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Which side of the road is the “right” side?

Considering a trip to the UK to immerse yourself in the country’s long and prosperous automotive history? Lucas Industries aside, there’s a lot to like (hey, it doesn’t take six degrees of separation to find someone who’s been bitten by the Prince of Darkness). With all that the UK has to offer, you may wonder why the Brits insist on driving on the wrong side of the road—or the correct side, depending on your point of view.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/02/21/sweden-dagen-h-history

In a certain part of the UK, the answer is “Neither!” In Northern Scotland, where there is little traffic, many of the roads are “Single Track.” In effect these roads are hundred mile long driveways with little lay-bye areas every few hundred yards either on the right or left side. Protocol demands that the vehicle nearest one must duck in there and let the other vehicle pass rather than meet head on. This works well most of the time unless one is in a small car and the oncoming vehicle is a Scottish Lorry, a camper van, or a left hand drive Mercedes S class. In these cases, even if the other vehicle will pass a lay-bye before you, you yield or you die. :wink:

Almost all of “rural” UK is single track. Get far off the primary roadways and it’s all single track or near to it. Wales is a prime example on the west and the Norwich area on the east.

It’s too bad the UK didn’t change when it had the chance at the beginning of automotive production. If they had, there likely wouldn’t be left-hand driving anywhere. Left-hand driving costs the world untold billions of dollars in unnecessary costs.

I’ve managed to get by driving on the wrong side of the road in certain countries while on vacation, but it always takes some adjustment. My next trip will be to right- and left-hand driving countries with car rentals in each, so that ought to be fun. :smile:

there are still a few countries which drive on the “correct” left hand side. Japan for example. Also the British Virgin Islands - because they are close to the USA - tend to import USA cars and trucks. They are all left hand drive vehicles, but in the BVIs they all drive on the left , bit crazy.

Nothing like hurtling along at 70 mph on the left side of a twisting road in Jamaica in the passenger seat side of an 88 Chevy while the “cab” driver is beating out the latest reggae tune on the steering wheel and is passing everything he comes up on. Saves on ExLax

I learned from driving in India that the rule on those one lane, two way roads is “largest vehicle has the right of way”. As you say: “you yield or you die”.

It can be dangerous to be a pedestrian, in a country where they drive on the other side of the road from what one is used to. One needs to remember to look to the RIGHT before you step off the curb when in Great Britain, for example.

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I was stationed in Japan (Okinawa) in the late 80s with the USAF for a couple years. I had no problem adjusting to driving on “the other side” of the road, mainly because my Japanese spec four door Civic had the steering wheel on the “wrong” side. Pretty natural (to me) to drive with the driver closest to the center of the road. It was funny watching the parking lots though. If someone was in a hurry they sometimes forgot and rushed out to open the passenger door and hop in, only to realize they weren’t going anywhere! Have to admit to doing it a few times myself. I had an 80cc Honda scooter as my second vehicle (was married). Late one evening I pulled out with it and noted that a car coming toward me (way ahead of me!) was on the wrong side… oops!!! That was ME on the wrong side! No “reminder” on a scooter or motorcycle…

Reminds me of the story of the elderly lady who heard a public service radio warning that a driver was driving the wrong direction on the nearby interstate highway. She immediately called her husband who she knew may be returning via that road to warn him about the errant driver. He replied, “No s***!! There’s hundreds of 'em!!”

I lived in St.Thomas US Virgin Islands in the 60s and they drove on the left. The taxis were all ways big American cars, most of the time station wagons. I drove a Mini Moke or rode a motorcycle, never did get used to driving on the left. Don’t have any idea what they do now.

Thailand also on the left hand side…Why? Japan occupied Thailand during WW2 and most vehicles in Thailand continue to be Japanese production assembled in Thailand or imported from Japan. Even the American cars assembled there (new Ranger Raptor) are left drive (steering wheel on rt )

Interesting that you should mention the danger to pedestrians. I had an aunt in Sweden who was injured right after “H Day” because she looked the wrong way while crossing the street.

Sorry to hear that, but it is a definite possibility - and that proves it.

In the Bahamas, they also drive on the left using left-hand drive vehicles. We were once in a taxi going from the Nassau airport to Cable Beach, and every time the driver pulled out to pass, it was nerve-wracking!

In London, at least, at many of the pedestrian crosswalks, there are reminders painted on the curb for pedestrians to look to the right, obviously for the benefit of visitors from the continent.

I thought as the yanks beat the poms in the war they started changing things, spelling, driving on the other side of the road etc. :wink:

Lucas was the most horrible thing that ever happened to very reasonable British cars. I speak from US experience

In the early days, Canada was actually both! Quebec and Ontario always drove on the right, with left hand drive cars, due to French influence, while the Maritimes and British Columbia drove on the left, with right hand drive cars. Driving on the right slowly became standardized in the 1920s, with Newfoundland switching last in 1947 (they joined Canada in 1949). Canadian Model T Ford’s therefore were designed to be built both ways, while American Model T’s could only be left hand drive, due to a false driver’s door.

And the rules apply to walking. Took the EuroStar from Brussels to London. Departing the train, the escalators and walkways have people passing on the left.
Around that time Shaw’s supermarkets were own by the Brits. A store built at that time here in NH, USA has entrance on the left. LOL

Alright, alright, let’s stop bashing Lucas. I’ve had my '67 MGB-GT for 22 years and never had a problem with the electrical system. Maybe you just got a lemon.