If you love to travel, and if you have visited a bunch of countries, then the most common confusion you have faced right after leaving the airport is which side of the traffic to follow. There are almost 200 countries in the world, 35% of them follow left-hand traffic (LHT), and the other follow right-hand traffic (RHT). Countries which follow LHT were mostly the British colonies and they still are following British rules.
Reasons behind Right-hand Traffic & Left-hand Traffic:
The reason behind this runs back to the days of the swordsmen. In the past, almost every country used to follow the LHT and there is an interesting fact behind this. As most of the people are right-handed, swordsmen preferred to keep to the left in order to having their right arm nearer to the opponent. Moreover, it’s easy for a right-handed person to mount a horse from left side rather than right side. So, this fact manipulated the British people, honouring their knights, to follow left-hand traffic. The British people have made colonies in many countries and the colonies followed British culture and rules. And these past colonies are still following that. Only Egypt is an exception, which was conquered by Napoleon before it was a colony of the British.
Left-hand traffic was made official during the British colonisation in North America. When America became independent, they started to reverse all the British rules and regulations. In the late seventeen hundreds, teamsters (drivers) in France and United States started to haul farm products in big waggons pulled by horses. These waggons did not have any driver’s seat, and the drivers used to sit on the left rear horse in order to make themselves comfortable to lash the horses with their right hands. As the drivers only could see to their left, so they used to keep their waggons to the right side of the road so that they could see the traffic passing them. And this fact was the reason behind Americans following right-hand traffic.
Before the French revolution, the aristocrats used to travel to the left side of the road, and they forced the peasants to use the right side. However, after the revolution, the aristocrats also started to follow the right-hand traffic in order to keep themselves in a low profile. Eventually, in 1794, the government introduced the keep-right rule and France became a country which officially follows the right-hand traffic.
There were a lot of countries which did not have any specific traffic rules to follow. For example, up till 1930, Spain lacked national traffic regulations. Some part of the country used to follow LHT and some part of the country used to follow RHT. On 1st October, 1924, Madrid switched to RHT and the whole country did the same right afterwards.
Right-hand Drives & Left-hand Drives:
On most early motor vehicles, the driving seats were positioned centrally. Some car manufacturers later decided to place the seat in a side in order to give the driver a better view of the traffic. In countries, which follow LHT, the drivers’ seats are positioned to the right side of the vehicle and the countries which follows RHT, the seats are placed to the left side. However, in countries which follow only one traffic rule, wrong-handed vehicles are not allowed. For example, Bangladesh only follows left-hand traffic, so in Bangladesh, people only can drive right-hand vehicles. If someone wants to import a car from abroad, it has to be right-hand unless it is for foreign embassy.
Rules of Right-hand Traffic:
- 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 counterclockwise.
- 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.
Rules of Left-hand Traffic:
- 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.
Total 161 countries of the world follow right-hand traffic and 75 countries follow left-hand traffic.