and sitting in the left side of the car. The reason is that I'm slightly more proficient/faster in shifting gears (stick shift) with my right hand than my left. /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/wink.gif
 
B

BB

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Re: Driving On The RIGHT - Driving On The LEFT - W

Drove for a week in Ireland a few years ago. As Gregw says, just keep in mind that you need to keep left--and "map" your way very carefully through each intersection (make sure that you start and end your turn on the left side of the road).

Going straight down the road was no problem at all. The only time I got messed up was in a parking lot. No lines and driving around parked and moving cars--I drifted to the right and had to jog left to get back in line.

I was with a co-worker and it probably helped that I talked my way through the intersections just to keep me alert. If you enjoy driving--go for it. It is fun. (My co-worker though--did not want to try driving at all).

-Bill
 
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chmsam

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Re: Driving On The RIGHT - Driving On The LEFT - W

And here's the one that literally kills people...

if you are walking, remember to look for oncoming traffic in the correct direction.

Quite a few travellers who are used to one or the other direction of travel end up getting struck by vehicles because they look the "wrong" way while abroad. That's the reason for the "Look Right" signs in England.

Take a second to think and, just like Mom used to say, look both ways before you cross the street!
 
Unicorn

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Re: Driving On The RIGHT - Driving On The LEFT - W

It is unnerving to be in a bus and turning into what your mind tells you is oncoming traffic. You see the cars far enough away that it's not clear that they are in their left lane so you think that the bus is turning head on into freeway traffic.
 
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bucken

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Re: Driving On The RIGHT - Driving On The LEFT - W

I recently ended up spending a whole month in England with a rental car. Having never driven sitting in the "wrong?" side of the car and driving on the "wrong?" side of the road, I was concerned.

When I arrived, however, it was really no big deal. Just keep alert and, as BB said, "map" or "visualize" your way around the round-a-bouts, and you should be fine.

Believe it , or not, but as chmsam said, it's really MORE dangerous to be walking, especially if you're not used to looking to the RIGHT, first. England is full of curves and hills, and a car can sneak up on you real quick!
 
Canuckle

Canuckle

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Re: Driving On The RIGHT - Driving On The LEFT - W

I second gregw's notion, having learnt to drive in Singapore, and then living in North America for 8 years.
The 'trick', as it were, is to *actively* psych yourself up for what to expect at the next intersection, and to try to follow a vehicle ahead of you heading the same way. Highway driving is not a challenge, though I have caught myself grabbing the door handle at the next gearchange! /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/wink.gif

I recall reading of a British diplomat who, quite some years ago, was killed in a traffic accident in Ottawa (Canadian capital) while going the wrong way around a traffic circle.

Cheers!
 
tvodrd

tvodrd

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Re: Driving On The RIGHT - Driving On The LEFT - W

Where I have to go is 15 miles from the Airport, and I am going to "cab" it! I have to spend a couple days, and then continue to Nivelles, Belgium. That's the one that really scares me. How do I get from Brussels to Nivelles? I ain't rentin' no steekin car! /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif (Any help would be appreciated!)

Larry
 
crashlander

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Re: Driving On The RIGHT - Driving On The LEFT - W

It´s really not that hard to drive on the other side. The biggest problem is, that most of the time You start with a rental car from an airport, have jetlag and have to go through the peripherie of a big city. It´s good to have a co-driver who jells "drive left!" sometimes, especially on roundabouts and if You try to turn to the right.
We once made a trip to New Zealand and had a rental mobile home with 5 tons. That was a little bit frightening at the beginning. And in the backcountry, there are a lot one-lane-bridges in New Zealand. Most of the time, You pull automatically to the right lane when the road gets 2-lane again...
But it is better, if You have to drive on the other side, to have a matching car. On another vacation, we went to scotland with our own, left steering car. Its a bit problematic to watch the traffic, e. g. when overtaking or turning into a bigger street.
After coming home from a trip to a country where You drive on the left, I always mix the turn signal and the windscreen wiper. Only the devil knows why they change this configuration in some cars.
 

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