Driving on the Left or the Right side of the Road

Why do some countries now drive on the Right hand side of the Road..

Since most people are right-handed, swordsmen carried their sword in their right hand, with the scabbard on the left. They preferred to travel on the left hand side so that in case of an encounter they have their right arm nearest to their opponent. That is why, in the past, people tended to travel on the left.

In the early years of English colonisation of North America, English driving customs were followed and the colonies drove on the left. After gaining independence from England, however, they were anxious to cast off all remaining links with their British colonial past and gradually changed to right-hand driving.


Driving on the left was made compulsory in Britain in 1835, although it was common place to do so previously.


The French controlled part of Canada (from Quebec to Louisiana) drove on the right, while the British controlled territory (British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland) drove on the left. In 1920 British Columbia and the Atlantic provinces switched to the right. Newfoundland changed to the right in 1947, 2 years before becoming a part of Canada in 1949.


China changed from Left hand side to Right in 1946.


Driving changed from Left hand side to Right in 1793.


In 1858, Finland changed from the left to the right following an Imperial Russian decree.


Before the French Revolution, the countries aristocracy travelled on the left side of the road.  In 1794 a keep right rule was enacted in Paris. Napoleon enforced this keep right rule in all the countries that he occupied in Europe.


Gibraltar changed  from Left hand side to Right in 1929.


Iceland changed from the left to the right in 1968


India drives on the Left


Indonesia has driven on the left since 1596, when the Dutch occupied the country, and Indonesia followed the Dutch habit of driving on the left, as they did at that time.


Japan drives on the left.


Korea drove on the Left until 1945, when it changed to the Right.  This applied to both North and South Korea.


Pakistan drives on the left.


The Philippines changed from the left to the right on the 10th March 1945, the last day of the Battle of Manila, to make it easier for the American drivers.


Portugal changed from the left to the right in the 1920s


Russia switched to driving on the right in 1752, or was in 1914 as some websites say ?  I feel that 1752 is closer to being accurate. (See note at bottom)


Samoa  switched from driving on the right to driving on the LEFT in 2009, becoming the first country to switch that way. from right to left-hand driving.  [7th September  2009, sections 4 to 7 of the Road Transport Reform  Act 2008 came into effect. Office of the Attorney General of Samoa. Vol 2 Issue 3.


Singapore drives on the left.


Sweden switched to driving on the right in 1967.  However, in 1955, a referendum had 82.9% voting against a change to driving on the right.


Taiwan changed to driving on the right in 1946.


Thailand drives on the Left.

United States

The US now drives on the right. Prior to Independence from Britain (1776), North America  drove on the left. Driving on the right was made compulsory in Pennsylvania in 1792, with New York following in 1804 and New Jersey in 1813.  Most cars in the US had the steering wheel on the right until about 1915. The first US car with the steering wheel on the left was the Ford Model T in 1908.

How many people, worldwide, drive on the Right compared to on the Left ? 

Number of registered vehicles – Cars, in the top 58 Car owning countries.

  • 106,213,000 Left Hand Drive Countries
  • 560,260,700 Right Hand Drive Countries


Russia: The date conflict on when Russia changed, appears to have originated from this:

1752 год – российская императрица Елизавета Петровна учредила правостороннее движение. Хотя до февральской революции 1917 года еще редкие в то время автомобили и многочисленные конные экипажи передвигались по левой стороне дороги.
1752 – Russian Empress Elizabeth established the hand movement. Although prior to the February Revolution of 1917, still rare at the time cars and numerous horse drawn carriages moved to the left side of the road.

Left Hand Drive Countries (out of top 58 car owning countries)

Australia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Pakistan, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, United Kingdom

Right Hand Drive Countries (out of top 58 car owning countries)

Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Canada, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea (South Korea), Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United States of America, Vietnam


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According to several sources, the practice was formalised in a Papal Edict by Pope Benefice around 1300AD who told all his pilgrims to keep to the left.

So, driving on the left was a European thing then 🙂

Although it is said that Napoleon, being Left handed, changed it to the right…

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