why do we drive on the left in england

Have you ever wondered why the British drive on the left? There is an historical reason for this; itвs all to do with keeping your sword hand free! In the Middle Ages you never knew who you were going to meet when travelling. Most people are right-handed, so if a stranger passed by on the right of you, your right hand would be free to use your sword if required. (Similarly,
staircases spiral in a clockwise direction going upwards, so the defending soldiers would be able to stab down around the twist but those attacking (going up the stairs) would not. ) Indeed the вkeep to the leftв rule goes back even further in time; archaeologists have discovered evidence suggesting that the Romans drove carts and wagons on the left, and it is known that Roman soldiers always marched on the left. This вrule of the roadв was officially sanctioned in 1300 AD when Pope Boniface VIII declared that all pilgrims travelling to Rome should keep to the left. This continued until the late 1700s when large wagons became popular for transporting goods. These wagons were drawn by several pairs of horses and had no driverвs seat. Instead, in order to control the horses, the driver sat on the horse at the back left, thus keeping his whip hand free. Sitting on the left however made it difficult to judge the traffic coming the other way, as anyone who has driven a left-hand drive car along the winding lanes of Britain will agree!


These huge wagons were best suited to the wide open spaces and large distances of Canada and the US, and the first keep-to-the-right law was passed in Pennsylvania in 1792, with many Canadian and US states following suit later. In France a decree of 1792 ordered traffic to keep to the common right and Napoleon later enforced the rule in all French territories. In England there wasnвt much call for these massive wagons and the smaller British vehicles had seats for the driver to sit on behind the horses. As most people are right-handed, the driver would sit to the right of the seat so his whip hand was free. Traffic congestion in 18th century London led to a law being passed to make all traffic on London Bridge keep to the left in order to reduce collisions. This rule was incorporated into the Highway Act of 1835 and was adopted throughout the British Empire. There was a movement in the 20th century towards the harmonisation of road laws in Europe and a gradual shift began from driving on the left to the right. The last Europeans to change from left to right were the Swedes who bravely made the change overnight on Dagen H (H Day), September 3rd 1967. At 4. 50am all traffic in Sweden stopped for ten minutes before restarting, this time driving on the right.


Today, only 35% of countries drive on the left. These include India, Indonesia, Ireland, Malta, Cyprus, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and most recently, Samoa in 2009. Most of these countries are islands but where land borders require a change from left to right, this is usually accomplished using traffic lights, cross-over bridges, one-way systems or similar. Why are we on the left in the UK? (Picture: Getty) Weвre passionate about many things here in the UK: The price of a pint, the correct composition of a fry-up, and weirdly the fact that we drive on the left. Our self-titled вcorrectв way to drive means we have to re-learn everything once we visit another country in order to not die on the road. Here in the UK we drive on the left, but weвre not alone. About 35% of the worldвs population drive on this side, particularly former British colonies. The reason for this actually dates back hundreds of years since before cars were invented. We started driving (or, riding) on the left when knights would mount horses and trot along the road in full armour. Since all their equipment would be on the left side of their bodies, they kept to this side so as not to hit passers-by.


It was also to ensure that they could draw their sword at anyone passing who might have had more negative intentions. Over the years, American and French teamsters (sort of like the first ever lorry drivers who rode wagons) began to drive on the right. This was because theyвd sit on the back left horse that carried their wagon, and driving on the left meant they couldnвt see those passing closely enough to prevent accidents. Particularly when the US gained independence from Britain, this custom gained traction and official laws were put in place. Gradually, as other countries started to regulate their roads more heavily (for example, Italy got its first highway code in 1912 and Spain had little road regulation until the twenties), it was written into law that cars were to stay on the right side. Also, as more cars started to be produced in the United States, it made sense for countries to drive on the right as thatвs how the car controls were set up. More: There was talk a few decades back about Britain changing over to the right, but given that it would cost billions of pounds to put into place and render many peoples cars essentially useless, it was dropped. Now, we are one of four European countries to drive on this side, and a handful of other nations worldwide. MORE: MORE:

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