What Countries Drive On The Right Side Of The Road

What Countries Drive On The Right Side Of The Road – Lefty Or Righty?

At long last, lockdowns and quarantines are receding, and the world re-opens to outdoorsy fun and adventure. Remember those long road trips we used to have back in the β€œgood old” days before this COVID thing ruined it all? Well, we can enjoy more of those – albeit, carefully and hygienically so – in the near future. But then you wonder… What countries drive on the right side of the road?

It’s odd, huh? You book that rental car and head out of the airport. Only then did you realize a set of bright lights flashing in front of you. Oh dear, you’ve done it again – you started driving on the wrong side of the road. Luckily, you swerve rapidly out of the way, as honks blare to burst your eardrums in half. Thankfully, no one got hurt. Scary as it was, the only casualty that day are a pair of soiled pants.

Unfortunately, some aren’t so lucky. So, before you head out for your road trip in a foreign country, do take some time to learn what countries drive on the right side of the road. This seemingly simple and innocent mistake could prove deadly to you, your passengers, and others on the road. But why do some countries drive on the β€œwrong” side of the road? And what are these countries?

What’s The History Behind Driving On The Left Or Right Side Of The Road?

We’ll take a look at what countries drive on the right side of the road in just a second. First, it may be worthwhile to learn more about why is this the case. It’s an odd question that we only ask those few times we’re driving around in a foreign country. So, let’s finally put those thoughts to rest, and learn the background of why some countries drive on the right, while others choose the left.

The history of left v. right seems to be more brutal than you might think. We can start by looking at the ancient Romans and our ancestors in the Middle Ages. That’s because the Romans – which at the time were the premier superpower of the world – drove on the left-hand side of the road. Or, β€˜rode’ is a more precise term, given the equine horsepower and horse-driven carriages back in the day.

What Countries Drive On The Right Side Of The Road

Historians agree that at the time, around 85% to 90% of humans are right-handed. So, now imagine yourself sitting at the back of a horse. As your dominant hand is (likely) the right one, you can leave that to handle the more precise motor skills. In that day and age, this meant using your right hand to handle weaponry, such as holding lances or swords. Mounted cavalry was prevalent, remember.

This leaves your left hand – the less dominant one – to take the reigns of the horse. When comparing the two, holding the reigns requires a lot less muscle memory and control compared to attacking or blocking with your sword. On top of that, sword sheaths are often placed by your left-side waist. So, you can surmise that trying to mount a horse with a sheath in the way can be tricky.

From The Ancient Romans To Napoleonic France

Thus, we can start our journey of what countries drive on the right side of the road with that morbid tale. After all, it’s a whole lot easier to impale and stab your enemy on horseback with your dominant hand – the right one. From the ancient Romans, this same drive-on-the-left system was practiced and maintained in other parts of the world. Whether it’s a horse carriage or a donkey cart, do keep left.

Although, this wasn’t tightly enforced until after the Middle Ages. The new world powers, this being England and France, started tightening the rules around which side of the road to drive on. In 1773, England became the first country to pass that into law. Anyone riding or driving in England must do so on the left-hand side of the road. The French, meanwhile, switched sides not too long after.

The reason? In pre-revolutionary France, horses or carriages that carried the wealthy would regularly storm down the left-hand side of the road. In response, the poor and peasants – who otherwise had to walk – had to duck and run to the right side of the road when they came past. This disregard for pedestrians was a big no-no in the paranoid post-revolutionary France. Aristocrats had to adapt.

So, the exuberant and filthy rich tried to blend in with everyone else. That might sound like some silly made-up story. If so, then remember that Napoleon was left-handed. A peculiar quirk, yes. But as he started conquering half of Europe, he mandated that every conquered nation drove-rode on the right side, as well. As the British Isles were the one place he failed to invade, we kept our lefty privileges.

Ford’s Model T Became The Decider On Left Vs. Right Side Of The Road

All of this was Europe, mind you. How did the rest of the world decide what side of the road to drive on? One simple word to explain this would be – colonialism. As European powers colonized more and more regions in Asia, Africa, South America, the Middle East, and elsewhere, those same rules apply. As we’ll learn later on, almost all of the old British Empire still – to this day – drive on the left.

That said, we also have the Americans to blame for this. In particular, it was American automobiles that forced the change. First, let’s start with the USA. The Romans rode on the left because it was easier to draw their swords with and use them. In 1800s America, folks were instead having to control teams of horses instead of just one. Therefore, they needed their dominant (right) hand to steer.

What Countries Drive On The Right Side Of The Road

Carriage drivers also preferred to sit closer to the middle of the road. This improved visibility, and it made sure they could more readily avoid traffic collisions with oncoming horses or carriages. As a result of this, the USA joined team drive-on-the-right. This measure solidified globally as the age of the automobile came around, and everyone wanted an American-made car.

Henry Ford made sure the layout of the Model T made it clear – you’re meant to drive on the right. As Model Ts were exported in the thousands, other countries followed suit depending on which cars had the steering wheel on what side. Even Canada dropped the British model and started driving on the right side of the road. Japan was a unique holdout, as they continue to drive on the left.

Dagen H – The Day They Switched Sides Of The Road

It’s difficult to talk about the history of what countries drive on the right side of the road without at least some mention of Dagen H. It’s otherwise known as the β€œH Day” in Swedish, with H standing for β€œHΓΆgertrafikomlΓ€ggningenβ€œ. Or, β€˜right-hand traffic reorganization’. This marked the once chaotic and seemingly overnight decision of Sweden to move from the left-hand side of the road to the right.

That day was the 3rd of September, 1967. It was decided to change the traffic rule for a few reasons. The first was that neighboring countries like Norway and Finland drove on the right. That’s around 5-million vehicles crossing to and from Sweden. Plus, many vehicles in Sweden then were left-hand drive. Numerous collisions ensued, as a result, therefore, a change in the traffic flow was planned.

Although, it was hugely unpopular. The Swedish government committed to over four years worth of educating the public on which side of the road they were supposed to drive on. On top of that, they spent millions to add special road signs, markers, pavement lines, and various other reminders for drivers. Despite all this, however, there was a spike in traffic collisions on and just after Dagen H.

On the bright side, none of the collisions were serious enough to cause fatalities. Additionally, there was a momentary drop in accident rates and insurance claims. Though this figure rapidly rose long after Dagen H, as drivers stopped being as cautious. Buses and trams followed suit, with passenger doors now fitted on the right-hand side. Trains, however, continued to drive on the left.

How Did Driving On The Left Or Right Side Of The Road Affect The Cars?

While American automobiles may have contributed to what countries drive on the right side of the road, cars too were affected by local legislation. For those regions that do drive on the left or right, what impact did that make on the cars that were built for them? The most obvious is the layout of the steering wheel. As we know, the steering wheel is placed on the opposing side of the road.

For right-hand traffic (or countries that drive on the right), the steering wheel is placed on the left (or left-hand drive). Vice versa, left-hand traffic (or countries that drive on the left), the steering wheel is placed on the right-hand side. The reason for this is fairly straightforward. This inverse layout allows the driver to be placed close to the center of the road, or sometimes called an β€˜offside’.

This enables them greater visibility of oncoming traffic. Meanwhile, the passenger is situated on the side of the road, or sometimes called the β€˜nearside’. In doing so, the passenger can open the door or depart safely on the curb, rather than in the middle of the road. This was – as we mentioned earlier – reinforced with the Ford Model T. Henry Ford set the basis for a left-hand drive in a right-hand traffic.

There are some examples where having the driver closer to the nearside could be advantageous. For example, street sweepers and delivery vehicles can often be configured for right-hand drive, despite driving in a right-hand traffic. This gives them better visibility of the side of the road, either for cleaning or delivering packages. Some vehicles, like the McLaren F1, have a central steering wheel, instead.

What About Other Types Of Traffic On The Left Or Ride Side Of The Road?

Besides cars, there are other types of vehicles that have to navigate the traffic of their own, too. So, how did they manage what side of the β€œroad” to use, either the left or right? Most can agree that the rise and widespread use of rails before automobiles had a huge impact on what side of the road cars are to be driven on. In most countries, rail traffic travels on the same side as cars do.

Nevertheless, there are exceptions. For instance, many RHT (right-hand traffic) countries have their trains travel on the left-hand side. This is thanks in no small part to the expansive British rail industry back in the day. Japan was a notable example of how rail traffic determined its on-road traffic. When the first cars arrived in Japan, it was decided that they are to travel on the left-hand side of the road.

This is despite never having been a British colony before. However, British engineers were prevalent in designing railway networks that remain in use today. Once again, the prominent LHT railway has led to automobiles in Japan following the same rule as the British did. Other oddities include France. Despite driving on the right side of the road in a car, its trains travel on the left-hand side.

Boats, meanwhile, are generally right-hand traffic (RHT) in most parts of the world. This is owing to the fact that most boats are piloted from the right-hand side (or starboard). Vessels, especially when in traffic, must keep to the right to maintain the right-of-way. For aircraft, they’re also prominently RHT. As such, the most senior pilot-in-command or flight officer commonly sits and pilots on the left.

Which Countries Drive On The Left Or Right Side Of The Road?

About two-thirds of the world’s countries – not counting by population, but entire nations – drive on the right (right-hand traffic). On the flip side, countries that drive on the left (left-hand traffic) take up a sixth of Earth’s land. That’s roughly a third of the human population, and around a quarter of all the roads in the world. So far, more than 30 countries have switched from the left to the right.

In other words, the ratio of LHT (left-hand traffic) to RHT (right-hand traffic) is around 1:3. To make the search a bit easier, we’ve compiled a long list of countries down below by their continent and region. Then, we’ve listed each of them by what side of the road they drive on. This should you a clearer idea of what countries drive on the right side of the road.

Feel free to use the β€˜CTRL+F’ function to search for the exact country down below, as we look at how they drive. Do these countries and regions drive on the right side of the road or the left?

Africa

  • Algeria – Right
  • Angola – Right
  • Benin – Right
  • Botswana – Left
  • Burkina Faso – Right
  • Burundi – Right
  • Cameroon – Right
  • Central African Republic – Right
  • Chad – Right
  • Congo – Right
  • Democratic Republic Of The Congo – Right
  • Djibouti – Right
  • Egypt – Right
  • Eritrea – Right
  • Ethiopia – Right
  • Gabon – Right
  • Gambia – Right
  • Ghana – Right
  • Guinea – Right
  • Guinea-Bissau – Right
  • Ivory Coast – Right
  • Kenya – Left
  • Lesotho – Left
  • Liberia – Right
  • Libya – Right
  • Madagascar – Right
  • Malawi – Left
  • Mali – Right
  • Mauritania – Right
  • Mauritius – Left
  • Morocco – Right
  • Mozambique – Left
  • Namibia – Left
  • Niger – Right
  • Nigeria – Right
  • Rwanda – Right
  • Senegal – Right
  • Sierra Leone – Right
  • Somalia – Right
  • South Africa – Left
  • South Sudan – Right
  • Sudan – Right
  • Swaziland – Left
  • Tanzania – Right
  • Tunisia – Right
  • Togo – Right
  • Uganda – Left
  • Western Sahara – Right
  • Yemen – Right
  • Zambia – Left
  • Zimbabwe – Left

Caribbean

  • Anguilla – Left
  • Antigua – Left
  • Aruba – Right
  • Bahamas – Left
  • Barbados – Left
  • Bonaire – Right
  • British Virgin Islands – Left
  • Cayman Islands – Left
  • Curacao – Right
  • Dominica – Left
  • Dominican Republic – Right
  • Haiti – Right
  • Jamaica – Left
  • Grenada – Left
  • Martinique – Right
  • Puerto Rico – Right
  • Reunion – Right
  • St. Kitts And Nevis – Left
  • St. Lucia – Left
  • St. Maarten – Right
  • St. Vincent And The Grenadines – Left
  • Trinidad And Tobago – Left
  • US Virgin Islands – Left

Central America

  • Belize – Right
  • Costa Rica – Right
  • El Salvador – Right
  • Guatemala – Right
  • Honduras – Right
  • Nicaragua – Right
  • Panama – Right
  • Turks And Caicos Islands – Left

Central Asia

  • Kazakhstan – Right
  • Kyrgyzstan – Right
  • Tajikistan – Right
  • Turkmenistan – Right
  • Uzbekistan – Right

East Asia

  • China – Right
  • Hong Kong – Left
  • Macau – Left
  • North Korea – Right
  • Japan – Left
  • South Korea – Right
  • Taiwan – Right

Europe

  • Albania – Right
  • Andorra – Right
  • Austria – Right
  • Armenia – Right
  • Azerbaijan – Right
  • Belarus – Right
  • Belgium – Right
  • Bosnia And Herzegovina – Right
  • Bulgaria – Right
  • Canary Islands – Right
  • Croatia – Right
  • Cyprus – Left
  • Czech Republic – Right
  • Denmark – Right
  • Estonia – Right
  • Faroe Islands – Right
  • Finland – Right
  • France – Right
  • Germany – Right
  • Gibraltar – Right
  • Georgia – Right
  • Greece – Right
  • Guernsey – Left
  • Hungary – Right
  • Ibiza – Right
  • Iceland – Right
  • Ireland – Left
  • Isle Of Man – Left
  • Italy – Right
  • Jersey – Left
  • Kosovo – Right
  • Lanzarote – Right
  • Latvia – Right
  • Liechtenstein – Right
  • Lithuania – Right
  • Luxembourg – Right
  • Mallorca – Right
  • Malta – Left
  • Moldova – Right
  • Montenegro – Right
  • North Macedonia – Right
  • Netherlands – Right
  • Northern Ireland – Left
  • Norway – Right
  • Poland – Right
  • Portugal – Right
  • Romania – Right
  • Russia – Right
  • Scotland – Left
  • Slovakia – Right
  • Slovenia – Right
  • Sicily – Right
  • Spain – Right
  • Sweden – Right
  • Switzerland – Right
  • Tenerife – Right
  • Turkey – Right
  • Ukraine – Right
  • United Kingdom – Left
  • Wales – Left
  • Vatican City – Right

Middle East

  • Afghanistan – Right
  • Bahrain – Right
  • Iran – Right
  • Iraq – Right
  • Israel – Right
  • Jordan – Right
  • Kuwait – Right
  • Lebanon – Right
  • Palestine – Right
  • Oman – Right
  • Qatar – Right
  • Saudi Arabia – Right
  • Syria – Right
  • United Arab Emirates – Right

North America

  • Canada – Right
  • Mexico – Right
  • United States Of America – Right

Oceania/Polynesia

  • Australia – Left
  • Fiji – Left
  • Hawaii – Right
  • Guam – Right
  • Kiribati – Left
  • Marshall Islands – Right
  • Micronesia – Right
  • Nauru – Left
  • Northern Mariana Islands – Right
  • New Caledonia – Right
  • New Zealand – Left
  • Palau – Right
  • Papua New Guinea – Left
  • Samoa – Left
  • Solomon Islands – Left
  • Tonga – Left
  • Tuvalu – Left
  • Vanuatu – Right

South America

  • Argentina – Right
  • Bolivia – Right
  • Brazil – Right
  • Chile – Right
  • Colombia – Right
  • Cuba – Right
  • Ecuador – Right
  • Equatorial Guinea – Right
  • Falkland Islands – Left
  • Guyana – Left
  • Paraguay – Right
  • Peru – Right
  • Suriname – Left
  • Uruguay – Right
  • Venezuela – Right

South Asia

  • Bangladesh – Left
  • Bhutan – Left
  • British Indian Ocean Territory – Right
  • India – Left
  • Maldives – Left
  • Nepal – Left
  • Pakistan – Left
  • Sri Lanka – Left

Southeast Asia

  • Brunei – Left
  • Cambodia – Right
  • East Timor – Left
  • Indonesia – Left
  • Laos – Right
  • Malaysia – Left
  • Myanmar – Right
  • Philippines – Right
  • Singapore – Left
  • Thailand – Left
  • Vietnam – Right

How Can You Remind Yourself Of What Side Of The Road To Drive On?

That was a rather exhaustive list of all the countries that drive on the right and left side of the roads, respectively. But let’s say you’re planning to make a cross-border trip into another nation. Or, maybe you’ve already gotten a rental car at the ready by the airport parking lot. Besides having this guide on your bookmarks tab, how else could you remind yourself of what side of the road to drive on?

The good news here is that there are plenty of ways. It all comes down to your creativity. Moreover, what makes your memory snap the best. Here are a few tips and tricks on DIY reminders of which side of the road to drive on…

DIY Reminders For Knowing What Side Of The Road To Drive On:

  • Wear Color-Coded Gloves – As we learned earlier, the Swedish tried doing this. If you fancy wearing driving gloves, you could have one side colored to remind you of the traffic flow. For instance, you could wear a bright red glove for your right hand, if you’re supposed to drive on the right.
  • Sticky Notes – One trick that I – and many, it seems – found to be most useful is to simply use a sticky note. Write a simple note, like β€œdrive on the right”. Then, stick that somewhere most visible inside the car. One example is sticking it onto the rim of the steering wheel or covering the dash instrument cluster.
  • Keep An Eye Out – Many countries have some visual indicators – like road signs – to remind foreigners. Usually, these signs resemble a squiggly arrow pointing from one lane to another. Others are more upfront, simply mentioning β€œWelcome to [country name here], make sure to drive on the right”.
  • Position Of The Steering Wheel – Be aware that as you walk up to your car, the steering wheel has suspiciously been moved to the other side. This should be a strong enough reminder. Otherwise, remember this simple rule – the driver should always be driving close to the middle of the road or lane. Elsewhere, the passenger should always be sitting closer to the side of the road.

What Countries Drive On The Right Side Of The Road – Conclusion

That’s a good place to end our guide on what countries drive on the right side of the road. Did we get them all? If not, be sure to let us know in the comments down below! In summary, the events which led to countries decided on what side of the road to drive on is no less than bizarre. From horseback riding to a revolutionary fervor, many nations have switched back and forth over the centuries.

As the world shrinks further and travel becomes easier, getting to know what countries drive on the right side of the road is crucial. That’s especially so when you’re rapidly crossing continents in a tour from one country to the next. Be sure to have a guide like this handy. Thankfully, many nations have signs or reminders at airports or border crossings to remind you which side of the road to drive on.

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