Why do we drive on the left? Many people have asked this question. All countries are required to have left-hand or right-hand driving regulations. This is required for traffic to flow effectively, also known as the rule of the road.
Around 85% of the global population are right-handed. In the past people used the left side of the road to travel. This was so they could use their sword arm to defend themselves. In 1773 the British Government introduced the General Highways Act recommending people use the left side of the road for travel. It became law in 1835 as part of the Highways Act.
The trend in European countries is to drive on the right-hand side of the road. The majority of British colonies drive on the left and the French colonies on the right. When Napoleon took over the army and started invading nations he ordered them to use the right-hand side of the road. Over the next few hundred years this became the norm, and former French colonies drive on the right-hand side of the road.
In the 1700’s freight wagons were becoming popular in America. These required a number of paired horses to pull the wagons. The drivers wanted to keep their right-hand free to whip and control the wagons. The best position for the drivers was back behind the left horse. Wagons on the approach would use the right-hand side of the road to pass by. Soon this became common and was eventually adopted by the population.
Countries still driving on the left
In the 1960’s Britain toyed with idea of driving on the right, but it would have cost billions. The majority of the population were against it. Today, only 4 countries still drive on the left: United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta.