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Why we drive on the right side of the road

Travel Forums Off Topic Why we drive on the right side of the road

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1. Posted by vegasmike6 (Travel Guru 3562 posts) 7y

I just bumped into this. Very interesting article. I never really knew why the US chose to drive on the right side of the road when our Brit forefathers preferred the left side.

2. Posted by beerman (Respected Member 1631 posts) 7y

Funny, but most people out here in the Middle-of-Nowhere drive down the center, mostly because there is no other traffic around, or they have a sizable tractor or combine which takes up both sides of the road. It's a real joy around here during harvest season (which starts in about a month) - nothing like coming around the corner and being face to face with the massive front picking tines of a corn harvester.

A lot of folks in the countryside seem to view the Rules of the Road as more like guidelines......

3. Posted by vegasmike6 (Travel Guru 3562 posts) 7y

Quoting beerman

A lot of folks in the countryside seem to view the Rules of the Road as more like guidelines......

I have driven many miles in rural Iowa and Wisconsin. There you can be a bit more lax about staying in your lane. For the vast majority of Americans, obey the rules or get a ticket. Or worse, an accident. That tragic accident this summer of a lady going the wrong way on the New York Taconic State Parkway is a very good example of NOT following the rules of the road.

4. Posted by beerman (Respected Member 1631 posts) 7y

Excellent point Mike.....

For all those people wanting to drive in America......please please please follow the rules, as the consequences for not doing so are bad. I've been driving the rural back roads for many years now, and I'm used to them, but I always keep my eyes open for the unexpected. A good example of the unexpected would be a 75 kg deer that absolutely needs to cross the road just meters in front of you.....in the dark.......and the poor thing just doesn't get it that it will be road sushi if it doesn't move its ass. This happened just the other morning to one of my co-workers' wives.....she was driving her usual route to work, before sunrise, and was only doing about 50mph (80 kph)......a deer jumped onto the roadway, she swerved to miss it, rolled her car 5 times, and wound up on a medical helicopter to the University Hospital with internal bleeding. She's ok now....bit beat up and the bleeding stopped, but she's a veteran of that road.

Big city driving can be just as much of a challenge, not because of wild animals crossing the road, more so the wild animals that drive large American tank-mobiles while texting, masturbating, eating, picking their noses, yelling at the 45 kids in the back, putting on eye makeup, cooking a small dinner for the neighbors....all manner of things other than DRIVING....and they tend to be completely oblivious to any other vehicle on the road, because they're in a TANK-MOBILE, which by American design, can kill most any other car on the road.

Be safe, pay attention.

5. Posted by bgl (Full Member 167 posts) 7y

Some inaccuracies in that article. For instance it states:

"Samoa is the first nation since the 1970s to switch sides and did so, they say, to end their reliance on left-hand drive vehicles imported at great expense from America."

This is obviously someone's opinion (the second part of the sentence) but it is not a valid, or even a good, reason. See below. This is also from the article in the link:

"Sweden, for example, switched to driving on the right in 1967 because by then, most of the countries their burgeoning car industry sold to were right-side countries."

Completely wrong. Well, it's correct that Sweden switched from driving on the left to the right in 1967. I remember it well. I lived there and had a drivers' licence and was out driving on the very first day of the change. It was a very quiet day! BUT the reason given above is bogus. ALL cars in Sweden had the wheel on the left side even when traffic kept to the left. And there weren't any more accidents when you had to pass another vehicle (than in countries with the wheel on the "opposite" side). That's just an old wife's tale that that would be serious issue. And parallel parking was MUCH easier! So, with all cars (well, maybe 99.9% anyway) in Sweden with the wheel on the left before the switch, needless to say, both SAAB and Volvo were exclusively building cars with the wheel on the left as well. Either for the domestic market or for export to countries where traffic kept to the right. Made absolutely no difference. The real reason for the switch was much simpler - with increasing integration of the markets in Europe and much more trans-border commerce and traffic, the government of Sweden perceived it to be important for its economy in general to "go with the flow" and switch to driving on the right side, just like all its immediate neighbors as well as continental Europe. Whether that was a valid reason or not, I don't know, but in the long run I believe it was the right thing to do. Speed limits were reduced at the time, people were much more careful and the number of car accidents and related injuries and deaths dropped dramatically! Well, for a time anyway!

[ Edit: Edited on 24-Sep-2009, at 18:57 by bgl ]

6. Posted by vegasmike6 (Travel Guru 3562 posts) 7y

bgl,
Your comment on reducing the speed limit for a time while Sweden's drivers got used to driving on the right side of the road rang a bell. A man actually did a study on speed limits. He stated that if the maximum speed limit was 15 mph, there would be almost zero fatal accidents on the US roadways. True, but by general consensus US drivers would not put up with the inconvenience of poking along at 15 mph. The US and all countries I know of are willing to accept traffic accidents, injuries and deaths caused by speeds on their roadways far in excess of 15 mph. That is the price we are willing to pay in order to get from A to B in a reasonable amount of time.

7. Posted by BedouinLeo (Inactive 698 posts) 7y

In Budapest, the taxi drivers will use any means to get there asap. One way streets the wrong way, on the pavement, on the right or left side of the road and path - they just don't care.

8. Posted by vegasmike6 (Travel Guru 3562 posts) 7y

A friend of mine in Pattaya was severely injured by a motorbike going the wrong way on a one way street. He checked for traffic, but did not look the other way as it was a one way street. Big mistake because the Thais simply do not follow the rules of the road. Now he is in a wheelchair. This happens in many developing countries when traffic laws are not strictly enforced. Many do not have a valid driver's license, legal license plate or insurance. They do not know the rules of the road and the police can be bribed if caught. This leads to an attitude that I can drive anyway I want. Any of us who have ridden motorbikes in SEA can testify to that.

9. Posted by bgl (Full Member 167 posts) 7y

I have been to Thailand & Pattaya so I certainly know what you mean! BUT, you don't have to be in a developing country to encounter situations like that. Many years ago I was driving cross country (USA) and was on my way west out of El Paso on I-10 when we got rear-ended by a big American car, doing at least 100 MPH. (I was driving a Toyota Corolla at about 60 MPH). Needless to say our car was totalled. No injuries, fortunately. The driver of the other car was a 19 year old Mexican. No licence. No insurance. No job. The police just shrugged it off and let him go. He wasn't drunk and didn't seem to be on drugs.

About the accidents - yes, I'm sure, 15 MPH would solve the problem.... Not that I would be in favor that! I do find the attitude towards traffic fatalities mindboggling, though. Every year, just in the USA, between 40,000 and 45,000 people die in car accidents. And it's not even an issue! Not quite 3,000 people died in 9/11, and that was obviously a terrible event. And as a result the USA has spent trillions of Dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan and just in general to improve security. Since, 9/11 there must have been about 300,000 traffic fatalities in the USA. In other words, a hundred times MORE deaths. And that's just business as usual! Instead of taking trillions of Dollars to make cars and roads safer. We can never eliminate traffic accidents but we could certainly reduce them greatly. But, there are obviously other priorities...

10. Posted by vegasmike6 (Travel Guru 3562 posts) 7y

Bo,
I see that you are interested in aviation. I once read an article of air fatalities. The point of the article was just what you were discussing. We accept the huge numbers of auto fatalities every year but if that many people were killed in air accidents, it would cripple the industry. Nobody in the US would get on an airliner if 100 people A DAY were killed flying. Totally unacceptable! Any commercial flight that has causalities makes the national news. It is that rare today. But we as a nation accept a 100 people a day killed on our roads. Even with safer cars, better roads, stricter enforcement of our laws, around 100 deaths/day still happen. And will for the foreseeable future.

The answer is what I stated before. Drive at 15 mph and there would be zero deaths on our highways! Now all we have to do is to get 150 million drivers to go along with this plan!!