2 Oct 2011

RIGHT OR LEFT SIDE DRIVING ?

We have been many times with the car to the UK but it was always Mr. G. who drove. When you are married you become stupid because it's always mostly the man driving, pretending that he drives better or that he gets sick when the woman sits behind the steering wheel.

But it intrigued me why in all other Eurpean countries (or nearly) we are driving on the right side. I googled around to find an explanation.

Apparently, in older days when people passed each other on the road they should be in the best possible position to use their sword to protect themselves as most people are right handed and they therefore keep to their left. So is that the reason why in the UK you drive on the left to be able to carry a weapon in your right hand and instead of insulting the one who doubles you you shoot or stab him through the open window ?? No that can't be because driving on the left side was formalised in a Papal Edict by Pope Benefice around 1300AD who told all his pilgrims to keep to the left. Christians are supposed not to kill (except for religion and in the name of God) and should rather love each other.

The Reason to travel on the right side of the road is probably the fault of the French, because the French Aristocracy drove their carriages at great speed on the left hand side of the road, forcing the peasants over to the right side for their own safety (today it's not the aristocrates anymore but posh drivers in powerful cars).

After the French Revolution, instincts of self preservation forced the Aristocracy to join the peasants on the right hand side of the road, if they wanted to keep their heads on their shoulders and not land in a basket under the guillotine. The first official record of keeping on the right was introduced in Paris in 1794. The change from left to right was then carried out all over continental Europe by Napoleon. The reason was because Napoleon was left handed and had to march on the right to defend himself with the left hand. That's why probably he lost the battle of Waterloo !

From then on, any part of the world which was at some time part of the British Empire was driving left and any part colonised by the French was driving right. Conclusion, thanks to Napoleon, now when I want to cross the channel I have to learn to drive on the "wrong" side and try not to run over more people than necessary.

In America, the French colonised the southern states (Louisiana for instance) and the Canadian east coast (Quebec). The Dutch colonised New York (or New Amsterdam). The Spanish and Portugese colonised the southern Americas. So The British were a minority in shaping the 'traffic' and that's why the drive-on-the-right policy was adopted by the USA, which was anxious to cut off all remaining links with its British colonial past !

Once America drove on the right, left-side driving was ultimately doomed.



11 comments:

Kay L. Davies said...

Very interesting, with very funny cartoons.
I once tried driving on the wrong (left) side of the road in Australia. It was awful, and my stomach got upset. The steering wheel was on the wrong (right) side and I was on the left side, and my little brother was making remarks, so I just gave the car back to its owner (our Australian friend who was driving us around Queensland) and let him be the man. LOL
— K

Cezar and Léia said...

It gets even more interesting when you are a pedestrian and what to cross the road...
God bless you!
Cezar

Cezar and Léia said...

I mean, "want" to cross the road...

Jackie said...

Ha Ha, my American husband was talking about this just a couple of days ago, as there was an accident locally involving a French driver who forgot himself and drove on the wrong side of the road, in the right hand lane.
I drove in the right (wrong) lane when I was living in the USA with no problem, since the steering wheel was on the left, and I am right handed.
Now my dh does most of the driving here in the UK in the left (wrong to him) lane with the steering wheel on the right, and he is left handed.
And if that hasn't left you totally confused, then I didn't try hard enough..!

A Lady's Life said...

That's pretty funny lol
It made no difference to me , left or right is fine.
I found in Malaysia, people were in the dark on both sides of the road and driving at night was quite dangerous.The logging trucks raced down very narrow mountain roads fully loaded and you'd be on the other side of the road, on the cliff side, and see this truck headed your way facing you going up as they went down.
Somehow they always made it round the curves.lol

jabblog said...

Very interesting! I know that a gentleman should always walk with his lady to his left so that he may defend her with his sword. The sword is worn to the left-hand side in order to be drawn with the right hand - no allowances for left-handers!

A Lady's Life said...

When the french from France come to Quebec they are appalled by the french spoken there.
Quebecois french sometimes is un understandable to them .
So we were taught the Parisienne french from them.So I can understand Italy being so different except its funny cause the area is not that big to make such a difference.

peppylady (Dora) said...

Very informative posting. But in our family I usual drive but there is nothing wrong with my hubby driving. But he admits I'm a better driver.

Ok now you got me thinking. I wonder why we mount horses from the left side. A least we do here in United States.

Coffee is on.

Loree said...

Being a former British colony we drive on the left here too. When I lived in the States I found it really hard to drive on the 'wrong side of the road' and sometimes would drive on the side that I was used to. This especially happened if I was on the road with no other cars in front of me. Thankfully I never got in any serious trouble. And LOL about Napoleon.

hocam said...

Very interesting article Gattina. Apart from that I was struck by your first comments about the husband driving once you got married. This is so true. I have my own car but if we use it to go anywhere Hubbie automatically picks up my keys and assumes he's driving. Same if we rent a car, and I passed my driving teat first time. He failed his:-))

Linens and Royals said...

Thanks for explaining all about driving Gattina. Now I know why we drive on the left here and that seems to me to be the right and only side to drive.