Why we Drive on the Left
and
Why they Drive on the Right

This is a little piece of 'not so general' knowledge that we would like to share with you, so that you may pass it on.

The 'rule of the road' in mainland Europe and the majority of countries in the world, including the United States is to drive on the right.

In the United Kingdom and some of her former dominions; Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, Zambia, South Africa, Zimbabwe; some Caribbean Islands including Barbados and St. Lucia; India and Pakistan; the Mediterranean island of Malta, Japan and Thailand, are very happy to tell you that they drive in the shade. The rule of the road remains, to drive on the left.

The origin of this rule of the road dates back to how people travelled in violent feudal societies. As most people are right handed it made sense to carry or use any protective weapon, such as a sword or dagger, with this hand. When passing a stranger on the road, it would be safer to walk on the left, so ensuring that your weapon was between yourself and a possible opponent. Jousting Knights would hold their lances in their right hand, therefore passing on each other's left.

Revolutionary France was to overturn this historic practice. Their military general and self proclaimed Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, was left-handed. Therefore his armies had to march on the right, so that he could keep his sword arm between himself and any advancing enemy.

From this time, any part of the world that was colonised by the French would travel on the right, the rest would remain travelling on the left.

Although America was originally a British colony, the French colonised the southern states such as Louisiana and the Canadian East coast including Quebec. The Dutch colonised New York (New Amsterdam), the Spanish and Portuguese colonised the Southern Americas and much of the southwest parts of North America.

The British were in the minority when it came to shaping the traffic system. The new independent American republic adopted the 'drive on the right' system, being anxious to cast away any remaining links with its British colonial past.

American motorcars were designed to be driven on the right by locating the drivers' controls on the vehicle's left side. With the mass production of reliable and economical motorcars from the United States, initial exports used the same design, so out of necessity many other countries changed their rule of the road.

So there you are!

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