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  countries with right-hand traffic
  countries with left-hand traffic

Right-hand traffic and left-hand traffic mean regulations requiring all traffic to keep either to the left or the right hand side of the road.[1][2] This is so fundamental to traffic flow that it is sometimes referred to as the rule of the road.[3] This basic rule eases traffic flow and reduces the risk of head-on collisions. Though originally most traffic drove on the left worldwide,[4] today about 66% of the world's people live in right-hand traffic countries and 34% in left-hand traffic countries. About 72% of the world's total road distance carries traffic on the right, and 28% on the left.[5]


Universally (following a treaty; see below) each country specifies a uniform road traffic flow: left-hand traffic (LHT) in which traffic keeps to the left side of the road, or right-hand traffic (RHT) in which traffic keeps to the right.[6][7][8]

Vehicles are manufactured in left-hand drive (LHD) and right-hand drive (RHD) configurations, referring to the placement of the driving seat and controls within the vehicle.[9][10][11] Typically, the placement of the steering wheel is opposite to the rule of the road: LHT countries use RHD vehicles, and RHT countries use LHD vehicles. This is so that the driver's line of sight is as long as possible down the road past leading vehicles, an important consideration for overtaking (passing) manœuvres. However, there are LHT countries where most vehicles are LHD (see Caribbean islands and Sweden below)—and there are some countries with RHT and mostly RHD vehicles (see Afghanistan, Burma (Myanmar), and Russia below). Furthermore, many countries permit both types of vehicles on their roads. Terminological confusion can arise from the misuse of "left-hand drive" or "right-hand drive" to indicate the side of the road along which vehicles are driven.

The terms nearside and offside are equestrian terms meaning left and right respectively, and are used both in LHT countries (e.g., the United Kingdom) and RHT countries (e.g., Denmark). The terms are often used in the British vehicle maintenance industry to mean the left and right hand side of a motor vehicle, but are commonly misunderstood to mean specifically kerbside and non-kerbside.[12] For example in Denmark, the offside is the kerbside.

Road traffic

Main article: Traffic lanes


Map of the world showing the driving directions for all countries and any changes that have occurred, beginning with Finland's change in 1858
  drives on right
  drove on left, now drives on right
  drives on left
  drove on right, now drives on left
  had different rules of the road within borders, now drives on right

Signatory countries to the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic (1949)[13] have agreed to a uniform direction of traffic in each country. Article 9(1) provides that:

All vehicular traffic proceeding in the same direction on any road shall keep to the same side of the road, which shall be uniform in each country for all roads. Domestic regulations concerning one-way traffic shall not be affected.

A sign on Australia's Great Ocean Road reminding foreign motorists to keep left.

In the past, there were several countries which had different rules in different parts of the country (e.g., Canada until the 1920s). Currently, China is the only country for which this is the case, as the bulk of it drives on the right, while the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau drive on the left.

Left-hand traffic

Right-hand traffic

Jurisdictions with left-hand traffic

List of jurisdictions where traffic keeps left

Total: 76 countries, territories and dependencies

Today road traffic in the following seven European jurisdictions drives on the left: Cyprus, Guernsey, Ireland, Isle of Man, Jersey, Malta and the United Kingdom. None shares a physical border with a country that drives on the right and all were once part of the British Empire. Some Commonwealth countries and other former British colonies, such as Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and South Africa drive on the left, but others such as Canada, Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and the United States drive on the right. Other countries that drive on the left in Asia are Thailand, Indonesia, East Timor and Japan. In South America, only Guyana and Suriname drive on the left. Most of the Pacific countries drive on the left, with Samoa joining most recently on 7 September 2009.

Jurisdictions with right-hand traffic

List of jurisdictions where traffic keeps right
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Note: Italics indicates year of change to driving on the right.

American Samoa
Angola (1928)
Argentina (1945)
Austria (1935-38)
Bahrain (1967)
Belize (1961)
Bosnia and Herzegovina
British Indian Ocean Territory
Burkina Faso
Burma (Myanmar) (1970)
Cameroon (1961)
Canada (1920s)
Cape Verde (1928)
Central African Republic
China, mainland (1946)
Congo (Brazzaville)
Congo (Kinsasha)
Costa Rica
Côte d'Ivoire
Czech Republic (1939, details)
Denmark 1793*

Dominican Republic
El Salvador
Equatorial Guinea
Eritrea (1964)
Ethiopia (1964)
Faroe Islands
Finland (1858)
France (1789)
French Guiana
French Polynesia
Gambia (1965)
Ghana (1974)
Gibraltar (1929)
Guinea-Bissau (1928)
Hungary (1941)
Iceland (1968)
Korea DPR
Korea (1946)

Republic of Macedonia
Marshall Islands
Midway Atoll
Netherlands Antilles
New Caledonia
Nigeria (1972)
Northern Mariana Is.
Panama (1943)
Paraguay (1945)
Philippines (1946)
Portugal (1928)
Puerto Rico

Saint Pierre and Miquelon
San Marino
São Tomé and Príncipe (1928)
Saudi Arabia
Sierra Leone (1971)
Slovakia (1939-41, details)
Somalia (1968)
Spain (October 1924)
Sudan (1973)
Sweden (1967, details)
Taiwan (1946)
United Arab Emirates
United States (1792)
Uruguay (1945)
Vatican City
Wake Island
Wallis and Futuna
Western Sahara

*1758 in Copenhagen, 1793 in the rest of Denmark
**In South Yemen

Total: 163 countries and territories

Changing sides at borders

One of many road signs in the English county of Kent placed on the right hand side of the road
The change of traffic directions at the Laos–Thai border takes place on Lao territory just off the Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge
Thai-Myanmar friendship bridge

Several countries in Africa, Asia and South America have land borders where drivers must change to the other side of the road.

Where neighbouring countries drive on opposite sides of the road, drivers from one to the other must change sides when crossing the border. Thailand is particularly notable in this context. Thailand drives on the left; since Myanmar (Burma) changed from left to right in 1970, 90% of Thailand's borders are with countries that drive on the right (only Malaysia drives on the left). Thailand is the only sizable country with this problem.

Other notable borders where a changeover is necessary are between Afghanistan and Pakistan, between Laos and Thailand, and between Sudan and Uganda.

When borders coincide with natural barriers, such as mountains (which may be in remote areas) or rivers, the traffic volumes are relatively low and the number of border crossings is reduced. This is true of many borders where traffic changes sides of the road, especially in Asia.

The four most common ways of switching traffic from one side to the other at borders are

Changing to right-hand traffic

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Over the course of the 20th century, there was a gradual worldwide shift from driving on the left to the right. Portugal changed to right-hand traffic in 1928, and the parts of Canada which were still driving on the left changed over by 1923. The remainder of Italy changed over in the 1920s after Benito Mussolini came to power; Austria and Czechoslovakia changed when Germany annexed or occupied them in late 1930s, and Hungary followed suit. In Austria the build-up of new traffic lights and rebuilding of tram tracks was started before the annexation. The Latin American countries of Panama and Argentina changed in 1943 and 1945 respectively, and the Philippines and China followed suit in 1945 and 1946 respectively. Belize changed to right-hand traffic in 1961. Sweden changed in 1967 and Iceland did as well in 1968. Burma changed, allegedly on the advice of a wizard,[15] in 1970. (For the logistics involved, see the Swedish experience at Dagen H.)

Taiwan drove on the left under Japanese rule, but changed to driving on the right in 1946 after the government of the Republic of China assumed administration; the same happened in North and South Korea, another former Japanese colony. However, some trains in Taiwan and Seoul still keep to the left, as does pedestrian traffic in the Seoul subway system.

The most common reason for countries to switch to right-hand traffic is for conformity with neighbours, as it increases the safety of cross-border traffic. For example, several former British colonies in Africa, such as The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Ghana, have changed from driving on the left to the right, because they all share borders with former French colonies, which drive on the right. The former Portuguese colony of Mozambique continues to drive on the left, which is a legacy of its Portuguese past; even though Portugal itself changed over in the 1920s, Mozambique continues to drive on the left because all its bordering countries do. Decisions by countries to drive on the right typically centre on regional uniformity. There are historical exceptions, such as postilion riders in France, but such historical advantages do not apply to modern road vehicles.

There is a popular story that Napoleon changed the rule of the road in the countries he conquered from keep-left to keep-right. The justifications mentioned are usually symbolic, such as that Napoleon himself was left- (or right-) handed, or that Britain, Napoleon's enemy, kept left. This story has never been shown to have a factual basis and it appears to be a legend.[16]

Changing to left-hand traffic

The Japanese prefecture of Okinawa, under US military rule and driving on the right since June 24, 1945, switched back to the left-hand traffic used by the rest of Japan on July 30, 1978. The event is locally known as "730".

Samoa changed to left-hand traffic in September 2009.[17][18][19] The government brought about the change to bring Samoa into line with other South Pacific nations.

Foreign occupation and military transit

Many countries have temporarily or permanently changed their rule of the road as a result of foreign occupation. Recent examples include Austria and Czechoslovakia (details) under German rule or military transit in the 1930s and 1940s. The Channel Islands also changed to driving on the right under German occupation, but changed back after liberation in 1945. The Falkland Islands did the same under Argentine control during the 1982 Falklands War, although some islanders refused to observe the new rule and continued to drive on the left.[20] East Timor changed to driving on the left under Indonesian rule in 1976, and continues the practice as an independent state. The Japanese region of Okinawa changed from left to right under US control; in 1972 Okinawa was returned to Japanese sovereignty, and six years later, in 1978, the driving rules reverted to left-hand traffic as in mainland Japan.

Safety factors

Research in 1969 by J. J. Leeming showed countries driving on the left have a lower collision rate than countries driving on the right. It has been suggested this is partly because humans are more commonly right-eye dominant than left-eye dominant.[21][22][23] In left-hand traffic, the predominantly better-performing right eye is used to monitor oncoming traffic and the driver's wing mirror. In right-hand traffic, oncoming traffic and the driver's wing mirror are handled by the predominantly weaker left eye. In addition, it has been argued that left sided driving is safer for elderly people given the likelihood of them having visual attention deficits on the left side and the need at intersections to watch out for vehicles approaching on the near-side lane.[24]

A valid argument in favour of sitting on the right hand side (and by extension therefore driving on the left hand side) is that the predominantly stronger right hand remains in control of the steering wheel when changing gear.

Cyclists and horse riders typically mount from the left hand side. This places them on the safer kerb side when driving on the left and on the more dangerous traffic side when driving on the right.


In 1998, archaeologists found a well-preserved track leading to a Roman quarry near Swindon, England. The grooves in the road on the right side were observed to be much deeper than those on the left side, which would make sense given that carts would be driven without any load to the quarry, but would return laden with stone. These grooves suggest that the Romans drove on the left, at least in this particular location.[5]

In fact, some, for example C. Northcote Parkinson, believed that ancient travellers on horseback generally rode on the left side of the road. As more people are right-handed, a horseman would thus be able to hold the reins with his left hand and keep his right hand free—to offer in friendship to passing riders or to defend himself with a sword, if necessary.[25] It is often suggested this practice was brought about by the use of postilions on coaches; in some countries they sat facing forward, in others back.

The first legal reference in Britain to an order for traffic to remain on the left was in 1756 with regard to London Bridge. The Highway Act 1773 contained a recommendation that horse traffic should remain on the left and this is enshrined in the Highway Act 1835.[26]

In the late 1700s, the shift from left to right that took place in countries such as the United States was based on teamsters' use of large freight wagons pulled by several pairs of horses. The wagons had no driver’s seat, so a postilion sat on the left rear horse and held his whip in his right hand. Seated on the left, the driver preferred that other wagons pass him on the left so that he could be sure to keep clear of the wheels of oncoming wagons. He did that by driving on the right side of the road.[25]

Countries that became part of the British Empire adopted the British keep-left rule, although many have since changed. In Canada, the Maritime provinces and British Columbia initially drove on the left, but changed to the right in order to make border crossings to and from other provinces easier. Nova Scotia switched to driving on the right on 15 April 1923.

Trams (streetcars)

Tram and streetcar systems generally follow the same rules as normal road traffic in the country concerned, both on road and on reserved sections, with the passenger doors on the kerbside. Various exceptions exist or have existed, examples including the now-removed system in London and the current system in Blackpool where some sections of tramway had or have both tracks on the same side of the road with no physical separation from road traffic.

The driver is usually positioned near the centre of the vehicle, although some single-operator trams have been developed wherein the driver sits nearer the centre of the road. On the left-hand running Blackpool system and Melbourne trams built between the 1970s and 1990s, the driver sits on the right. It has been said here that, on the old right-hand drive Zagreb trams, the driver sits on the left; but this seems unlikely, since a right-hand-drive vehicle, as defined above, has the controls on the right-hand side and would be difficult if not impossible to drive by a driver sitting on the left. Before the extensive system was dismantled, Sydney trams also drove on the left-hand side.

When Sweden changed to driving on the right, its single-ended tram had the doors on the wrong side, and this was taken as an excuse to close down several systems. Gothenburg operated its trams in opposite-handed pairs, the left-hand-drive tram leading before the changeover and the right-hand-drive tram afterwards. Over time, all trams have been converted with many trams built in the sixties still being operated. In the north-eastern part of the system, the trams pass through a tunnel under Hammarkullen, which lies on top of a steep hill. Since building a single central platform was cheaper, the trams switch sides at Hjällbo and runs on the left past the last four stops.

In Vienna around the underground station Kagran Tramline 26 changes to the left to prevent passengers from crossing the tram tracks.


Driver seating position

On most early motor vehicles, the driving seat was positioned centrally. Some car manufacturers later chose to place it on the side of the car closest to the kerb to help the driver avoid scraping walls, hedges, gutters and other obstacles. Other car manufacturers placed the driving seat on the side closest to the centre of the road to give the driver the longest possible seeing distance in traffic. This is the pattern that eventually prevailed. Today experimental versions of drive by wire and brake by wire vehicles are being developed which allow the driver to slide the steering wheel/brake controls from left to right with the gauges in the center dashboard. They are expected to become popular in countries such as Thailand that have land borders with opposite-drive countries.


As with horse riding, where riders tend to prefer mounting from the left, pedal cycles have evolved to be mounted from the same side. The common chain-based transmission systems used overwhelmingly by bicycles of all kinds are generally placed on the right hand side of the bike. Riders can thus walk along with their cycles held out to their right with less fear of their legs interfering with or being made dirty by the transmission system which is on the far side of the frame. This configuration suits the use of cycles on roads designed for RHD vehicles where the cyclist can walk just off the side of the road with their bike on the road and between them and the traffic. From this position they can then mount their bike by elevating and extending their right leg which tends to be easier for right-handed individuals.

Legal restrictions on wrong-hand drive vehicles

For reasons of safety, politics, and/or economic market protection, some countries ban the sale or import of vehicles with the steering wheel on the "wrong" side.

In Australia, registration of non-vintage (i.e., less than 30 years old) LHD vehicles is illegal. Imported LHD vehicles must be converted to RHD (costing potentially thousands of dollars), or driven with a permit which imposes severe usage restrictions. However, Western Australia and the Northern Territory (both which have at various times hosted U.S. military facilities and had vehicles imported, used and sold by U.S. service personnel) have LHD vehicles in circulation. The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) previously allowed non-vintage LHD vehicles to be registered, but changed its legislation some years ago.

In India, LHD vehicles cannot be sold commercially to customers, but they can be imported for research and testing purposes under government approval.[27]

In New Zealand, LHD vehicles may be privately imported, and driven locally under a LHD permit. Since 1999, only LHD vehicles older than 20 years or cars owned and operated for at least 90 days may be privately imported. Diplomats and Operation Deep Freeze personnel are exempted from these restrictions.

In the Philippines, RHD vehicles are banned. Public buses and vans imported from Japan are converted to LHD, and passenger doors are created on the right side. This ban was thought to be the result of the increase of accidents involving RHD vehicles, most of which were trucks. However, some vans keep their doors on the left side, leading to the dangerous situation in which passengers have to exit toward oncoming traffic. Some RHD industrial cranes and other off-road vehicles remain.

Cambodia banned the use of RHD cars, many of which were smuggled from Thailand, from 2001, even though RHD vehicles accounted for 80 percent of vehicles in the country. The government threatened to confiscate all such vehicles unless they were converted to LHD, in spite of the considerable expense involved. According to a BBC report,[28] changing the steering column from right to left would cost between US$600 and US$2,000, in a country where average annual income was less than US$1,000.

RHD Toyota Landcruiser in front of a Pyongyang hotel

Although it drives on the right, North Korea has imported various used RHD vehicles from Japan, from tourist buses to Toyota Land Cruisers.

However, many used vehicles exported from Japan to countries like Russia and Peru are already converted to LHD. But even if the driver's position is left unchanged, some jurisdictions require at least replacement of the headlamps.

Singapore bans LHD vehicles from being imported for personal local registration, but temporary usage by tourists of LHD vehicles is allowed. However, diplomatic vehicles in Singapore are exempt from the RHD-only ruling, and there are a few hydrogen and fuel cell powered LHD vehicles currently undergoing trials in Singapore.

In Taiwan, Article 39 of the Road Traffic Security Rules require a steering wheel to be on the left side of a vehicle to pass an inspection when registering the vehicle, so RHD vehicles may not be registered in Taiwan. This rule does not apply retroactively, so a RHD vehicle that was registered before this rule does not lose its registered status and may continue to be legally driven.

In Trinidad and Tobago, LHD vehicles are banned except for returning nationals who were resident in a foreign country and are importing a vehicle for personal use. LHD vehicles are also allowed to be imported for use as funeral hearses.

In West Africa, once-British Ghana and Gambia have also banned RHD vehicles. Their traffic has been changed from on the left to on the right. Ghana prohibited new registrations of RHD vehicles after 1 August 1974, three days before the traffic change on 4 August 1974. RHD vehicles may be imported only temporarily into Sierra Leone, for example for humanitarian programmes, but must be exported at the end of the operation.

Most of the above bans on RHD and LHD vehicles apply only to locally-registered vehicles. Countries that have signed the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic are not allowed to make such restrictions on foreign-registered vehicles. Paragraph 1 of Annex 5 states "All vehicles in international traffic must meet the technical requirements in force in their country of registration when they first entered into service". Therefore all signatory countries and most non-signatory countries allow the temporary import (e.g., by tourists) of foreign-registered vehicles, no matter which side the steering wheel is on. Oman, which has not signed the Vienna Convention, bans all foreign-registered RHD vehicles.[29]

Both RHD and LHD vehicles may generally be registered in any European Union member state, but there are some restrictions and regulations. Slovakia, despite being a member of the European Union, does not allow the local registration of RHD vehicles,[30] even if the vehicle is imported from one of the four EU countries that drive on the left (UK, Ireland, Cyprus, and Malta). Lithuania has prohibited new RHD vehicle registration since 1993.


Comparison of continental door (left) against standard emergency exit door (right) on Plaxton Paramount coaches.

Buses typically have passenger doors only on the kerbside, which severely restricts their ability to operate effectively on the opposite side of the road to that for which they were designed. Increasingly, touring coaches, which are likely to cross frontiers of traffic-handedness during their duties, are fitted with a door on the opposite side from the kerb, to simplify access and egress in the foreign country. In Britain this is known as a "continental door", since its usefulness will be in continental Europe. It doubles as an emergency exit, but is much more user-friendly than an exit designed solely for emergency use.

It is usually fairly straightforward to retrofit a non-kerbside door on buses with relatively low floor height; the many traditional British double-deckers sold on for tourist use in the USA and Canada are examples.

Postal and other service vehicles

Post Office cars and vans in different countries such as the United States, Canada, Finland, Estonia and Sweden have the steering wheel on the opposite side to normal vehicles. This is so the driver can easily drive up next to mailboxes or get out straight onto the pavement without having to walk around their vehicle, or put mail in boxes without getting out of their vehicle at all. In the US, rural mail carriers often must provide their own vehicles and have a limited selection of RHD vehicles that they can choose to buy or lease. Some utility service vehicles are also RHD to allow dismounting at the kerb and some newspaper carriers use RHD vehicles to deliver papers to kerbside boxes rather than drive along routes on the wrong side. The Jeep Wrangler is available in the United States in RHD configuration, since this particular model is popular with rural mail carriers who sometimes operate in less-than-optimal road conditions and thus appreciate the Wrangler's 4WD capabilities.[citation needed]

In Australia and the UK, LHD street sweeper trucks are common for the purpose of the driver having a better view of the left side kerb they are cleaning. Some styles of Wheelie bin collection trucks also have kerb side driver's seats to permit a better view of the bin being emptied. Additionally, some of these vehicles have dual-control systems, with a steering wheel and pedals on both sides of the cab. This allows the drive to operate from whichever side offers the best safety and visibility at the specific time.

Headlamps and other lighting equipment

Main article: Headlamp

Bird's-eye view of low beam light pattern for RH traffic, with long seeing range on the right and short cutoff on the left so oncoming traffic is not blinded.

Most low-beam headlamps produce an asymmetrical beam focused for use on only one side of the road. Headlamps for use in LH-traffic countries have low-beam headlamps that throw most of their light forward-leftward, while limiting the light range forward-rightward; the beam is distributed with a downward/leftward bias. Headlamps for RH-traffic countries have low-beam headlamps that throw most of their light forward-rightward, while limiting the light range forward-leftward; the beam is distributed with a downward/rightward bias. The beam thus lets the driver see obstacles and road signs on his own side of the road at a safe distance, without blinding oncoming traffic.

Within Europe, when driving a vehicle with RH-traffic headlamps in a LH-traffic country or vice versa for a limited time (as for example on holiday or in transit), it is a legal requirement to adjust the headlamps temporarily so that the wrong-side hot spot of the beam does not dazzle oncoming drivers. This may be achieved by adhering blackout strips or plastic prismatic lenses to a designated part of the lens, but some varieties of the projector-type headlamp can be made to produce a proper LH- or RH-traffic beam by shifting a lever or other movable element in or on the lamp assembly.

Because blackout strips and adhesive prismatic lenses reduce the safety performance of the headlamps, most countries require all vehicles registered or used on a permanent or semi-permanent basis within the country to be equipped with headlamps designed for the correct traffic-handedness.

Without sidecars attached, motorcycles, motor scooters, mopeds, and bicycles are almost symmetric with their handlebars in the centre. However, motorcycles are often equipped with automotive-type asymmetrical-beam headlamps that likewise require adjustments or replacement when brought into a country with opposite traffic-handedness.

Rear fog lamps

Within the European Union, each vehicle must be equipped with one or two red rear fog lamps. A single rear fog lamp may be located on the vehicle centreline, or on the driver's side of the vehicle. It may not be located on the passenger's side of the vehicle. This sometimes requires the purchase and installation of local-market lighting components.

Specific jurisdictions


Afghanistan drives on the right. Most vehicles in much of the country, however, are RHD cars imported from neighbouring Pakistan (with the exception of Herat and other western provinces). In the capital Kabul, most drivers have adapted to this problem, leaning over the passenger seat (on the car's left side) before making a left turn or before overtaking other vehicles by veering into the left (oncoming traffic) lane. The country also has a large volume of military vehicle traffic from the U.S., Canada and EU militaries, much of which is LHD.


When the Pan American Highway from Alaska to Cape Horn was planned in the 1930s, it was decided it should use one side of driving its entire length. A few countries along the route used left-hand traffic, one being Argentina. On 10 October 1944 Decreto Nacional 26965 [31] was issued, introducing right-hand traffic in Argentina eight months later, on 10 June 1945. Strict speed limits kept the number of fatal accidents low after the conversion. 10 June is still observed each year as Dia de la Seguridad Vial [32] (Road Safety Day) in Argentina.


Australia drives on the left. The decision to drive on the left side of the road was made in the early 19th century in the early period of the British colony of New South Wales by Governor Lachlan Macquarie after the first road was built, and followed the British practice. Australian states and territories used to use the "give way to the right" rule; in the absence of regulations specific to a particular situation, drivers must yield the right of way to all vehicles to their right.[33] This applies to most uncontrolled intersections except for T-intersections.[34] Give way to the right does not apply to merging lanes, in that instance vehicles must give way to any vehicle which is ahead. This is sometimes called zip merging. If lines are marked, vehicles are not zip merging but changing lanes, and must give way accordingly.[34]


The Austro-Hungarian Empire drove on the left. Successor countries switched to the right separately. Austria did it in stages, beginning from the west:

Poland's Galicia switched to the right around 1924. Czechoslovakia planned to start driving on the right on 1 May 1939, but the change in Bohemia and Moravia was prompted by the German occupation forces (Bohemia: 17 March 1939, Prague: 26 March, see switch to right hand traffic in Czechoslovakia for details). Hungary also acted later than planned: the government decided about the change in June 1939 but postponed it and finally introduced it at 3am on 6 July 1941 outside Budapest and at 3am on 9 November 1941 in Budapest.


Before 1899, there was no uniform system in Belgium. In some cities or provinces traffic drove on the left and in others on the right. Beginning on 1 August 1899, right-hand traffic was introduced in the whole country. [35]


As a former British colony, Belize drove on the left until 1961, when it changed to the right in anticipation of the Pan-American highway being built to pass through the country. However, after Hurricane Hattie the government had to divert funds earmarked for the construction of the highway to disaster relief, so the highway does not in fact run through Belize.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina was part of the Austro Hungarian Empire at the beginning of the 20th century, and after the collapse of the empire, it started driving on the right.

Burma (Myanmar)

As a former British colony, cars in Burma (Myanmar) drove on the left; but the military administration of Ne Win decreed that traffic would drive on the right hand side of the road beginning 7 December 1970.[36] It is alleged that this was because Ne Win had been advised by his soothsayer, who had said "move to the right".[37] In spite of the change, most passenger vehicles in the country continue to be RHD, being pre-changeover vehicles and second-hand vehicles imported from Japan, Thailand, and Singapore. Buses imported from Japan that were never converted from RHD to LHD, have doors on the right side in offset position, unlike their counterparts in the Philippines. However, government limousines, imported from the People's Republic of China, are LHD. Virtually all vehicles are driven with a passenger in place to watch the oncoming traffic and inform the driver as to whether it is safe to overtake or not, as the driver cannot see this from the RHD position.[38]


Cambodia follows a keep-to-the-right rule derived from France. In 2001 RHD cars, usually second hand from Thailand, were banned.[39]


Until the 1920s, the rule of the road in Canada varied by province, with British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island having cars driving on the left, and the other provinces and territories having motorists driving on the right. Starting with inland British Columbia on 15 July 1920 and ending with Prince Edward Island on 1 May 1924, these provinces changed to driving on the right.[40] Newfoundland was not part of Canada until 1949, and its motorists drove on the left until 2 January 1947.[41]

One of the very few places in Canada where traffic appears to drive on the left is in Montreal on Autoroute 20 for the Template:Km to mi between its junctions with Route 138 and Autoroute 15. The two roadways remain separated by a concrete median barrier for this entire distance and the changing of sides does not interfere with the flow of traffic.

There are some officially-offered RHD vehicles in Canada, such as Canada Post mail delivery trucks. These have extra mirrors to increase driver visibility. Some garbage trucks and street sweepers have dual controls—both LHD and RHD. This allows the driver to enter and exit the vehicle quickly no matter which side of the street is being serviced. General-purpose RHD vehicles are allowed in Canada, providing they comply with all applicable Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards or are more than 15 years old and therefore eligible for import regardless of compliance with Canadian Federal regulations.


The English-speaking Caribbean typically follows the keep-to-the-left rule and as a result, most cars have a RHD configuration. Examples of this may be noted in such countries as Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago. In certain islands (mostly Lesser Antilles) such as the British Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas, as well as Turks and Caicos Islands, most passenger cars are LHD, being imported from the United States or Brazil.[42] Only some government cars and those imported from RHD countries (Japan and the United Kingdom among others) are RHD. The U.S. Virgin Islands are particularly known for having a high accident rate caused by American tourists from the mainland who are unfamiliar with driving on the left in their rental cars.[citation needed] Bonaire and Curacao use the right hand traffic.

China, People's Republic of (except Hong Kong & Macau)

Before 1946, driving in China was mixed, with cars in the northern provinces driving on the right, and cars in the southern provinces such as Guangdong driving on the left. From 1946 China (of which Hong Kong and Macau were not a part) became a right hand traffic only country.[43]


Croatia was part of the Austro Hungarian Empire at the beginning of the last century, and after the collapse of the empire, it started driving on the right. Sometimes, on parking garage entrances of the left side of a one-way street the lanes on the entrance are reversed to provide for unrestricted flow of traffic between the garage and the street. One such example is the Importanne Gallery parking garage.[44] This was done so the traffic lanes in the one way street from which one enters the garage would not cross.


A former British colony, Cyprus drives on the left, and cars sold locally are right hand drive, including those used by the British forces in the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia. However, owing to its economic and political isolation, there is a sizeable number of left-hand drive vehicles in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus which were imported from Turkey. Since Cyprus is now an EU member it is common to find left-hand drive vehicles also (tourists overland or else second hand imports from other EU countries with LHD vehicles).[45] An increasing number of right hand drive grey import vehicles from Japan are now sold in both parts of the island.

Dominican Republic

According to Transit Legislation (Law No. 241, Article 66 - "Transit on the right"), all vehicles must drive on the right hand side of the road and be of the LHD (left hand drive) disposition. Even though it is required to drive on the right side and pass on the left, it is also permitted to pass on the right side of a slower moving vehicle not positioned on the rightmost lane (when conditions allow doing it safely).

Ethiopia and Eritrea

Ethiopia changed from left-hand to right-hand traffic on 8 June 1964. Eritrea was at that time part of Ethiopia, so the same date is applicable for that country. The reason for the change is not clearly understood, as neighbouring Kenya in the south and Sudan in the west were driving on the left.


France has long been a right-hand traffic country. However, along the 350 metres (380 yd)* of Avenue du Général Lemonnier in Paris, which connects the Pont Royal to the Rue de Rivoli, traffic drives on the left, separated only by a hump.


Although the British overseas territory of Gibraltar changed to driving on the right on 16 June 1929, in order to avoid accidents involving vehicles from Spain, some public buses until recently were RHD, with a special door allowing passengers to enter on the right hand side. However, most passenger cars are LHD, as in Spain, with the exception of second-hand cars brought in from the UK and Japan as well as UK registered military vehicles used by the British Forces.

Guyana and Suriname

Guyana and Suriname are the only two remaining countries in the mainland Americas that drive on the left. As a result of the construction of the Pan-American Highway, four mainland American countries switched to driving on the right between 1943 and 1961, the last of which was Belize. Both Guyana and Suriname are separated from their neighbours by large rivers, with the first bridge crossing one of these only opening in April 2009. The inland south of both countries is sparsely populated with very few roads and hence no border crossings.

In the south west of Guyana near Lethem, work was finally completed[46] on 26 April 2009 on the Takutu River Bridge across the Takutu River into neighbouring Brazil, which drives on the right. The changeover system is on the Guyana side, with one lane passing under the other on the bridge's access road [1][2]. Construction proceeded slowly over the years before being completed by the Brazilian army. Brazil had been keen to open the bridge, as it now gives Brazil access to Caribbean sea ports on the north coast of South America. Brazil intends to permit Guyana registered (RHD) vehicles to go no further than the Brazilian border town of Bonfim. It is expected that Brazilian (LHD) vehicles will be able to drive all the way through Guyana to the coast. The Takutu Bridge is the Americas' only border crossing where traffic changes sides of the road.

In Suriname most of the privately owned buses are imported from Japan, and the exits are designed for driving on the left. Most state-owned buses, however, are from the US (LHD) and often the placement of the exits has to be adjusted.

Hong Kong and Macau

Chatham Road in Kowloon, Hong Kong.

Being a former British colony, Hong Kong follows the United Kingdom in driving on the left. Macau, a former Portuguese colony, historically followed Hong Kong in driving on the left because most of the RHD cars in Macau were imported through Hong Kong. Macau did not follow either Portugal in 1928 or China in 1946 in switching to driving on the right.

Under the auspices of the "one country, two systems" arrangement, the practice of driving on the left continues in Hong Kong and Macau, now Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China. Most vehicles, even those of the armed forces, are RHD. LHD exceptions include some buses providing services to and from the mainland.

There are four road border crossing points between mainland China and Hong Kong. The largest and busiest is Lok Ma Chau (aerial map), which features two separate changeover systems on the mainland side. In 2006, the daily average number of vehicle trips recorded at Lok Ma Chau was 31100.[47] The next largest is Man Kam To, where there is no changeover system and the border roads on the mainland side simply intersect as one-way streets with a main road. There are two border crossing points between mainland China and Macau. The newer crossing point is the Lotus Bridge, which crosses a narrow channel of sea between the mainland and Macau, and was opened at the end of 1999 (aerial map). The Lotus Bridge was designed to cater for high traffic volumes and features three lanes in each direction as well as a full changeover system on the mainland side, comprising bridges that loop around each other by 360° to swap the direction of the traffic. At the older Macau crossing point, there is no changeover system and the border roads continue with traffic on the left on the mainland side, and simply intersect on to a roundabout. All of these Chinese changeover systems can be viewed in high resolution using Google Earth.


Iceland switched traffic from left to right at 06:00 on Sunday 26 May 1968, known as H-dagurinn. As in Sweden, most passenger cars were already left hand drive.[48] The only injury from the changeover was a boy on a bicycle who broke his leg.[49] Numerous buses were also stuck in traffic jams.


India continued the colonial practice of driving on the left hand side of the road after independence. Now all vehicles are RHD with the government banning all new LHD vehicles in the country except under special circumstances, such as cars imported duty free by foreign embassies. Such vehicles are often left hand drive so that they cannot be registered in India, and are subsequently resold undercutting the nascent luxury car industry which is subject to high duty levels.


Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country, drives on the left, despite being a former colony of the Netherlands, which drives on the right. This originated from British rule in Indonesia under Thomas Stamford Raffles between 1811-1816. Even though the country is an archipelago there are three land borders, those with Malaysia, East Timor and Papua New Guinea. All of these countries also drive on the left, Malaysia as a legacy of British rule, East Timor as a result of previous Indonesian occupation and Papua New Guinea as a result of Australian rule following World War I until 1975. However, cars imported from the US are left hand drive, and trains keep to the right hand side of the track, as in the Netherlands.


Ireland is the next largest European state after the UK to drive on the left. Visitors to Ireland are very likely to encounter a warning sign near Irish airports, seaports, major tourist attractions and outside major urban areas reminding them to drive on the left (in English, French and German). The Republic of Ireland has a land border with Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom where driving is on the left, and there is much traffic between the countries.

In 2008, the leader of Seanad Éireann, Donie Cassidy, said that Ireland should consider changing to right-hand traffic.[50][51]


Which side of the road the Romans drove on is disputed. Archaeological evidence in Britain seems to indicate driving on the left but old Roman roads in Turkey suggest Romans used the right hand side of the road.[52] In Italy the practice of traffic driving on the right first began in the late 1890s, but it was not until the mid 1920s that it became standard throughout the country. There was a long period when traffic in the countryside drove on the right while major cities continued to drive on the left.[53] Rome, for example, did not change from left to right until 20 October 1924. Milan was the last Italian city to change to driving on the right (3 August 1926). Cars had remained right-hand drive (RHD) until this time. Alfa Romeo and Lancia did not produce LHD cars until as late as 1950 and 1953, respectively.[54].

A few highways have some sections of road where the directions cross, resulting in traffic driving on the left, such the A6 highway between Savona and Torino (map), the A20 highway between Messina and Palermo (map), and the A19 highway between Palermo and Catania (map). However, these are short segments of motorway, where the different directions do not interact, therefore vehicles still overtake on the left on these sections.
Furthermore, exceptions to the rule can be necessary in urban contexts. For example, the Ponte Palatino bridge in Rome is known to Romans to be "all'inglese" (english-style), because drivers are required to drive on the left hand side of the bridge. This situation is analogous to (and obviously reversed) that of Savoy Court in London.[55]


Japan is one of the few countries outside the Commonwealth of Nations to drive on the left. An informal practice of left-hand passage dates at least to the Edo period, when samurai are said to have passed each other to the left in order to avoid knocking swords with each other (as swords were always worn to the left side). During the late 1800s, Japan built its first railways with British technical assistance, and double-tracked railways adopted the British practice of running on the left. Stage Coach Order issued in 1870 and the revision in 1872 said mutually approaching horses had to avoid each other by shifting to the left.[56] An order issued in 1881 said mutually approaching horses and vehicles had to avoid each other by shifting to the left. An order issued in 1885 stated that general horses and vehicles had to avoid to the left, but they also had to avoid to the right when they met army troops, until the double standard was legally resolved in 1924.[57]

After the defeat of Japan during World War II, Okinawa was under control of the United States and made to drive on the right. Okinawa was returned to Japanese control in 1972 and changed back to driving on the left six years later, at 06:00 on 30 July 1978, as certain treaties required nations to have one system throughout their territory.[58] The changeover operation was known as 730 (Nana-San-Maru). Okinawa is one of very few places to have changed from right- to left- traffic in the late 20th century.

Japan does allow both RHD and LHD vehicles on their roads. In some cases the same vehicle is available in both LHD and RHD configurations.


Malaysia has been driving on the left side of the road since British colonial times. However, traffic drives on the right can be found at Damansara-Puchong Expressway in the short tunnel under the Kota Damansara flyover and Sunway Bridge at Federal Highway Route 1 interchange..

Until it was pedestrianised, the northern section of Penang Road in George Town, Penang, now known as Upper Penang Road, had traffic passing on the right hand side of the road, with a concrete kerb in the middle. This was to allow clockwise traffic from the one-way sections of Northam Road and Farquhar Street (at either end of the road) to pass clockwise through the road without crossing oncoming traffic.


Malta was a British colony from 1800 to 1964, and continues with left-hand traffic. As a standard on new imported cars, local vehicles are right hand drive. Since Malta is now a EU member it is now common to find left hand drive vehicles also (tourists overland or else second hand imports from other EU countries with LHD vehicles).

New Zealand

Right-side traffic on the access road to the Manapouri power station.

New Zealand drives on the left, mainly due to it being a former British colony.

At intersections, the general rule for priority in New Zealand is "Give way to the right, and turning traffic give way to traffic not turning", but there is an unusual variation compared with other countries. Traffic turning left, as well as giving way to any traffic travelling straight into the road they wish to take, must also give way to right-turning traffic as well. The reason for this rule is to reduce the likelihood of an impact with the driver's side of the vehicle (right-hand side). This rule also used to apply in the Australian state of Victoria until the early 1990s.

On the underground access road to the Manapouri power station vehicles must drive on the right. There are various theories about why this is so. It may be to make it easier for drivers to see how close they are to the tunnel wall, or it may be because the tunnel was built by European workers who drove on the right.[59] The road is, however, only used by authorized vehicles and is not open to the public.


File:M2 lilla.JPG
The M2: Lahore to Islamabad

Pakistan continued the British practice of driving on the left hand side of the road after its independence in 1947. Pakistan is the westernmost country in Asia to drive on the left, and it borders Afghanistan, Iran and China, all of which drive on the right. The Khyber Pass border crossing with Afghanistan is one of the most well known places where traffic changes sides of the road.


Right-hand traffic was introduced in the Philippines on the last day of the Battle of Manila, 10 March 1945, to facilitate American troop movements.[60]


Poland was recreated in 1918 as a sovereign republic from territories former belonging to the Austro-Hungarian, German and Russian Empires. In the former Austrian areas left-hand driving was in force. This was changed in the 1920s. In Lwow (at that time in Poland) the change-over took place in 1922 and in Kraków in 1925.[61]


Portugal changed from left-hand to right-hand traffic on 1 June 1928. This change was also implemented in most of its overseas territories, except Goa, Macau and Mozambique, which had land borders with countries that drove on the left. In East Timor right-hand traffic was introduced in 1928, but changed back by Indonesia in 1975.

Russian Federation

Driving on the right was introduced in Russia by the decree of Empress Elisaveta Petrovna on 5 February 1752.[62]

Although Russia drives on the right, cheaper used cars from Japan are almost as popular as LHD cars of the same class. Russia is estimated to have more than 1.5 million RHD vehicles on its roads. In the far eastern regions, such as Vladivostok or Khabarovsk, RHD vehicles make up to 90% of the total. This includes not only private cars, but also police cars, ambulances, and many other municipal and governmental vehicles.

During spring 2005, the rumour that RHD vehicles would be completely banned from the roads drove thousands of Russian protesters to the streets. On 19 May 2005 the Russian Minister of Industry and Energy Viktor Khristenko announced that RHD vehicles would be allowed on the roads but would have to conform to all Russian traffic safety requirements. Many automobile owners blocked the roads (in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Vladivostok and many other cities), protesting against such an interdiction. On 19 May 2005 two automobile movements were born defending the interests of RHD automobile owners.


Samoa was a German colony until occupied by New Zealand at the beginning of the First World War, until September 2009 it maintained the German practice of driving on the right-hand side of the road. This practice had been in place for more than a century.[63] The plan was first announced by the Samoan government in September 2007 and was confirmed on 18 April 2008 when Samoa's parliament passed the Road Transport Reform Act 2008.[64][65] On 24 July 2008 Tuisugaletaua Avea, the Minister of Transport, announced that the switch will come into effect at 6:00 am on Monday, 7 September 2009. He also announced that the 7th and 8th will be public holidays, so that residents would be able to familiarise themselves with the new rules of the road.[66] Samoa is the first territory in over 30 years to change which side of the road is driven on, the most recent to change being Nigeria, Ghana, Yemen and Okinawa.[63][67][68]

A new political party, The People's Party, had formed to try and block the change but was unsuccessful as was the People Against Switching Sides protest group which launched a last minute legal challenge against the decision.[69][70][63] The decision is controversial with an estimated 18,000 people attending demonstrations against it in Apia in April 2008 and road signs reminding people of the change have been vandalised.[71][68] The motor industry was also opposed to the decision as 14,000 of Samoa's 18,000 vehicles are designed for right-hand traffic and the government has refused to meet the cost of conversion.[68] Bus drivers whose doors are now on the wrong side of the road have threatened to strike in protest of the change.[72]

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi says the purpose of adopting left-hand traffic is to allow Samoans to use cheaper right-hand drive vehicles sourced from Australia, New Zealand or Japan, and so that the large number of Samoans living in Australasia can drive on the same side of the road when they visit their country of origin.[69] He aims to reduce reliance on expensive, left-hand drive imports from America.[67] In order to reduce accidents the government has widened roads, added new road markings, erected signs and installed speed humps.[67] The speed limit was also reduced from 35 mph (56kmph) to 25 mph (40 kmph) and sales of alcohol banned for three days.[72]Congregational Christian Church of Samoa has held prayer sessions for an accident-free changeover and Samoa's Red Cross carried out a blood donation campaign in case of a surge of accidents.[67][72]

The change came into force following a radio announcement at 5.50 local time (16.50 GMT) which halted traffic and an announcement at 6.00 (17.00 GMT) for traffic to switch from the right to the left-hand side of the road.[63]

South Korea

In South Korea the cars travel on the right hand side of the road, but people walk on the left hand side of the walkway. There are signs everywhere in the country reminding pedestrians that they must walk on the left. This custom was imposed on the South Koreans by the Japanese before WWII. Recently many people have expressed an interest in switching to the right side for walking. There are even some crosswalks that are set up for right hand pedestrian traffic.

South Yemen

South Yemen, formerly the British colony of Aden, changed to driving on the right on 1 January 1977. North Yemen already drove on the right.


In Singapore, all traffic drives on the left hand side with drivers on the right hand side of the vehicle, a legacy of British colonial rule as a crown colony. This is also adopted in pedestrian traffic, where people keep left voluntarily, or with the aid of signs in crowded walkways, MRTs, stairs, pavements. In escalators and travellators, users are also encouraged to stand to the left and let more urgent users pass them on the right side, like the inside lane-outside lane system on a motorway. Cycling lanes in parks also practice the keep left rule. All roads are designed for driving on the left hand side, except Grange Road between Orchard Road and Somerset Road which is separated by a refuge island. Certain small roads and car park entrances on the right side of one way streets have driving on the right observed, such as Carver Street by North Bridge Road. This is to prevent the crossing of cars into the opposite lane of these small roads and interfering with the natural flow of drivers exiting the small road, if driving on the left was observed on these special roads.


A highway close to Madrid (Spain).

Spain has right traffic. This country had a mixed system; right-hand driving was most commonly used. In the capital city, Madrid, left-hand traffic was, however, in force until 10 April 1924. [73] However, Madrid Metro trains still run on the left-hand side on all lines, a legacy of left-hand traffic in the city.


After the Ethiopian change-over from driving on the left to driving on the right in 1964, Sudan only had short borders with two other countries driving on the left (Kenya and Uganda) in the south. In August 1973 Sudan swapped sides to correspond with most other countries of the Arab world.


See Guyana and Suriname.


Main article: Dagen H

Sweden had legal left-hand traffic (Vänstertrafik in Swedish) from approximately 1734, when it changed back from a short period of right-hand traffic starting in 1718. With or without legal rule, traditionally the left side was used for carriages. Finland, under Swedish rule until 1809, also drove on the left, and continued to do so as a Russian Grand Duchy until 1858.[74].

This continued well into the 20th century, despite the fact that virtually all the cars on the road in Sweden were LHD. (One argument for this was that it was necessary to keep an eye on the edge of the road, something that was important on the narrow roads in use at the time). Also, Sweden's neighbours Norway and Finland already drove on the right, leading to confusion at border crossings.

In 1955 a referendum was held on the issue, resulting in an 82.9%-to-15.5% vote against a change to driving on the right. Nevertheless, in 1963 the Swedish parliament passed legislation ordering the switch to right-hand traffic. The changeover took place at 5am on Sunday, 3 September 1967, which was known in Swedish as Dagen H (H-Day), the 'H' being for Högertrafik or right traffic.

Since Swedish cars were LHD, experts had suggested that changing to driving on the right would be safer, because drivers would have a better view of the road ahead.[75] However, the accident rate soon rose back to its original level. [18] The speed limits were temporarily lowered.

United Kingdom

Vehicles driving on the left on the A1(M) Motorway near Washington Services in Tyne and Wear, England heading towards Scotland

The UK has left traffic. Many countries owe the fact that they drive on the left to British colonial influence.

As a result of European Union legislation ensuring the free movement of goods, many British consumers exercise their right to buy RHD cars from car dealers in any other EU country, where they are often cheaper, despite originating from the same factories as UK-sourced cars. Models obtained from other EU countries often have a lower value upon resale due to shorter warranty periods and UK dealers refusing to buy them or accept them in part-exchange.[76]

Although the United Kingdom is separated from Continental Europe by the English Channel, the level of cross-Channel traffic is very high; the Channel Tunnel alone carries 3.5 million vehicles per year between the UK and France. Most vehicles crossing the English Channel, whether via the Channel Tunnel or on ferries, are UK-registered RHD vehicles. Relatively few drivers from Continental Europe take their LHD cars to the UK, but large numbers of British drivers take their RHD cars to Continental Europe for holidays and even for one-day shopping trips. It was reported[77] in 2000 that Eurotunnel wished to build a second Channel Tunnel because the existing rail services are expected to outgrow their capacity by 2025. Unlike the existing rail tunnels, a drive-through road tunnel was planned, comprising a single bore tunnel containing one carriageway on top of the other. The current status of this project is unclear.

Today, UK motor vehicles including postal delivery vehicles and waste collection vehicles are normally RHD. The main exceptions are service vehicles such as road sweepers and gritters where view of the kerb is more important than of the centre line. These are generally LHD, although some have controls on both sides.

In cities with heavy tourism, LHD coaches can cause problems as they disgorge their passengers into the middle of the street. Some fleet operators who regularly tour from Continental Europe to the UK use coaches with doors on both sides. Conversely, some Double-decker buses exported to LHD countries for tourist purposes are converted to have their doors on the other side.

For a variety of reasons, Continental European LHD heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) have become common on the UK's roads, particularly on major routes radiating from ports and the Channel tunnel. An issue arising from this concerns the safety of large LHD vehicles, with blind-spots arising from the LHD and the probable inexperience of drivers with these problems[78]

Exceptions to the rule

Traffic driving on the right in Savoy Court in London

There are several locations in the UK where road routing and layout causes traffic to approximate or mimic right-hand traffic patterns and practice; most such locations are separated by a barrier such as the one on the south side of Portman Square in London. Other such locations, however, such as Savoy Court outside the Savoy Hotel and the links between the two carriageways of Russell Lane in Whetstone, have no barrier.

It is also permissible to drive in any lane on a one-way street. The Highway Code usually says 'keep to the left' and this is the norm on motorways and other fast roads, i.e. use the leftmost lane available. But on small roads in towns and cities it is common for one-way streets to split direction at some point, so drivers choose the most appropriate lane, and are encouraged to do so with lane markings, signage, and so on.

During the Lockerbie bomb trial of 2000-02, Camp Zeist in the Netherlands was decreed to be British territory subject to Scottish law. However, Dumfries and Galloway Police, who were responsible for policing traffic movements within the compound, effected a clause which required drivers to comply with the Continental European practice of driving on the right.

Traffic drives on the left in the service tunnel of the Channel Tunnel, part of which is in France.[79] This is not, however, a public highway.

Military fleets & bases

On some British Army training locations, where the army once trained for conflict in Eastern Europe during the Cold War, traffic is meant to travel on the right. Most military bases in the UK though have the normal rule of driving on the left.

Vehicles within United States visiting forces bases in the United Kingdom drive on the left, even though the United States does not provide right-hand drive vehicles for its green fleet. However, its white fleet does have right-hand drive vehicles. This is unlike British practice in Germany, where even UK green fleet vehicles for British Forces Germany have been left-hand drive.

During World War II, American truck makers Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge built 'Canadian Military Pattern truck' [CMP] for use throughout the British Empire and most were right hand drive to use in left-traffic countries.[citation needed]

On the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, traffic drives on the right due to the large US Military presence there even though it is part of The British Indian Ocean Territory.

United States

The first keep-right law in the United States, passed in 1792, applied to the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike, between Lancaster and Philadelphia. New York (in 1804) and New Jersey (in 1813) also enacted keep-right rules.

Early American motor vehicles were produced in RHD, following the practice established by horse-drawn buggies. This changed in the early years of the 20th century: Ford changed to LHD production in 1908 with the Model T,[80] and Cadillac in 1916.

Today, U.S. motor vehicles are normally LHD. Common exceptions include postal delivery vehicles, garbage trucks, and parking enforcement vehicles. Imported RHD cars are also found on the road in the United States, mostly Tuner Cars, classics, or other collectors' items. American motorists nearly always drive on the right and overtake (pass) on the left, but are sometimes permitted to undertake (pass on the right) on multi-lane highways, one-way streets, or when passing other vehicles preparing to turn left. The laws vary from state to state.

The United States Virgin Islands is the only entire U.S. territory with left-hand traffic, which was inherited at the time the U.S. took over the Danish West Indies. Although Denmark drove and drives on the right, the majority of the population of the islands was of British descent, and this may be the reason for the traffic rules. Some divided highways in the US that have small sections of road where the directions cross, resulting in traffic driving on the left. Examples include the Golden State Freeway (I-5) in southern California during the descent/ascent of the Castaic Grade, several miles of Interstate 85 in Davidson County, North Carolina (map), a very brief section of Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg, Florida (map), the I-8 Freeway east of Yuma, AZ (map) state route 87 in Maricopa County, Arizona through Rincon Pass (map). Diverging Diamond Interchanges are another example. In the North Carolina example mentioned above, the directions of traffic are so far separated that the crossover is not noticeable while driving on the Interstate.

Traffic at Phoenix's Sky Harbor airport also drives on the left around most of terminal 2 (map).

Two blocks of Bainbridge Street in Philadelphia are divided with traffic driving on the left due to flows from nearby streets and the one-way nature of the street on undivided blocks.

Some parking garages on the left-hand side of one-way streets have left-hand traffic in the driveway, as described above under Croatia.


Sign in Mele Secret Gardens, Efate, Vanuatu, explaining why Vanuatu drives on the right hand side of the road.

Vanuatu, formerly the New Hebrides, was a British-French Condominium for much of the 20th century, with two parallel governmental systems (British and French). This caused confusion on Vanuatu's roads, as British subjects drove on the left side of the road, while French citizens drove on the right side of the road. Unable to decide which system would prevail over the whole territory, authorities decided on an arbitrary plan whereby the side of the road on which the territory would drive would be decided by whichever side of the road the next horse and buggy getting off a ship drove on. The next person off the ship happened to be a French priest, and it was agreed to drive on the right.[81]


The entrance to the Channel Tunnel from France

Trains may or may not adhere to the same directionality as cars. In France, for instance, cars keep to the right, but the first train lines were built by British engineers, so kept to the left. The Paris RER trains keep left, but have to operate on separate tracks within the Paris Metro area which was designed to run on the right. Another anomaly occurs in the Alsace-Moselle region, where trains keep to the right because the lines were built in the late 19th century when Alsace-Moselle was part of Germany. Bridges at the former border allow the trains to swap sides. High-speed TGV trains, however, operate on dedicated lines which were built more recently, but they keep left because they interface with older lines. Madrid Metro trains, as well as Rome Metro (but not Milan) also operate to the left. On some parts of the London Underground's Victoria, Northern and Central Lines, trains run on the right. On Victoria Line it makes passenger interchange easier at Euston and Kings Cross stations. This does not confuse drivers, since the two lines are in separate tunnels. In the United States, the former Chicago & North Western railroad ran on the left because when the C&NW built their depots, they were on the left hand side when headed into Chicago. When a second track was built it was put next to the first one, and since most commuters were headed into Chicago, they ran their trains on the left. However, when it was bought by the Union Pacific in 1995, the lines got switched.

In India trains generally run on the left hand side. In electric locomotives the driver seat is in the center, and in diesel locomotives seats are on both sides and the driver may use whichever is most suitable.

Exceptions to the general of left or right hand traffic are much more common for trains than for cars. Initially most steam engines were RHD, with the engineer sitting on the right and the fireman on the left. This was customary in the UK and it spread to the USA and elsewhere in the world. RHD was never converted to LHD even if the trains switched to right-hand running. RHD remains the customary way for operating trains, with the driver on the right and the assistant on the left. Some railways, particularly, the London Underground, switched to LHD with left-hand running. Left Hand Drive with left hand running also became common on UK mainline railways, with the Great Western Railway being the only of the "big four" to keep the driver on the right. To ease visibility, GWR signals were also occasionally placed on the right-hand side of the tracks, even though this meant that they were between the running lines, and a few examples of this have managed to survive. Nowadays all British trains (except a few preserved locomotives and a number of narrow-gauge railways) have the driver on the left side of the train, and the signals are also on the left-hand side of the track.

Countries with trains generally keeping to the right

In the following countries trains generally keep to the right:[5]

  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Indonesia
  • Latvia
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Romania (most double track lines are optimized for bi-directional traffic on either side)
  • Russia (except between Moscow and Ryazan)
  • Slovakia
  • Spain (except Madrid Metro and in the north—The routes between Madrid and the north of Spain, operated by the old Northern Railway Company (Compañía de Caminos de Hierro del Norte) was the only 1.668 m-wide railroad company with left-driving trains. That directionality was kept until nowadays when the nationalization in 1941 of all 1.668 m-wide railroad companies.</ref>
  • Taiwan (MRT-Mass Rapid Transit)
  • Ukraine
  • USA (except trains operating on the former Chicago & Northwestern right-of-way)
Countries with trains generally keeping to the left

In the following countries trains generally keep to left:[5]

  • Argentina
  • Australia (In Victoria some lines have been set up for bi-directional running, so it is possible for trains to use right hand track instead of the standard left hand track. Locomotives are still driven on the right.)
  • Bangladesh
  • Belgium
  • Brazil
  • China
  • Chile
  • France (except trains in Alsace and the Moselle part of the Lorraine region; also except for metro systems other than the one in Lyon)
  • Hong Kong (except MTR Ma On Shan Line)
  • India
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy (except Milan Metro)
  • Japan
  • Malaysia
  • Myanmar
  • New Zealand
  • Pakistan
  • Portugal
  • Singapore
  • Slovenia (the Zidani MostDobova line keeps to the right)
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan (TRA-Taiwan Railway Administration)
  • UK
  • Zimbabwe (mostly single track)

There is potential safety benefit for the train driver to sit on the nearside, farthest away from a collision with whatever might protrude from an oncoming train on the opposite track, such as an open cargo door. The driver's placement on the nearside can facilitate his or her view rearward of stops either directly or using mirrors, and of signs and signals usually placed on the outside of double tracks—on the right for right-hand traffic and on the left for left-hand traffic. If 'train orders' or 'tokens' (permission to continue) need to be handed up to the driver while the locomotive is in motion, he or she is best able to receive them from the nearside.

Unlike the road, it is possible for trains safely to run on the "wrong" side if bi-directional signalling is in place. This is generally not done,[vague] as junctions and other infrastructure are usually optimised for running in one direction.

Generally, the left/right principle in a country is followed mostly on double track. On single track, when trains meet, the train that shall not stop often uses the straight path in the switch point, which can be left or right. If the meeting place contains a passenger station, it is possible that the left/right rule is followed, for passenger predictability.

Vessels and aircraft

Generally all water traffic keeps to the right, under the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea. This is historically because, before the use of a rudder, the boat was steered by a tiller, which was located on the right-hand side, also called starboard side of the boat, because the helmsman, standing in the middle of the boat and looking ahead, used his right hand to operate it. Traditionally, boats would also moor with the left hand side to the quay to prevent damage to the steering oar, and this was referred to as larboard (loading side), later replaced by port to prevent confusion from the similar sounding words. By keeping to the right, boats pass port-to-port, protecting the steering oar. When modern style rudders fixed to the stern were developed, the helmsman was moved amidships (on the centreline), and when steering wheels replaced tillers this generally remained the same. Many motor yachts and other small craft are RHD, but some boats, typically smaller pleasure craft and wooden 'speedboats' are built LHD, to give a better view of approaching and passing traffic.

However, there are many exceptions, often indicated on the particular bridge itself.[5]

The rule of the road at sea is that powered vessels give way to sailing vessels; but as between two powered vessels, if they are crossing the rule is to give way to the starboard, while if they are head on each must navigate to starboard so as to pass “port to port”. q.v. The upshot is that the vessel attempting to "pass on the wrong side" must give way.

For aircraft and vessels, the US Federal Aviation Regulations provide for passing on the right, both in the air,[82] and on water.[83]

See also


  1. ^ Beres, Noemi (26 February 2008), "Driving tips in Ireland - Brief history of left-hand traffic", Free Articles Zone[unreliable source?]
  2. ^ Draper, Geoff (1993). "Harmonised Headlamp Design for Worldwide Application". Motor Vehicle Lighting. Society of Automotive Engineers. pp. 23–36. ((cite conference)): Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help); Unknown parameter |booktitle= ignored (|book-title= suggested) (help)
  3. ^ Kincaid, Peter (1986). The Rule of the Road: An International Guide to History and Practice. Greenwood Press. ISBN 0313252491. ((cite book)): Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help); Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  4. ^ "Why do some countries drive on the right and others on the left?".[unreliable source?]
  5. ^ a b c d e Lucas, Brian (2005). "Which side of the road do they drive on?". Retrieved 2006-08-03.[unreliable source?] Cite error: The named reference "brianlucas" was defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  6. ^ Template:PDFlink
  7. ^ Template:PDFlink
  8. ^ Template:PDFlink
  9. ^ Template:PDFlink
  10. ^ US Patent 6,276,476
  11. ^ Australian Drivers Training Association
  12. ^ Kincaid, Peter (1986). The Rule of the Road: An International Guide to History and Practice. Greenwood Press. pp. 3, 4. ISBN 0313252491. ((cite book)): Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help); Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  13. ^ "Geneva Convention on Road Traffic (1949)". United Nations. (requires subscription)
  14. ^ "RHD/LHD Country Guide". Retrieved 1 January 2009.
  15. ^ "General Ne Win". Daily Telegraph. 2002-12-05.
  16. ^ Kincaid, pp. 14, 99-100
  17. ^ The Age: Samoa road switch protest
  18. ^ a b Salon News: Whose side of the road are you on?
  19. ^ BBC News: Samoan cars ready to switch sides
  20. ^ '82 Falklands Conflict Left a Legacy of Tragedy, Hope, Los Angeles Times, April 1, 2002
  21. ^ Chaurasia BD, Mathur BB. "Eyedness." Acta Anat (Basel). 1976;96(2):301-5.PMID 970109.
  22. ^ Reiss MR. "Ocular dominance: some family data." Laterality. 1997;2(1):7-16. PMID 15513049.
  23. ^ Ehrenstein WH, Arnold-Schulz-Gahmen BE, Jaschinski W. "Eye preference within the context of binocular functions." Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 2005 Sep;243(9):926-32. Epub 2005 Apr 19. PMID 15838666.
  24. ^ Foerch C, Steinmetz H. (2009). Left-sided traffic directionality may be the safer "rule of the road" for ageing populations. Med Hypotheses. 73(1):20-3. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2009.01.044 PMID 19327893
  25. ^ a b The Straight Dope: "Why do the British Drive on the Left?" November 11, 1988.
  26. ^ Section 78
  27. ^ Left-hand drive car imports allowed by Govt-India Business-Business-The Times of India
  28. ^ "Cambodia bans right-hand drive cars". BBC News. 2001-01-01. Retrieved 2007-01-12.
  29. ^ "Travel advice by country, Oman". Foreign & Commonwealth Office ( Retrieved 2006-08-08.
  30. ^ "Travel advice by country, Slovakia". Foreign & Commonwealth Office ( Retrieved 2006-08-08.
  31. ^ "TRÁNSITO ALREDEDOR DEL KILÓMETRO 0". Retrieved 2009-05-11.
  32. ^ "Día de la Seguridad Vial | Canal Encuentro". Retrieved 2009-05-11.
  33. ^ "Road Rules Handbook January 2008". Road Transport Agency, Australian Capital Territory.
  34. ^ a b "Driving in Victoria, Rules and Responsibilities, 2002" (PDF). Roads Corporation, Victoria.
  35. ^ Strassenbau und Strassenverkehrstechnik 25/1963
  36. ^ "Burma Makes Road Switch"., New York Times, 07 Dec 1970, p.6
  37. ^ "Ne Win - Obituary".
  38. ^ "Prognosticating in Rangoon".
  39. ^ "Cambodia bans right-hand drive cars, BBC News Asia Pacific, January 1, 2001".
  40. ^ "Nova Scotia - Highway Driving Rule Changes Sides".[unreliable source?]
  41. ^ A triumph for left over right Winnipeg Free Press, August 30, 2009
  42. ^ "Avis Bahamas".
  43. ^ Kincaid, Peter (1986). The Rule of the Road: An International Guide to History and Practice. Greenwood Press. pp. 86–88. ISBN 0313252491. ((cite book)): Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help); Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  44. ^ "Importanne Picture gallery". Retrieved 2007-08-23.
  45. ^ Frank and Joan's Adventures in Northern Cyprus, 2006-12-9. Retrieved 2008-3-19.
  46. ^ Takutu bridge opens to traffic
  47. ^ Hong Kong 2006 - Transport - Cross-Boundary Traffic
  48. ^ Iceland Review Online - Ask Eygló: Q&A, FAQ about Iceland
  49. ^ (New York Times, 28 May 1968, p. 94)
  50. ^ Ireland debates switch to right-hand driving | Oddly Enough | Reuters
  51. ^ RTÉ News, 7 February 2008
  52. ^ Pielkenrood, Jan (2003). "Why Left or Right Traffic?". Retrieved 2006-08-03.
  53. ^ "Sight for sure eyes", Honest John's Agony Column, The Daily Telegraph, 28 March 2008
  54. ^ G. Nick Georgano, ed. (2000). "Lancia". The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile (Vol. 2: G-O ed.). Taylor & Francis. p. 867. ISBN 1579582931.
  55. ^ Satellite imagery shows this very clearly
  56. ^ Traffic and transportation conditions 1868_1891_JETRO (Japanese) _________________________1872___5__________________________
  57. ^ "Why Does Japan Drive On The Left". Retrieved 2006-08-11.
  58. ^ Andrew H. Malcolm, "U-Turn for Okinawa: From Right-Hand Driving to Left; Extra Policemen Assigned" The New York Times, July 5, 1978, Page A2.
  59. ^ Verbal information from local tourist bus driver on that road.
  60. ^ Kincaid, Peter (1986). The Rule of the Road: An International Guide to History and Practice. Greenwood Press. pp. 147–150. ISBN 0313252491. ((cite book)): Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help); Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  61. ^ "Krakowska Komunikacja Miejska - autobusy, tramwaje i krakowskie inwestycje drogowe - History of the Cracow tram network". 1982-11-28. Retrieved 2009-05-11.
  62. ^ (in Russian)
  63. ^ a b c d "Samoan cars ready to switch sides". BBC News. 7 September 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-07.
  64. ^ "Samoan government defeats challenge to road switch plan".
  65. ^ "Samoan prime minister defends decision to switch driving to left side of the road".
  66. ^ "Samoa announces driving switch date".
  67. ^ a b c d "Chaos predicted as Samoa changes driving side". Associated Press. 7 September 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-07.
  68. ^ a b c "Outcry as Samoa motorists prepare to drive on left". Reuters. 7 September 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-07.
  69. ^ a b Samoa Observer: Road switch chaos predicted, Samoa Observer March 26, 2009
  70. ^ Right-to-left driving switch upsets Samoans, Radio Australia, August 12, 2008
  71. ^ "Samoa drivers brace for left turn". BBC News. 6 September 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-07.
  72. ^ a b c "Samoan drivers set for shift to the left". AFP. 7 September 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-07.
  73. ^ Historia de la Policia Municipal
  74. ^ "Högertrafik" (in Swedish). Retrieved 2006-08-11.
  75. ^ Switch to the Right TIME 15 September 1967
  76. ^ "European Commission" (PDF).
  77. ^ "The Channel Tunnel, Fantasy?". BBC.
  78. ^ "Left Hand Drive HGVs: Dangers and Solutions" (pdf). ROSPA. April, 2007. Retrieved 7 Sep 22009. ((cite web)): Check date values in: |accessdate= and |date= (help); Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  79. ^ Peter Semmens (1994). Channel Tunnel Trains. Eurotunnel. p. 102. ISBN 1-827009-33-6. ((cite book)): Check |isbn= value: checksum (help); Unknown parameter |coauthor= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)
  80. ^ Robert H. Casey (Winter 2009). "The Model T Turns 100". American Heritage’s Invention & Technology. Vol. 23, no. 4. pp. 40–41. ISSN 8756-7296. ((cite news)): Unknown parameter |curly= ignored (help)
  81. ^ Informational sign "Why We Drive On The Right Hand Side Of The Road" posted at Mele Secret Gardens, Efate, Vanuatu.
  82. ^ FAR Sec. 91.113(e): “When aircraft are approaching each other head-on, or nearly so, each pilot of an aircraft shall alter course to the right.”
  83. ^ FAR Sec. 91.115(c): “When aircraft, or an aircraft and a vessel, are approaching head-on, or nearly so, each shall alter its course to the right to keep well clear.”