The terms right-hand traffic and left-hand traffic refer to regulations requiring all bidirectional traffic to keep either to the right or the left side of the road, respectively. This is so fundamental to traffic flow that it is sometimes referred to as the rule of the road. This basic rule eases traffic flow and reduces the risk of head-on collisions. Though originally most traffic drove on the left worldwide, today about 66.1% of the world's people live in right-hand traffic countries and 33.9% in left-hand traffic countries. About 72% of the world's total road distance carries traffic on the right, and 28% on the left.
Universally (following a treaty; see below) each country specifies a uniform road traffic flow: left-hand traffic (LHT) in which traffic keeps to the left side of the road, or right-hand traffic (RHT) in which traffic keeps to the right.
Vehicles are usually manufactured in left-hand drive (LHD) and right-hand drive (RHD) configurations, referring to the placement of the driving seat and controls within the vehicle. Typically, the placement of the steering wheel is opposite to the rule of the road: LHT countries use RHD vehicles, and RHT countries use LHD vehicles. This is so that the driver's line of sight is as long as possible down the road past leading vehicles, an important consideration for overtaking (passing) manœuvres. However, there are LHT countries where most vehicles are LHD (see Caribbean islands below)—and there are some countries with RHT and mostly RHD vehicles, such as Afghanistan, Burma, and the Russian Far East. Many countries permit both types of vehicles on their roads. Terminological confusion can arise from the misuse of left-hand drive or right-hand drive to indicate the side of the road along which vehicles are driven.
The terms nearside and offside are of equestrian origin meaning specifically left and right both in LHT countries (e.g. the United Kingdom) and RHT countries (e.g. Denmark), but have developed in many English-speaking LHT countries to refer specifically to the left and right sides of a vehicle, whereby the nearside is that closest to the kerb and the offside is that closest to the centre of the road.
|“||All vehicular traffic proceeding in the same direction on any road shall keep to the same side of the road, which shall be uniform in each country for all roads. Domestic regulations concerning one-way traffic shall not be affected.||”|
In the past, several countries had different rules in different parts of the country (e.g., Canada until the 1920s). Currently, China, the United States and the United Kingdom each have territories which differ from their primary traffic rule. In China the bulk of the country drives on the right, but the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau – which were transferred to the country in the late 1990s – drive on the left. In the United States most of the country drives on the right side of the road, but traffic in the US Virgin Islands – like on many Caribbean islands – drives on the left side of the road. The United Kingdom drives on the left, but the overseas territory of Gibraltar drives on the right.
- All traffic is generally required to keep left unless overtaking.
- Oncoming traffic is seen coming from the right.
- Right-turning traffic must cross oncoming traffic.
- Most traffic signs facing motorists are on the left side of the road.
- Traffic on roundabouts (traffic circles or rotaries) goes clockwise.
- Pedestrians crossing a two-way road look first for traffic from their right.
- The lane designated for normal driving and turning left is on the left
- Most dual carriageway (divided highway) exits are on the left
- Other vehicles are overtaken (passed) on the right, though in some circumstances overtaking on the left is permitted.
- Most vehicles have the driving seat on the right.
- A left turn at a red light may be allowed after stopping.
- On roads without a footpath pedestrians may be advised to walk on the right.
- All traffic is generally required to keep right unless overtaking.
- Oncoming traffic is seen coming from the left.
- Left-turning traffic must cross oncoming traffic.
- Most traffic signs facing motorists are on the right side of the road.
- Traffic on roundabouts (traffic circles or rotaries) goes anticlockwise.
- Pedestrians crossing a two-way road look first for traffic from their left.
- The lane designated for normal driving and turning right is on the right.
- Most dual carriageway (divided highway) exits are on the right
- Other vehicles are generally overtaken (passed) on the left, though in some circumstances overtaking on the right is permitted.
- Most vehicles have the driving seat on the left.
- A right turn at a red light may be allowed after stopping.
- On roads without a footpath pedestrians may be advised to walk on the left.
Jurisdictions with left-hand traffic
Total: 76 countries, territories and dependencies
Today road traffic in the following seven European jurisdictions drives on the left: the United Kingdom, Ireland, Isle of Man, Guernsey, Jersey, Malta and Cyprus. None shares a land border with a country that drives on the right and all were once part of the British Empire. Some Commonwealth countries and other former British colonies, such as Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Singapore, New Zealand, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, South Africa and Trinidad & Tobago drive on the left, but others such as Canada, Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and the United States drive on the right. Other countries that drive on the left in Asia are Thailand, Indonesia, Bhutan, Nepal, East Timor and Japan. In South America, only Guyana and Suriname drive on the left. Most of the Pacific countries drive on the left, in line with Australia and New Zealand, with Samoa joining most recently, on 7 September 2009, the first country for three decades to change the side on which it drives.
Jurisdictions with right-hand traffic
Total: 164 countries and territories
Changing sides at borders
Where neighbouring countries drive on opposite sides of the road, drivers from one to the other must change sides when crossing the border. Thailand is particularly notable in this context. Thailand drives on the left; since Burma changed from left to right in 1970, 90% of Thailand's borders are with countries that drive on the right (only Malaysia drives on the left). Thailand is the only sizable country with this issue.
When borders coincide with natural barriers, such as mountains (which may be in remote areas) or rivers, the traffic volumes are relatively low and the number of border crossings is reduced. This is true of many borders where traffic changes sides of the road, especially in Asia.
The four most common ways of switching traffic from one side to the other at borders are
- Traffic lights. Examples include
- Crossover bridges. Examples include
- Border roads intersect with roundabouts or other one-way traffic systems. Examples include
- No automatic infrastructure (signposts and directions only), most commonly found at borders with low traffic volumes. Examples include
- Poipet between Thailand and Cambodia
- Mae Sai old bridge between Thailand and Burma
- Khunjerab Pass between Pakistan-administered Kashmir and China
- Moyale between Kenya and Ethiopia
- Friendship Bridge between Nepal and China
- Service tunnel of the Channel Tunnel between the United Kingdom and France (underground and not open to the public) –
In 1998, archaeologists found a well-preserved track leading to a Roman quarry near Swindon, England. The grooves in the road on the left side (viewed facing down the track away from the quarry) were much deeper than those on the right side. These grooves suggest that the Romans drove on the left, at least in this particular location, since carts would exit the quarry heavily loaded, and enter it empty.
Some historians, such as C. Northcote Parkinson, believed that ancient travellers on horseback generally rode on the left side of the road. As more people are right-handed, a horseman would thus be able to hold the reins with his left hand and keep his right hand free—to offer in friendship to passing riders or to defend himself with a sword, if necessary.
The first legal reference in Britain to an order for traffic to remain on the left was in 1756 with regard to London Bridge. The Highway Act 1773 contained a recommendation that horse traffic should remain on the left and this is enshrined in the Highway Act 1835.
In the late 18th century, the shift from left to right that took place in countries such as the United States was based on teamsters' use of large freight wagons pulled by several pairs of horses. The wagons had no driver's seat, so a postilion sat on the left rear horse and held his whip in his right hand. Seated on the left, the driver preferred that other wagons pass him on the left so that he could be sure to keep clear of the wheels of oncoming wagons. He did that by driving on the right side of the road.
There is a popular story that Napoleon changed the rule of the road in the European countries he conquered from keep-left to keep-right. Some justifications are symbolic, such as that Napoleon himself was left- (or right-) handed, or that Britain, Napoleon's enemy, kept left. Alternatively, troops passing on the left may have been tempted to raise their right fists against each other. Forcing them to pass on the right reduced conflict. Hence, island nations such as Britain and Japan (using ships to move troops around and having less need to move them overland) continued to drive on the left. These stories have never been shown to have a factual basis and appear to be legends.
Countries that became part of the British Empire adopted the British keep-left rule, although some have since changed. In Canada, the Maritime provinces and British Columbia initially drove on the left, but changed to the right to make border crossings to and from other provinces easier. Nova Scotia switched to driving on the right on 15 April 1923.
Changing to right-hand traffic
This section needs additional citations for verification. (January 2009)
Over the course of the 20th century, there was a gradual worldwide shift from driving on the left to the right. Portugal changed to right-hand traffic in 1928, and the parts of Canada that were still driving on the left changed over by 1923 (although Newfoundland was not part of Canada until 1949, and its motorists drove on the left until 1947). The remainder of Italy changed over in the 1920s after Benito Mussolini came to power; Austria and Czechoslovakia changed when Germany annexed or occupied them in the late 1930s, and Hungary followed suit. In Austria the build-up of new traffic lights and rebuilding of tram tracks was started before the annexation. The Latin American countries of Panama and Argentina changed in 1943 and 1945 respectively, and the Philippines and China followed suit in 1945 and 1946 respectively. British Honduras (now Belize) changed to right-hand traffic in 1961. Sweden changed in 1967 and Iceland did as well in 1968. Burma changed, allegedly on the advice of a wizard, in 1970. (For the logistics involved, see the Swedish experience at Dagen H.)
Taiwan drove on the left under Japanese rule, but changed to driving on the right in 1946 after the government of the Republic of China assumed administration; the same happened in North and South Korea, another former Japanese colony.
The most common reason for countries to switch to right-hand traffic is for conformity with neighbours, as it increases the safety of cross-border traffic. For example, several former British colonies in Africa, such as the Gambia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Ghana, have changed from driving on the left to the right, because they all share extensive borders with former French colonies, which drive on the right. The former Portuguese colony of Mozambique continues to drive on the left, which is a legacy of its Portuguese past, even though Portugal itself changed over in the 1920s. However, Mozambique continues to drive on the left because all its bordering countries do so. Decisions by countries to drive on the right typically centre on regional uniformity. There are historical exceptions, such as postilion riders in France, but such historical advantages do not apply to modern road vehicles.
Changing to left-hand traffic
The Japanese prefecture of Okinawa, under US military occupation and driving on the right since June 24, 1945, switched back to the left-hand traffic used by the rest of Japan on July 30, 1978. The event is locally known as "730".
Foreign occupation and annexation
Many countries have temporarily or permanently changed their rule of the road as a result of foreign occupation or annexation. Examples include Austria (at the Anschluss) and Czechoslovakia (details) under German rule or military transit in the 1930s and 1940s. In the Faroe Islands left-hand driving was in force on the roads of the island of Vágar during the British occupation in the Second World War. The Channel Islands changed to driving on the right under German occupation, but changed back after liberation in 1945. The Falkland Islands did the same under Argentine control during the 1982 Falklands War, although many islanders continued to drive on the left as an act of defiance. East Timor changed to driving on the left under Indonesian rule in 1976, and continues the practice as an independent state.
The Japanese region of Okinawa changed from left to right under US control; in 1972 Okinawa was returned to Japanese sovereignty, and six years later, in 1978, the driving rules reverted to left-hand traffic as in mainland Japan.
Korea also changed from left to right at the end of the Second World War. This occurred in September 1945, when Soviet-backed forces occupied the North and American forces arrived in the southern half of Korea. Shortly afterwards the peninsula was divided along the 38th parallel. Driving on the right was implemented in both territories because military vehicles were now either American-made or Russian-built LHD models.
Research in 1969 by J. J. Leeming showed countries driving on the left have a lower collision rate than countries driving on the right, although he acknowledged that the sample of left-hand rule countries he had to work with was small, and he was very careful not to claim that his results proved that the differences were due to the rule of the road. It has been suggested this is partly because humans are more commonly right-eye dominant than left-eye dominant. In left-hand traffic, the predominantly better-performing right eye is used to monitor oncoming traffic and the driver's wing mirror. In right-hand traffic, oncoming traffic and the driver's wing mirror are handled by the predominantly weaker left eye. In addition, it has been argued that left-sided driving is safer for elderly people given the likelihood of their having visual attention deficits on the left side and the need at intersections to watch out for vehicles approaching on the nearside lane. Furthermore, in an RHD car with manual transmission, the driver has the right hand, which for most people is dominant, on the steering wheel at all times and uses the left hand to change gears and operate most other controls.
Cyclists and horse riders typically mount from the lefthand side. This places them on the kerb when driving on the left.
The largest safety issue is the coexistence of the two systems; visitors accustomed to one system might not act or react properly when visiting a region where the other system is used. For example, a pedestrian might look the wrong way before crossing a street.
In road racing, most tracks are run in a clockwise direction, including those in countries with right-hand traffic which have anticlockwise roundabouts. Since more corners are therefore to the right instead of left, using a right-hand drive car has an advantage both in the driver's view of a corner's apex, and also in the overall weight distribution, which would be towards the inside.
Tram and streetcar systems generally follow the same rules as normal road traffic in the country concerned, both on road and on reserved sections, with the passenger doors on the kerbside. Various exceptions exist or have existed, examples including the now-removed system in London where some sections of tramway had or have both tracks on the same side of the road with no physical separation from road traffic.
The driver is usually positioned near the centre of the vehicle, although some single-operator trams have been developed wherein the driver sits nearer the centre of the road. On the left-hand running Blackpool system and Melbourne trams built between the 1970s and 1990s, the driver sits on the right. Before the extensive system was dismantled, Sydney trams also drove on the left-hand side.
When Sweden changed to driving on the right, its single-ended tram had the doors on the wrong side, and this was taken as an excuse to close down several systems. Gothenburg operated its trams in opposite-handed pairs, the left-hand-drive tram leading before the changeover and the right-hand-drive tram afterwards. Over time, all trams have been converted with many trams built in the sixties still being operated. In the northeastern part of the system, the trams pass through a tunnel under Hammarkullen, which lies on top of a steep hill. Since building a single central platform was cheaper, the trams switch sides at Hjällbo and run on the left past the last four stops.
In Vienna, around the underground station Kagran, Tramline 26 changes to the left to prevent passengers from crossing the tram tracks.
Driver seating position
On most early motor vehicles, the driving seat was positioned centrally. Some car manufacturers later chose to place it on the side of the car closest to the kerb to help the driver avoid scraping walls, hedges, gutters and other obstacles. Other car manufacturers placed the driving seat on the side closest to the centre of the road to give the driver the longest possible line of sight in traffic. This is the pattern that eventually prevailed. Today experimental versions of drive by wire and brake by wire vehicles are being developed which allow the driver to slide the steering wheel/brake controls from left to right with the gauges in the centre dashboard. They are expected to become popular in countries such as Thailand that have land borders with opposite-drive countries. The newest Unimog models can be changed from left-hand drive to right-hand drive in the field to permit operators to work on the more convenient side of the truck.
As with horse riding, where riders tend to prefer mounting from the left, pedal cycles have evolved to be mounted from the same side. The common chain-based transmission systems used overwhelmingly by bicycles of all kinds are generally placed on the right hand side of the bike. Riders can thus walk along with their cycles held out to their right with less fear of their legs interfering with or being made dirty by the transmission system which is on the far side of the frame. This configuration suits the use of cycles on roads designed for driving on the left, where the cyclist can walk just off the side of the road with their bike on the road and between them and the traffic. From this position they can then mount their bike by elevating and extending their right leg which tends to be easier for right-handed individuals. Cycles produced for countries which drive on the right have the front brake lever on the left whereas the opposite is the case for countries which drive on the left such as UK.
Legal restrictions on wrong-hand drive vehicles
For reasons of safety, politics, or economic market protection, some countries ban the sale or import of vehicles with the steering wheel on the "wrong" side.
In Kenya, it is illegal to register LHD vehicles, a rule set by the Kenya Bureau of Standards. Exceptions are made for special vehicles such as ambulances, fire engines, construction vehicles or vehicles to be donated to the government.
In Australia, registration of non-vintage (i.e., less than 30 years old) LHD vehicles is illegal. Imported LHD vehicles less than 30 years old (15 years old in Western Australia) must be converted to RHD (potentially costing thousands of dollars), or driven with a permit that imposes severe usage restrictions. However, Western Australia and the Northern Territory (both that have at various times hosted US military facilities and had vehicles imported, used and sold by US service personnel) have LHD vehicles in circulation. The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) previously allowed non-vintage LHD vehicles to be registered, but changed its legislation some years ago. However, in the Northern Territory, LHD vehicle registration is allowed if the vehicle was used for at least 12 months whilst overseas by a migrant or Australian citizen returning home.
In New Zealand, LHD vehicles may be privately imported, and driven locally under an LHD permit. Since 1999, only LHD vehicles older than 20 years or cars owned and operated for at least 90 days may be privately imported. Diplomats and Operation Deep Freeze personnel are exempted from these restrictions.
In the Philippines, RHD vehicles are banned. Public buses and vans imported from Japan are converted to LHD, and passenger doors are created on the right side. This ban was thought to be the result of an increase in accidents involving RHD vehicles, most of which were trucks. However, some vans keep their doors on the left side, leading to the dangerous situation in which passengers have to exit toward oncoming traffic. Some RHD industrial cranes and other off-road vehicles remain.
Cambodia banned the use of RHD cars, many of which were smuggled from Thailand, from 2001, even though RHD vehicles accounted for 80 percent of vehicles in the country. The government threatened to confiscate all such vehicles unless they were converted to LHD, in spite of the considerable expense involved. According to a BBC report, changing the steering column from right to left would cost between US$600 and US$2,000, in a country where the average annual income was less than US$1,000.
However, many used vehicles exported from Japan to countries like Russia and Peru are already converted to LHD. But even if the driver's position is left unchanged, some jurisdictions require at least replacement of the headlamps.
Singapore bans LHD vehicles from being imported for personal local registration, but temporary usage by tourists of LHD vehicles is allowed. However, diplomatic vehicles in Singapore are exempt from the RHD-only ruling, and there are a few hydrogen and fuel cell powered LHD vehicles currently undergoing trials in Singapore.
In Taiwan, Article 39 of the Road Traffic Security Rules requires a steering wheel to be on the left side of a vehicle to pass an inspection when registering the vehicle, so RHD vehicles may not be registered in Taiwan. This rule does not apply retroactively, so an RHD vehicle that was registered before this rule does not lose its registered status and may continue to be legally driven.
In Trinidad and Tobago, LHD vehicles are banned except for returning nationals who were resident in a foreign country and are importing a vehicle for personal use. LHD vehicles are also allowed to be imported for use as funeral hearses.
In West Africa, once-British Ghana and The Gambia have also banned RHD vehicles. Their traffic has been changed from on the left to on the right. Ghana prohibited new registrations of RHD vehicles after 1 August 1974, three days before the traffic change on 4 August 1974. RHD vehicles may be imported only temporarily into Sierra Leone, for example for humanitarian programmes, but must be exported at the end of the operation.
Most of the above bans on RHD and LHD vehicles apply only to locally registered vehicles. Countries that have signed the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic are not allowed to make such restrictions on foreign-registered vehicles. Paragraph 1 of Annex 5 states "All vehicles in international traffic must meet the technical requirements in force in their country of registration when they first entered into service". Therefore all signatory countries and most non-signatory countries allow the temporary import (e.g., by tourists) of foreign-registered vehicles, no matter which side the steering wheel is on. Oman and Azerbaijan, which have not signed the Vienna Convention, ban all foreign-registered RHD vehicles.
Both RHD and LHD vehicles may generally be registered in any European Union member state, but there are some restrictions and regulations. Slovakia and Poland, despite being members of the European Union, do not allow the local registration of RHD vehicles, even if the vehicle is imported from one of the four EU countries that drive on the left (UK, Ireland, Cyprus, and Malta). Lithuania and Ukraine have prohibited new RHD vehicle registration since 1993.
Buses typically have passenger doors only on the kerbside, which severely restricts their ability to operate effectively on the opposite side of the road to that for which they were designed. Increasingly, touring coaches, which are likely to cross frontiers of traffic-handedness during their duties, are fitted with a supplementary door on the opposite side from the kerb, to simplify access and egress in the foreign country. In Britain this is known as a "continental door", since its usefulness will be in continental Europe. It doubles as an emergency exit, but is much more user-friendly than an exit designed solely for emergency use.
It is usually fairly straightforward to retrofit a non-kerbside door on buses with relatively low floor height; the many traditional British double-deckers sold on for tourist use in the USA and Canada are examples.
Some BRT systems operate with buses that have doors only (or mainly) on the opposite side from the kerb, intended to operate in stations or bus stops in the centre of an avenue with dedicated lanes, such as TransMilenio (LHD) in Bogotá, Colombia and Rea Vaya (RHD), in Johannesburg, South Africa, the last only for articulated buses operating in trunk lines.
In northern Italy trucks were often RHD so that the driver could see the edge of the road on Alpine passes. In Spain trucks were RHD until the 1950s, to enable drivers to watch for unstable road edges.
Postal and other service vehicles
Post Office cars and vans in some countries such as the United States, Canada, Finland, Estonia, and Sweden have the steering wheel on the opposite side to normal vehicles. This is so drivers can easily drive up next to post boxes or get out straight onto the pavement without having to walk around their vehicles, or put post in boxes without getting out of their vehicles at all.
In the US, rural mail carriers often must provide their own vehicles and have a limited selection of RHD vehicles that they can choose to buy or lease. Some utility service vehicles are also RHD to allow dismounting at the kerb and some newspaper carriers use RHD vehicles to deliver papers to kerbside boxes rather than drive along routes on the wrong side. The Jeep Wrangler is available in the United States in RHD configuration, since this particular model is popular with rural mail carriers who sometimes operate in less-than-optimal road conditions and thus appreciate the Wrangler's 4WD capabilities. Between 1991 and 1999, Subaru manufactured and sold a right-hand steering version of its all-wheel-drive Legacy station wagon model for use by US mail rural route and highway contract route box delivery carriers, and many of the vehicles remain in use, with the dwindling supply of used right-hand steering Subarus much sought after by mail and newspaper carriers. Saturn made a SWP (Station Wagon Postal) starting in 1996, using the same RHD steering gear used when the S-series started being exported to Japan.
In Europe, RHD vehicles are bought by the postal services and are offered by several manufacturers, since such vehicles are produced for the British market. Likewise, LHD vehicles are possible to buy for use in Britain. With EU rules, used vehicles can be sold over the border, making it easier to sell used vehicles. Before that it was very hard to sell vehicles steered from the "wrong" side.
In Australia and the UK, LHD street sweeper trucks are common for the purpose of the drivers having a better view of the kerb they are cleaning. Street sweepers in North America are often RHD for the same reason. Some styles of Wheelie bin collection trucks also have kerb-side driver's seats to permit a better view of the bin as it is emptied. Some of these vehicles have dual-control systems, with a steering wheel and pedals on both sides of the cab, allowing the driver to operate from whichever side offers the best safety and visibility at the specific time.
Headlamps and other lighting equipment
Most low-beam headlamps produce an asymmetrical beam focused for use on only one side of the road. Headlamps for use in LH-traffic countries have low-beam headlamps that throw most of their light forward-leftward, while limiting the light range forward-rightward; the beam is distributed with a downward/leftward bias. Headlamps for RH-traffic countries have low-beam headlamps that throw most of their light forward-rightward, while limiting the light range forward-leftward; the beam is distributed with a downward/rightward bias. The beam thus lets the driver see obstacles and road signs on his own side of the road at a safe distance, without dazzling oncoming traffic.
Within Europe, when driving a vehicle with RH-traffic headlamps in a LH-traffic country or vice versa for a limited time (as for example on holiday or in transit), it is a legal requirement to adjust the headlamps temporarily so that the wrong-side hot spot of the beam does not dazzle oncoming drivers. This may be achieved by adhering blackout strips or plastic prismatic lenses to a designated part of the lens, but some varieties of the projector-type headlamp can be made to produce a proper LH- or RH-traffic beam by shifting a lever or other movable element in or on the lamp assembly.
Because blackout strips and adhesive prismatic lenses reduce the safety performance of the headlamps, most countries require all vehicles registered or used on a permanent or semi-permanent basis within the country to be equipped with headlamps designed for the correct traffic-handedness.
Without sidecars attached, motorcycles, motor scooters, mopeds, and bicycles are almost symmetric with their handlebars in the centre. However, motorcycles are often equipped with automotive-type asymmetrical-beam headlamps that likewise require adjustments or replacement when brought into a country with opposite traffic-handedness.
Rear fog lamps
Within the European Union, each vehicle must be equipped with one or two red rear fog lamps. A single rear fog lamp may be located on the vehicle centreline, or on the driver's side of the vehicle. It may not be located on the passenger's side of the vehicle, where it may be replaced with a single reverse lamp. When importing a vehicle to a country which drives on the opposite side of the road, this sometimes requires the purchase and installation of local-market lighting components.
This section gives details about the road traffic, including trams and other light rail systems which include street running. Trains which use segregated tracks usually have separate rules and are included in the Trains section.
Right hand traffic was introduced in Afghanistan by Ghulam Mohammad Farhad, the Mayor of Kabul, in the early 1950s, first in Kabul and later in the rest of the country. Today most vehicles in much of the country, however, are RHD cars imported from neighbouring Pakistan (with the exception of Herat and other western provinces). In the capital Kabul, most drivers have adapted to this problem, leaning over the passenger seat (on the car's left side) before making a left turn or before overtaking other vehicles by veering into the left (oncoming traffic) lane. The country also has a large volume of military vehicle traffic from the US, Canada and EU militaries, much of which is LHD.
When the Pan American Highway from Alaska to Cape Horn was planned in the 1930s, it was decided it should use one side of driving its entire length. A few countries along the route used left-hand traffic, one being Argentina. On 10 October 1944 Decreto Nacional 26965  was issued, introducing right-hand traffic in Argentina eight months later, on 10 June 1945. Strict speed limits kept the number of fatal accidents low after the conversion. 10 June is still observed each year as Día de la Seguridad Vial  (Road Safety Day) in Argentina.
Trains built by the British, as well as underground in Buenos Aires, run on the left.
Australia drives on the left. The decision to drive on the left side of the road was made in the early 19th century in the early period of the British colony of New South Wales by Governor Lachlan Macquarie after the first road was built, and followed the British practice. Australian states and territories had used the "give way to the right" rule; in the absence of regulations specific to a particular situation, drivers must yield the right of way to all vehicles to their right. This applies to most uncontrolled intersections except for T-intersections. Give way to the right does not apply to merging lanes, in that instance vehicles must give way to any vehicle that is ahead. This is sometimes called zip merging. If lines are marked, vehicles are not zip merging but changing lanes, and they must give way accordingly. All LHD vehicles must be converted to RHD if under 30 years old, except in Western Australia where they are only required to be 15 years old for registration.
The Austro-Hungarian Empire drove on the left. Successor countries switched to the right separately. Austria did it in stages, beginning from the west:
- Vorarlberg: 1919,
- Tirol and western half of Salzburg: 1930,
- Carinthia and East Tirol: 1935,
- Upper Austria, Styria, eastern half of Salzburg: 1 June 1938,
- Lower Austria: 19 September 1938.
Poland's Galicia switched to the right around 1924. Czechoslovakia planned to start driving on the right on 1 May 1939, but the change in Bohemia and Moravia was prompted by the German occupation forces (Bohemia: 17 March 1939, Prague: 26 March, see switch to right hand traffic in Czechoslovakia for details). Hungary also acted later than planned: the government decided about the change in June 1939 but postponed it and finally introduced it at 3am on 6 July 1941 outside Budapest and at 3am on 9 November 1941 in Budapest.
As a former British colony, the Bahamas has left hand traffic. Most vehicles are imported from the United States and are thus left-hand-drive vehicles.
Being a former British colony, Bangladesh has left-hand traffic. Regulations require all imported vehicles to be right-hand drive—except those imported by foreign embassies or consulates—hence the popularity of used vehicles from Japan.
Before 1899, there was no uniform system in Belgium. In some cities or provinces traffic drove on the left and in others on the right. Beginning on 1 August 1899, right-hand traffic was introduced in the whole country.
As a former British colony, Belize (known until 1973 as British Honduras) drove on the left until 1961, when it changed to the right in anticipation of the Pan-American Highway being built to pass through the country. However, after Hurricane Hattie the government had to divert funds earmarked for the construction of the highway to disaster relief, so the highway does not in fact run through Belize.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bolivia, like most South American countries, drives on the right with the exception of the notorious "El Camino de la Muerte" or simply known as Yungas Road where it drives on left.The reason for this configuration is to help drivers see their outer wheel while traversing the road.
As a former British colony, cars in Burma drove on the left until 1970; the military administration of Ne Win decreed that traffic would drive on the right hand side of the road beginning 7 December 1970. It is alleged that this was because Ne Win had been advised by his astrologer, who had said "move to the right". In spite of the change, most passenger vehicles in the country continue to be RHD, being pre-changeover vehicles and second-hand vehicles imported from Japan, Thailand, and Singapore. Buses imported from Japan that were never converted from RHD to LHD, have doors on the right side in offset position, unlike their counterparts in the Philippines. However, government limousines, imported from the People's Republic of China, are LHD. Virtually all vehicles are driven with a passenger called a "spare" (စပယ်ရာ) in place to watch the oncoming traffic and inform the driver as to whether it is safe to overtake or not, as the driver cannot see this from the RHD position.
Canada drives on the right in LHD (left-hand-drive) vehicles. Until the 1920s, the rule of the road in Canada varied by province, with British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island having cars driving on the left, and the other provinces and territories having motorists driving on the right. Starting on the west coast July 15, 1920 and ending on the east coast May 1, 1924, the remaining provinces began driving on the right. Newfoundland was not part of Canada until 1949, and its motorists drove on the left until 2 January 1947.
One of the very few places in Canada where traffic appears to drive on the left is in Montreal on Autoroute 20 for the 3 kilometres (2 mi) between its junctions with Route 138 and Autoroute 15. The two roadways remain separated by a railway right-of-way for this entire distance, and the changing of sides does not interfere with the flow of traffic.
Hundreds of thousands of right-hand drive (RHD) vehicles were built in Canada during World War II for the military from 1940 to 1945. Most of these were DND Pattern (later called Canadian Military Pattern) as well as some of the MCP (Modified Conventional Pattern i.e. civilian pattern) vehicles. The reason is that Canada's military forces were at that time intended to fight alongside the British military who used RHD vehicles. Britain also lost most of her military vehicles in France in the 1940 retreat and so she ordered thousands of new vehicles from Canada. Canadian Military Pattern (CMP) vehicles became the most standardised vehicles in the British Commonwealth. They were supplied to Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India. Others were supplied to the USSR after they entered the war. A few, diverted from shipment to Canadian troops in Hong Kong, were supplied to the US Army in the Philippines and were used there until the Japanese captured the islands. Post-war, thousands of RHD Canadian-made vehicles were supplied to the United Nations for relief (UNRRA) of countries that had suffered greatly in World War II and went to countries such as Czechoslovakia and Greece. During the Cold War in the 1950s, Canada gave many more to allies such as Norway, the Netherlands, France and Italy. During the War, Canada had built RHD armoured vehicles such as tanks, armoured cars, armoured trucks, scout cars, universal carriers, tracked jeeps, etc. One of these was the Ram tank which was the inspiration for the later Sherman M4 tank.
There are some officially offered RHD vehicles in Canada, such as Canada Post mail delivery trucks. These have extra mirrors to increase driver visibility. Some garbage trucks and street sweepers have dual controls—both LHD and RHD. This allows the driver to enter and exit the vehicle quickly no matter which side of the street is being serviced. General-purpose RHD vehicles are allowed in Canada, providing they comply with all applicable Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards or are more than 15 years old and therefore eligible for import regardless of compliance with Canadian Federal regulations.
The English-speaking Caribbean typically follows the keep-to-the-left rule and as a result, most cars have a RHD configuration. Examples of this may be noted in such countries as Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago.
However in some islands, mostly Lesser Antilles (such as the British Virgin Islands, US Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, as well as Turks and Caicos Islands) and the Bahamas, most passenger cars are still LHD equipped (despite they drive on the left), being imported from the United States or Brazil. Only some government cars and those imported from RHD countries (Japan and the United Kingdom among others) are RHD. The US Virgin Islands are particularly known for having a high accident rate caused by American tourists from the mainland who are unfamiliar with driving on the left in their LHD rental cars.
The French Antilles (Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint-Martin) and the Netherlands Antilles (Bonaire, Curaçao and Sint-Maarten) drive on the right, with LHD car configurations, like in their metropolitan area in Europe or in most countries of continental Americas.
Before 1946, driving in China was mixed, with cars in the northern provinces driving on the right, and cars in the southern provinces such as Guangdong driving on the left. From 1946, China became a right hand traffic-only country.
Croatia was part of the Austro Hungarian Empire before the First World War, and after the collapse of the empire, it started driving on the right. Sometimes, on multi-storey car park entrances of the left side of a one-way street the lanes on the entrance are reversed to provide for unrestricted flow of traffic between the car park and the street. One such example is the Importanne Gallery multi-storey car park. This was done so the traffic lanes in the one way street from which one enters the car park would not cross.
A former British colony, Cyprus drives on the left, and cars sold locally are right hand drive, including those used by the British forces in the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia. However, there is a sizable number of left-hand drive vehicles in the occupied areas which were imported from Turkey in the 1980s. Since Cyprus is now an EU member it is common to find left-hand drive vehicles also (tourists overland or else second hand imports from other EU countries with LHD vehicles). An increasing number of right hand drive grey import vehicles from Japan and the UK are now sold throughout the island.
Road vehicles in Egypt use right hand traffic due to French cultural influence, during the era of Mohamed Ali in the early 19th century when the traffic system was planned. An exception is a section of one main street in Alexandria city centre called The Tram Road, where cars drive on the left for a few kilometres. The railway system was established in Egypt in the late 19th century by British companies during the British Colonial Era, and so trains travel on the left.
Ethiopia and Eritrea
Ethiopia changed from left-hand to right-hand traffic on 8 June 1964. Eritrea was at that time part of Ethiopia, so the same date is applicable for that country. The reason for the change is not clearly understood, as neighbouring Kenya in the south and Sudan in the west were driving on the left.
France has long been a right-hand traffic country.
However, along the 350 metres (380 yards) of Avenue du Général Lemonnier in Paris, which connects the Pont Royal to the Rue de Rivoli, traffic drives on the left, separated only by a hump. The N205 from Annecy up to Chamonix has a 5 km section between Le Fayet and Le Châtelard where the down carriageway has been built into the mountain side throwing the up carriageway onto high cantilevered sections  giving the unnerving experience of driving not just high in the air but on the left for several minutes before the carriageways recross and revert to the French norm.
Despite the rule of the road, trains (except the Paris Métro) are still typically driven on the left track, as long as they use their autonomous ways and there is usually no risk of confusion, and also because cars are forbidden to drive on the same lanes (traffics are physically separated). However, some local services tracks (notably those around harbours) which have very low traffic, are built on ways that are most often used by cars or open to cycles and pedestrians. In these cases, these special tracks may be driven by trains (only short carriers) in the same direction as the car traffic, at very low speed and with limitations of charge to avoid accidents.
The Gambia was the first of the former British colonies in west Africa to adopt right-hand traffic. The Gambia's only neighbour is the former French colony of Senegal. The Gambia implemented the switch-over 1 October 1965, months after its independence.
Ghana changed to driving on the right-hand side on 4 August 1974; several stamps were issued as part of the information drive.
Although the British overseas territory of Gibraltar changed to driving on the right on 16 June 1929 to avoid accidents involving vehicles from Spain, some public buses until recently were RHD, with a special door allowing passengers to enter on the right hand side. However, most passenger cars are LHD, as in Spain, with the exception of second-hand cars brought in from the UK and Japan as well as UK registered military vehicles used by the British Forces.
Guyana and Suriname
Guyana and Suriname are the only two remaining countries in the mainland Americas that drive on the left. As a result of the construction of the Pan-American Highway, four mainland American countries switched to driving on the right between 1943 and 1961, the last of which was British Honduras (now Belize). Both Guyana and Suriname are separated from their neighbours by large rivers, with the first bridge crossing one of these only opening in April 2009. The inland south of both countries is sparsely populated with very few roads and hence no border crossings.
In the south-west of Guyana, near Lethem, work was finally completed on 26 April 2009 on the Takutu River Bridge across the Takutu River into neighbouring Brazil, which drives on the right. The changeover system is on the Guyana side, with one lane passing under the other on the bridge's access road. Construction proceeded slowly over the years before being completed by the Brazilian army. Brazil had been keen to open the bridge, as it now gives Brazil access to Caribbean sea ports on the north coast of South America. Brazil intends to permit Guyana registered (RHD) vehicles to go no further than the Brazilian border town of Bonfim. It is expected that Brazilian (LHD) vehicles will be able to drive all the way through Guyana to the coast. The Takutu Bridge is the Americas' only border crossing where traffic changes sides of the road.
In Suriname most of the privately owned buses are imported from Japan, and the exits are designed for driving on the left. Most state-owned buses, however, are from the US (LHD) and often the placement of the exits has to be adjusted.
Hong Kong and Macau
As a former British colony, Hong Kong follows the United Kingdom in driving on the left. Macau, a former Portuguese colony, historically followed Hong Kong in driving on the left because most of the RHD cars in Macau were imported through Hong Kong. Macau did not follow either Portugal in 1928 or China in 1946 in switching to driving on the right.
Under the auspices of the one country, two systems arrangement, the practice of driving on the left continues in Hong Kong and Macau, now Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China. Most vehicles, even those of the People's Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison, are RHD. LHD exceptions include some buses providing services to and from the mainland.
There are four road border crossing points between mainland China and Hong Kong. The largest and busiest is Lok Ma Chau Control Point (aerial map), which features two separate changeover systems on the mainland side. In 2006, the daily average number of vehicle trips recorded at Lok Ma Chau was 31,100. The next largest is Man Kam To, where there is no changeover system and the border roads on the mainland side simply intersect as one-way streets with a main road.
There are two border crossing points between mainland China and Macau. The newer crossing point is the Lotus Bridge, which crosses a narrow channel of sea between the mainland and Macau, and was opened at the end of 1999 (aerial map). The Lotus Bridge was designed to cater for high traffic volumes and features three lanes in each direction as well as a full changeover system on the mainland side, comprising bridges that loop around each other by 360 degrees to swap the direction of the traffic. At the older Macau crossing point, there is no changeover system, and the border roads continue with traffic on the left on the mainland side and simply intersect with a roundabout. All of these Chinese changeover systems can be viewed in high resolution using Google Earth.
Iceland switched traffic from left to right at 06:00 on Sunday 26 May 1968, known as H-dagurinn. As in Sweden, most passenger cars were already left hand drive. The only injury from the changeover was a boy on a bicycle who broke his leg. Numerous buses were also stuck in traffic jams.
Following British colonial influence, India drives on the left hand side of the road. Now all vehicles are RHD with the government banning all new LHD vehicles in the country except under special circumstances, such as cars imported duty free by foreign embassies. All left hand drive vehicles (including new ones manufactured for export) carry a prominent sticker reading 'Left Hand Drive Vehicle' on their back to warn other drivers. There are some legal exceptions to this rule, to overcome traffic problems, where traffic moves on the right hand side of the road. In Bangalore, for example, near the main city bus stand (Kempegowda Bus Station), to enable the city buses to enter and exit easily, normal traffic moves on the right hand side.
Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country, drives on the left, despite being a former colony of the Netherlands, which drives on the right. This originated from British rule in the Dutch East Indies (as it then was) under Thomas Stamford Raffles between 1811 and 1816. Even though the country is an archipelago, there are three land borders, with Malaysia, East Timor and Papua New Guinea. All of these countries also drive on the left: Malaysia as a legacy of British rule, East Timor as a result of previous Indonesian occupation and Papua New Guinea as a result of Australian rule following World War I until 1975.
However, there is one exception: in Surabaya city, on Praban Street (one of the main streets in central Surabaya), traffic drives in both directions on the right hand side for approximately 500 metres (550 yards). The street is very crowded and the right hand drive style helps the efficient flow of traffic, especially from Gemblongan Street, from which vehicles can directly turn right to Praban Street. Vehicles from Blauran Street can similarly turn directly right. Because there is a separator dividing the two sides of the street, local drivers have little difficulty.
Iraq drives on the right.
The Republic of Ireland is the second largest European state, after the United Kingdom, with a left-hand traffic system. Visitors are likely to encounter warning signs (in English, French and German) near Irish airports, seaports and major tourist attractions, as well as outside major urban areas, reminding them to drive on the left. The country's only land border is with the United Kingdom, so there is no change-over to impede the large volume of cross-border traffic between the two parts of Ireland. Nevertheless, the Republic of Ireland displays a few yellow tri-lingual warning signs at the border, particularly in very rural areas, for example and . Car ferries from France to Ringaskiddy and Rosslare Harbour are the main source of LHD traffic.
Because the British ruled Palestine through a mandate, and not by another way of ruling, In Israel, you drive on the right. Trains, on the other hand, ride on the left side.
Which side of the road the Ancient Romans drove on is disputed. Archaeological evidence in Britain seems to indicate driving on the left but old Roman roads in Turkey suggest Romans used the right hand side of the road. In Italy the practice of traffic driving on the right first began in the late 1890s, but it was not until the mid 1920s that it became standard throughout the country. There was a long period when traffic in the countryside drove on the right while major cities continued to drive on the left. Rome, for example, did not change from left to right until 20 October 1924. Milan was the last Italian city to change to driving on the right (3 August 1926). Cars had remained right-hand drive (RHD) until this time. Italian car makers Alfa Romeo and Lancia did not produce LHD cars until as late as 1950 and 1953, respectively.
A few highways have some sections of road where the directions cross, resulting in traffic driving on the left, such the A6 highway between Savona and Turin (map), the A20 highway between Messina and Palermo (map), and the A19 highway between Palermo and Catania (map). However, these are short segments of motorway, where the different directions do not interact, therefore vehicles still overtake on the left on these sections.
Furthermore, exceptions to the rule can be necessary in urban contexts. For example, the Palatino bridge in Rome is known to Romans to be "all'inglese" (English-style), because drivers are required to drive on the left hand side of the bridge (map). This situation is analogous to (although obviously reversed from) that of Savoy Court in London.
Japan is one of the few countries outside the Commonwealth of Nations to drive on the left. An informal practice of left-hand passage dates at least to the Edo period, when samurai are said to have passed each other to the left to avoid knocking their longer katana swords with each other (as swords were always worn to the left side). During the late 19th century, Japan built its first railways with British technical assistance, and double-tracked railways adopted the British practice of running on the left. Stage Coach Order issued in 1870 and its revision in 1872, followed in 1881 by a further order, stipulated that mutually approaching horses had to avoid each other by shifting to the left. An order issued in 1885 stated that general horses and vehicles had to avoid to the left, but they also had to avoid to the right when they met army troops, until the double standard was legally resolved in 1924.
After the defeat of Japan during World War II, Okinawa was ruled by the United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands and compelled to drive on the right. Okinawa was returned to Japanese control in 1972 and changed back to driving on the left six years later, at 06:00 on 30 July 1978, as certain treaties required nations to have one system throughout their territory. The changeover operation was known as 730 (Nana-San-Maru). Okinawa is one of very few places to have changed from right- to left-hand traffic in the late 20th century.
Japan does allow both RHD and LHD vehicles on their roads. In some cases the same vehicle is available in both LHD and RHD configurations.
Korea (North and South)
Since the end of the Second World War, traffic in both North and South Korea drive on the right. However this was not the case for historic Korea. In the 19th century traffic travelled on the left as the country was under nominal influence of China's Qing Dynasty. When Japan annexed Korea in 1910 it also maintained the left-hand rule.
On September 8, 1945, American forces arrived in the southern half of Korea while at the same time Soviet-backed forces were occupying the North. Shortly afterwards the peninsula was divided along the 38th parallel. Driving on the right was implemented in both countries as the vehicles (particularly military) used by the Korean states were either American-made or Russian-built LHD models.
Lebanon is a right-hand traffic country. However, there is a seventy-meter crossing at Sanayeh/Hamra intersection in Beirut on which left-hand traffic is applied.
Malaysia has left-hand traffic, a legacy of British influence. However, there are a few exceptions to the rule. In Peninsular Malaysia, right-hand traffic can be found at the Damansara-Puchong Expressway in the short tunnel under the Damansara Perdana flyover and the Sunway bridge at the Federal Highway Route 2 interchange.
Right-hand traffic can also be found at Wisma Saberkas, Kuching, Sarawak where the whole stretch of parking areas are right-hand traffic. The "Keep Right" signboards are eminent in every corners of the road to remind road users of the right-hand driving. Right-hand driving was to ease congestion at Wisma Saberkas exit to Jalan Green (near SK St. Paul).
Until it was pedestrianised, the northern section of Penang Road in George Town, Penang, now known as Upper Penang Road, had traffic passing on the right hand side of the road, with a concrete kerb in the middle. This was to allow clockwise traffic from the one-way sections of Northam Road and Farquhar Street (at either end of the road) to pass clockwise through the road without crossing oncoming traffic.
There are some of the LHD vehicles on the road. Some may possess the "Left Hand Drive" sticker on the rear of the vehicle, but others may not.
Malta was a British colony from 1800 to 1964, and continues with left-hand traffic. As a standard on new imported cars, local vehicles are right hand drive. Since Malta is now a EU member it is now common to find left hand drive vehicles also (second hand imports from other EU countries with LHD vehicles, especially from Sicily).
Mongolia is a right-hand traffic country, with steering wheels mounted on the left-hand side of vehicles. There are, however, a number of second-hand vehicles from Japan in use, with the steering wheel mounted on the right-hand side.
There have been plans to prohibit the driving of vehicles with the steering wheel mounted on the right-hand side, but none have been passed by the parliament.
Nepal is a left-hand traffic country, with steering wheels mounted on the right-hand side of vehicles. However, the stretch of road between Rani Pokhari and Ratna Park in Kathmandu is right-handed to facilitate one-way traffic the adjacent roads.
New Zealand drives on the left, owing to its British colonial heritage. The left-hand traffic rule is currently legislated in section 2.1 of the Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004.
At intersections, the general rule for priority in New Zealand is "Give way to the right, and turning traffic give way to traffic not turning", but there is an unusual variation compared with other countries. When turning left at an intersection, traffic must also give way to traffic turning right from the opposing road onto the road into which both vehicles intend to turn. This is to give priority to vehicles turning right across traffic so they spend minimal time in the road exposed to rear-end collisions; many New Zealand intersections lack right-turn bays. It also reduces the chance of a collision with the right (driver's) side of the vehicle. In September 2010 the government announced this rule will be changed in early 2012 to align with common practice in other countries; the predicted effects include increased road safety and reduced driver confusion, but there will be costs associated with driver reeducation, modification to intersections, and retiming traffic lights.
On the underground access road to the Manapouri Power Station vehicles must drive on the right. The tunnel is one long spiral and drivers have very limited forward visibility. Initially, tour buses drove on the left, but there were many collisions, with buses wiping each other's wing mirrors off. The change to driving on the right made it easier for drivers to see how close they are to the tunnel wall. The road is, however, only used by authorised vehicles and is not open to the public.
As a British colony, Nigeria formerly drove on the left. However, as it was surrounded by former French colonies driving on the right, right-hand traffic was adopted in Nigeria on 2 April 1972.
Pakistan drives on the left hand side of the road after its independence from Britain in 1947. Pakistan is the westernmost country in Asia to drive on the left. The Khyber Pass border crossing with Afghanistan is one of the most well known places where traffic changes sides of the road.
Right-hand traffic was introduced in Paraguay from the 25th of February 1945 by dint of Decreto 6956 ("Decree 6956").
Right-hand traffic was introduced in the Philippines on the last day of the Battle of Manila, 10 March 1945, to facilitate the combined Filipino and American troop movements. In the earlier part of the 20th century, left-hand traffic was the norm.
Although road traffic switched to the right, rail traffic remained on the left until the construction of the LRT and MRT, where trains ran on the right, in 1984 and 1999 respectively. The Philippine National Railways, where trains historically ran on the left, switched to the right in 2010.
Poland was recreated in 1918 as a sovereign republic from territories formerly belonging to the Austro-Hungarian, German and Russian Empires (Partitions of Poland). In the former Austrian areas left-hand traffic was in force. This was changed in the 1920s. In Lwow (at that time in Poland) the change-over took place in 1922 and in Kraków in 1925.
Portugal changed from left-hand to right-hand road traffic on 1 June 1928. This change was also implemented in most of its overseas territories, except Goa, Macau and Mozambique, which had land borders with countries that drove on the left. In East Timor right-hand traffic was introduced in 1928, but changed back by Indonesia in 1975.
According to the Order of the Minister of Transport, Constructions and Tourism no. 2132/20052005 approval of the Regulations concerning the approval, release the identity card and authenticity certification of road vehicles - RNTR 7, RHD vehicles must be retrofitted with headlamps suitable for use on the right-hand side of the road.
Although Russia drives on the right, cheaper used cars from Japan are almost as popular as LHD cars of the same class. Russia is estimated to have more than 1.5 million RHD vehicles on its roads. In the far eastern regions, such as Vladivostok or Khabarovsk, RHD vehicles make up to 90% of the total. This includes not only private cars, but also police cars, ambulances, and many other municipal and governmental vehicles.
During spring 2005, the rumour that RHD vehicles would be completely banned from the roads drove thousands of Russian protesters to the streets. On 19 May 2005 the Russian Minister of Industry and Energy Viktor Khristenko announced that RHD vehicles would be allowed on the roads but would have to conform to all Russian traffic safety requirements. Many automobile owners blocked the roads (in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Vladivostok and many other cities), protesting against such an interdiction. On 19 May 2005 two automobile movements were born defending the interests of RHD automobile owners. Due to technical regulation published on September 2009, import of RHD will be proceeded in September 2010.
Rwanda, a former Belgian colony in central Africa, currently drives on the right. In 2005, a Presidential Decree was issued banning the import of RHD cars, eventually requiring them to be phased out completely by the end of 2009.
In early August 2009 several African newspapers reported that, following the results of a public survey, Rwanda was considering switching to driving on the left, in order to bring the country in line with other members of the East African Community (EAC), Burundi being the only other EAC member to drive on the right.
The survey, carried out by the Ministry of Infrastructure in 2009, indicated that 54% of Rwandans were in favour of the switch, compared to just 32% who were opposed to it. Reasons cited were the perceived lower costs of RHD vehicles as opposed to LHD versions of the same model, easier maintenance and the political benefit of harmonisation of traffic regulations with other EAC countries. The same survey also indicated that right-hand drive cars are 16 to 49 per cent cheaper than their left-hand drive equivalents. Because of this, investment in passenger service vehicles and goods transport is expected to increase should the switch go ahead, due to the high costs of sourcing suitable LHD vehicles and the relative abundance of alternatives from elsewhere in the EAC. Furthermore, in November 2009, Rwanda's application to join the Commonwealth of Nations was approved, another group which is largely dominated by LHT countries.
In September 2010, Infrastructure Minister Vincent Karega said that new traffic guidelines had been submitted to the Prime Minister's office, paving the way for the Cabinet to formally approve the switch. At the same time, if the switch does go ahead, it will necessitate repealing the 2005 Presidential Decree banning RHD cars. According to Karenga, the private sector has been a keen supporter of the switch, citing the harmonisation of EAC regulations and the cheaper cost of RHD cars.
Samoa used to be a German colony until occupied by New Zealand at the beginning of the First World War. During the Second World War Samoa (then known as Western Samoa) was used by the Allies as a staging area for the invasion of several Pacific islands to the east of Samoa. Most US military vehicles were LHD and reinforced the German practice of driving on the right-hand side of the road until September 2009. This practice had been in place for more than a century. A plan to drive on the left was first announced by the Samoan government in September 2007 and was confirmed on 18 April 2008 when Samoa's parliament passed the Road Transport Reform Act 2008. On 24 July 2008 Tuisugaletaua Avea, the Minister of Transport, announced that the switch would come into effect at 6:00 am on Monday, 7 September 2009. He also announced that the 7th and 8th would be public holidays, so that residents were able to familiarise themselves with the new rules of the road. Samoa is the first territory in over 30 years to change which side of the road is driven on, the most recent to change being Nigeria, Ghana, Yemen and Okinawa.
A new political party, The People's Party, had formed to try to block the change but was unsuccessful as was the People Against Switching Sides protest group which launched a last-minute legal challenge against the decision, arguing it violated the right to life in the Samoan constitution. The decision remains controversial, with an estimated 18,000 people attending demonstrations against it in Apia in April 2008 and road signs reminding people of the change having been vandalised. The motor industry was also opposed to the decision as 14,000 of Samoa's 18,000 vehicles are designed for right-hand traffic and the government has refused to meet the cost of conversion. Bus drivers whose doors are now on the wrong side of the road threatened to strike in protest at the change.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi says the purpose of adopting left-hand traffic is to allow Samoans to use cheaper right-hand-drive vehicles sourced from Australia, New Zealand, or Japan, and so that the large number of Samoans living in Australia and New Zealand can drive on the same side of the road when they visit their country of origin. In order to reduce accidents, the government has widened roads, added new road markings, erected signs and installed speed humps. The speed limit was also reduced and sales of alcohol banned for three days. The Congregational Christian Church of Samoa has held prayer sessions for an accident-free changeover and Samoa's Red Cross carried out a blood donation campaign in case of a surge of accidents.
The change came into force following a radio announcement at 5.50 local time (16.50 GMT) which halted traffic and an announcement at 6.00 local time (17.00 GMT) for traffic to switch from the right to the left-hand side of the road. The change also coincided with more restrictive enforcement of the speeds drivers choose and whether car occupants choose to use seatbelts.
As a legacy of British rule, South Africa drives on the left. This has also influenced neighbouring countries. After South Africa occupied South West Africa (now Namibia) during World War I, it was made a South African mandate by the League of Nations. As a German colony, the territory drove on the right.
The change from left- to right-hand traffic occurred on 1 March 1971; a postal stamp was issued to commemorate the occasion.
In Singapore, all motorised traffic drives on the left, in vehicles with right-hand drive configuration, a legacy of British colonial rule as a crown colony. Some roads, however due to foreseeable considerations, are designed to prevent traffic flow problems that could result with the standard practice, such as Grange Road between Orchard Road and Somerset Road which is separated by a refuge island, Carver Street by North Bridge Road, parking and compound entrances along the right side of North Bridge Road. In any roads with such a requirement, an entry sign is often displayed at the road divider. Cycling designated lane in parks also practises the keep left rule to correspond with motorway traffic as a safety consideration. As of this, Singapore prohibited new registrations of LHD vehicles.
Pedestrian traffic follows a similar approach as when on a motorway, where pedestrians keep left generally, sometimes with the direction of signs displayed at walkways, stairs and pavements as a form of crowd control. In contrast to most practices, the escalator etiquette follows the British, presumably a legacy of Singapore's continued British colonial status when the Malaysian Federation has been inaugurated (the practice is the same in Brunei and Hong Kong), stationary users keep to the right and while allowing passthrough on the left side. An example can be found on the escalator at the entrance to the basement of the Excelsior Hotel Shopping Centre. However, in certain trains stations usually accompanied by signs to do so, users stands on the left and allow urgent users pass through on the right side, mirroring the practice in Japan.
Spain has right traffic. In the capital city, Madrid, left-hand traffic was in force until 10 April 1924; as a result the Madrid Metro, which dates from 1919, still runs on the left-hand side on all lines.
After the Ethiopian change-over from driving on the left to driving on the right in 1964, Sudan only had short borders with two other countries driving on the left (Kenya and Uganda) in the south. In August 1973 Sudan swapped sides to correspond with most other countries of the Arab world.
See Guyana and Suriname.
Sweden had legal left-hand traffic (vänstertrafik in Swedish) from approximately 1734, when it changed back from a short period of right-hand traffic starting in 1718. With or without legal rule, traditionally the left side was used for carriages. Finland, under Swedish rule until 1809, also drove on the left, and continued to do so as a Russian Grand Duchy until 1858.
This continued well into the 20th century, despite the fact that virtually all the cars on the road in Sweden were LHD. (One argument for this was that it was necessary to keep an eye on the edge of the road, something that was important on the narrow roads in use at the time). Also, Sweden's neighbours Norway and Finland already drove on the right, leading to confusion at border crossings.
In 1955 a referendum was held on the issue, resulting in an 82.9%-to-15.5% vote against a change to driving on the right. Nevertheless, in 1963 the Swedish parliament passed legislation ordering the switch to right-hand traffic. The changeover took place at 5am on Sunday, 3 September 1967, which was known in Swedish as Dagen H (H-Day), the 'H' being for Högertrafik or right traffic.
Since Swedish cars were LHD, experts had suggested that changing to driving on the right would be safer, because drivers would have a better view of the road ahead. The accident rate dropped sharply after the change However, the accident rate soon rose back to near its original level. The speed limits were temporarily lowered.
Swedish trains have left handed traffic till today, as it has been considered to be too expensive to change this.
Taiwan was an LHT area when it was ruled by Japan, but the Republic of China government changed the system to RHT in March 1946.
Thailand is an unusual case of a LHT country almost totally surrounded by RHT neighbours.(Except Malaysia) Thailand shares long borders with Burma, Laos, and Cambodia—all of which drive on the right. The border with left-driving Malaysia is a short stretch.
Thailand does allow both RHD and LHD vehicles on their roads.
The UK has LHT. Many other countries that drive on the left do so due to British colonial influence.
As a result of European Union legislation ensuring the free movement of goods, many British consumers exercise their right to buy RHD cars from car dealers in any other EU country, where they are often cheaper, despite originating from the same factories as UK-sourced cars. Models obtained from other EU countries often have a lower value upon resale due to shorter warranty periods and UK dealers refusing to buy them or accept them in part-exchange.
Although the United Kingdom is separated from Continental Europe by the English Channel, the level of cross-Channel traffic is very high; the Channel Tunnel alone carries 3.5 million vehicles per year between the UK and France. Most vehicles crossing the English Channel, whether via the Channel Tunnel or on ferries, are UK-registered RHD vehicles. Relatively few drivers from Continental Europe take their LHD cars to the UK, but large numbers of British drivers take their RHD cars to Continental Europe for holidays and even for one-day shopping trips.
Today, UK motor vehicles including postal delivery vehicles and waste collection vehicles are normally RHD. The main exceptions are service vehicles such as road sweepers and gritters where view of the kerb is more important than of the centre line. These are generally LHD, although some have controls on both sides.
In cities with heavy tourism, LHD coaches can cause problems as their passengers get off the vehicle into the path of traffic, rather than on a pavement. Some fleet operators who regularly tour from Continental Europe to the UK use coaches with doors on both sides. Conversely, some double-decker buses exported to LHD countries for tourist purposes are converted to have their doors on the other side.
For a variety of reasons, Continental European LHD heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) have become common on the UK's roads, particularly on major routes radiating from ports and the Channel tunnel. An issue arising from this concerns the safety of large LHD vehicles, with blind-spots arising from the LHD and the probable inexperience of drivers with these problems.
Exceptions to the rule
There are some locations in the UK where road routing and layout causes traffic to approximate or mimic right-hand traffic patterns and practice. The most notable is Savoy Court outside the Savoy Hotel. Another example is the short links between the two carriageways of Russell Lane in Whetstone. The running-together of two slip roads at the interchange of the M4 and A329M near Winnersh is a particularly distinctive example.
It is also permissible to drive in any lane on a one-way street. The Highway Code usually says 'keep to the left' and this is the norm on motorways and other fast roads, i.e. use the leftmost lane available. But on small roads in towns and cities it is common for one-way streets to split direction at some point, so drivers choose the most appropriate lane, and are encouraged to do so with lane markings, signage, and so on.
During the Lockerbie bombing trial of 2000–02, Camp Zeist in the Netherlands was decreed to be British territory subject to Scots law. However, Dumfries and Galloway Police, who were responsible for policing traffic movements within the compound, effected a clause which required drivers to comply with the Continental European practice of driving on the right.
Military fleets and bases
On some British Army training locations, where the army once trained for conflict in Eastern Europe during the Cold War, traffic is meant to travel on the right. Most military bases in the UK, though, have the normal rule of driving on the left.
Vehicles within United States visiting forces bases in the United Kingdom drive on the left, even though the United States does not provide right-hand drive vehicles for its green fleet. However, its white fleet does have some right-hand drive vehicles for elements such as Non-Appropriated Fund activities and UK-only specialist vehicles. Most white fleet vehicles (known as "GSA" or "TMP" vehicles) are shipped over from the United States and are LHD. This is unlike British practice in Germany, where even UK green fleet vehicles for British Forces Germany have been left-hand drive.
During World War II, American truck makers Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge built 'Canadian Military Pattern truck' [CMP] for use throughout the British Empire and most were right-hand drive to use in left-traffic countries.
All US states and territories except the US Virgin Islands drive on the right. The first keep-right law in the United States, passed in 1792, applied to the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike. New York in 1804 and New Jersey in 1813 also enacted keep-right rules. Only the formerly British thirteen colonies historically drove on the left; the historically French, Spanish, Russian and Hawaiian portions of the United States all drove on the right by the time they were annexed by the United States.
Early American motor vehicles, however, were right-hand drive, following the practice established by horse-drawn buggies. This changed in the early years of the 20th century: Ford changed to LHD production in 1908 with the Model T, and Cadillac in 1916.
Today, US motor vehicles are normally left-hand drive. Common exceptions include garbage trucks, postal mail, and package delivery vehicles. Imported right-hand drive cars are also found on the road in the United States, mostly Tuner Cars, classics, or other collectors' items. Also a large number of vehicles used for rural mail delivery are RHD, thus enabling the driver to access roadside mail receptacles without leaving the vehicle.
American motorists nearly always drive on the right and overtake (pass) on the left, but state traffic laws generally allow for overtaking on the right if there is sufficient space to the right of the leading vehicle to pass it safely. Since this is not usually the case, right-side overtaking is rare except on multi-lane roads and divided highways; or when passing other vehicles that are preparing to turn left.
The United States Virgin Islands is the only American jurisdiction that still has left-hand traffic, because the islands drove on the left when the United States purchased the former Danish West Indies from Denmark in 1917. Although Denmark drove and still drives on the right, the Danish West Indies drove on the left because the majority of the European aristocracy living there were British; but there is also a claim the practice of left-side drive was due to the first cars being RHD vehicles imported from Barbados, then still a British colony.
Some limited-access freeways in the US have small sections of road where the directions cross, resulting in traffic that appears to drive on the left. Examples include the Golden State Freeway (I-5) in Southern California during the descent/ascent of the Castaic Grade, several miles of Interstate 85 in Davidson County, North Carolina (map), Interstate 77 at its interchange with Interstate 85 in Charlotte, North Carolina, a very brief section of Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg, Florida (map), Interstate 8 east of Yuma, AZ (map), Arizona State Route 87 in Maricopa County, Arizona through Rincon Pass (map) and small parts of approaches to Interstate 64 running through Chesapeake, Virginia as part of the Hampton Roads Beltway. Diverging Diamond Interchanges are another example. Because of the limited-access restrictions the left-hand/right-hand orientation of the oncoming traffic is of no consequence to the driver.
Two blocks of Bainbridge Street in Philadelphia are divided with traffic driving on the left due to flows from nearby streets and the one-way nature of the street on undivided blocks.
Some multi-storey car parks on the left-hand side of one-way streets have left-hand traffic in the driveway, as described above under Croatia.
During Carnival in New Orleans Mardi Gras parades drive on the left of Canal Street and against the normal flow of traffic on St. Charles Avenue. In the New Orleans suburb of Metairie, LA all Mardi Gras parades travel down Veterans Memorial Boulevard on the left side of the roadway.
In New York, passing Roosevelt Avenue, due to the setup of the one-way traffic roads in 103rd and 104th st, it appears as if traffic was keeping to the left, even though both one-way streets are 1 block apart
Uruguay in 1918 required all motorized and non-motorized vehicles to drive on the left, but as in many other countries in South America, this was changed in 1945, at exactly 4:00 am on Sunday, September 2. A speed limit of 30 km/h (19 mph) was observed until September 30 in order to avoid major collisions and help ease the public into the new system.
In all of Venezuela, traffic drives on the right. However, there are exceptions within the heavily congested capital, Caracas. In the neighbourhood of Las Mercedes, Calle Caroní is LHT for one block due to oncoming traffic turning into it from the one-way Av. Río de Janeiro. In Los Chaguaramos neighbourhood, Av. Las Ciencias is a LHT street because it connects two one-way streets, Calle Humboldt and Av. Neverí. Within the campus of Universidad Simón Bolívar, which is surrounded by a one-way street, there is a street aptly named Calle Inglesa (English Street in Spanish) because left-hand traffic allows a better flow of traffic .
This section needs additional citations for verification. (January 2011)
In France, for instance, cars keep to the right, but the first train lines were built by British engineers, so kept to the left. The Paris RER trains keep left, but have to operate on separate tracks within the Paris Metro area which was designed to run on the right. Another anomaly occurs in the Alsace-Moselle region, where trains keep to the right because the lines were built in the late 19th century when Alsace-Moselle was part of Germany. Bridges at the former border allow the trains to swap sides. High-speed TGV trains, however, operate on dedicated lines which were built more recently, but they keep left because they interface with older lines. Madrid Metro trains, as well as Rome Metro (but not Milan) and as Buenos Aires Metro also operate to the left.
Through specific stations of the London Underground's Victoria, Northern and Central Lines, trains run on the right. On the Victoria Line it makes passenger interchange easier at Euston and Kings Cross stations. This does not confuse drivers, since the two lines are in separate tunnels. However, White City on the Central Line is above ground. In the United States, the former Chicago & North Western railroad ran on the left because when the C&NW built their depots, they were on the left hand side when headed into Chicago. Later a second track was built outside the first one, but because commuters headed into Chicago made more use of a depot building than on their return journey, the railroad ran its trains on the left. However, when it was bought by the Union Pacific in 1995, some of these lines were switched. In the case of the North Line tracks between downtown Chicago and Kenosha, trains still operate left-handed.
There are two notable exceptions in the United States. On the New York City Subway, The B Division's Seventh Avenue station's lower level has trains operating to the left, while the upper level platform normally has trains operating to the right. Commuter trains servicing Boston normally run on the right, but regularly switch to the left, especially when servicing outer stations, such as Haverhill. Because of this, and the unpredictable nature of these change-overs, there are pedestrian crossovers in these stations.
Exceptions to the general rule of left- or right-hand traffic are much more common for trains than for cars. Initially most steam engines were RHD, with the engineer sitting on the right and the fireman on the left. This was customary in the UK and it spread to the USA and elsewhere in the world. RHD was never converted to LHD even if the trains switched to right-hand running. RHD remains the customary way for operating trains, with the driver on the right and the assistant on the left. Some railways, particularly the London Underground, switched to LHD with left-hand running. Left Hand Drive with left hand running also became common on UK mainline railways, with the Great Western Railway being the only one of the "big four" to keep the driver on the right. To ease visibility, GWR signals were also occasionally placed on the right-hand side of the tracks, even though this meant that they were between the running lines, and a few examples of this have managed to survive. Nowadays all British trains (except a few preserved locomotives and a number of narrow-gauge railways) have the driver on the left side of the train, and the signals are also on the left-hand side of the track.
There is potential safety benefit for the train driver to sit on the nearside, farthest away from a collision with whatever might protrude from an oncoming train on the opposite track, such as an open cargo door. The driver's placement on the nearside can facilitate his or her view rearward of station platforms either directly or using mirrors, and of signs and signals usually placed on the outside of double tracks—on the right for right-hand traffic and on the left for left-hand traffic. If 'train orders' or 'tokens' (permission to continue) need to be handed up to the driver while the locomotive is in motion, he or she is best able to receive them from the nearside.
Unlike the road, it is possible for trains safely to run on the "wrong" side if bi-directional signalling is in place. This is generally not done,[vague] as junctions and other infrastructure are usually optimised for running in one direction.
Generally, the left/right principle in a country is followed mostly on double track. On single track, when trains meet, the train that shall not stop often uses the straight path in the turnout, which can be left or right. If the meeting place contains a passenger station, the station sometimes has designated directional tracks and plateaus, for passenger predictability.
Light rail vehicles, which usually have at least some operation in city streets, generally have the hand of operation and drive identical to that used on buses and cars in the relevant country, e.g. "driving" on the right side (and thus using left-hand drive) in North America. This is so the trolley/tram operator can pick up and discharge passengers (and, historically, collect their fares, except on proof-of-payment systems) on the same side of the roadway as the buses.
Multiple track usage by country
This section lists by country the tracks on which trains normally travel when there are two or more. Trams and other light rail systems which include some street running are excluded.
Vessels and aircraft
Generally, all water traffic keeps to the right, under the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea. This is historically because, before the use of a rudder, the boat was steered by a steering oar (or steer-board), which was located on the right-hand side, hence the starboard side of the boat. The helmsman used his right hand to operate the steer-board while standing in the middle of the boat and looking ahead. Traditionally, boats would also moor with the left hand side to the quay to prevent damage to the steering oar, and this was referred to as larboard (loading side), later replaced by port to prevent confusion from the similar sounding words. By keeping to the right, boats pass "port-to-port", protecting the steering oar. When modern style rudders fixed to the stern were developed, the helmsman was moved amidships (on the centreline), and when steering wheels replaced tillers this generally remained the same. Many motor yachts and other small craft are RHD, but some boats, typically smaller pleasure craft and wooden speedboats are built LHD, to give a better view of approaching and passing traffic.
However, there are many exceptions, often indicated on the particular bridge itself.
The rule of the road at sea is that powered vessels give way to sailing vessels; but as between two powered vessels, if they are crossing the rule is to give way to the starboard, while if they are head on each must navigate to starboard so as to pass port-to-port. q.v. The upshot is that the vessel attempting to pass on the wrong side must give way.
In aeroplanes with side-by-side seating, the pilot-in-command sits on the left, with the first officer, navigator or front seat passenger on the right. In most cases the controls are duplicated, Larger aircraft tend to have duplicate instruments on the right side as well, and in commercial airliners the first officer is just as likely to fly the aircraft from the right while the captain handles other tasks from the left. Helicopters generally place the pilot on the right, though examples exist with the pilot on the left.
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- Which side of the road do they drive on?
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