Left and right-hand traffic

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Worldwide distribution of right-hand and left-hand traffic in road traffic
  • Right-hand traffic
  • Left-hand traffic
  • Worldwide distribution of right-hand and left-hand traffic, with historical changes since 1858
  • Right-hand traffic
  • Formerly left-hand traffic, now right-hand traffic
  • Left-hand traffic
  • Formerly right-hand traffic, now left-hand traffic
  • Previously inconsistent regulation (depending on the location), now right-hand traffic
  • Left-hand traffic in Vienna , around 1930
    German troops occupied the British Channel Islands (here Jersey ) and introduced right-hand traffic from 1941 to 1945
    When traffic in India drive on the left (Rajpath, New Delhi )

    Left-hand and right-hand traffic classifies road traffic according to the lane on which road users usually drive (from their own perspective) or the side of the road on which they avoid each other. The same applies to multi-track railway lines . However, in many countries there are different driving regulations on the road than on the rails.

    Right-hand traffic predominates worldwide today. Of the 221 states and territories in the world, 59 countries currently drive on the left, mainly in former British colonies and Dominions with around 2.34 billion inhabitants (see also list of countries with left-hand traffic ).

    In ancient Europe driving on the left was a rule. In the course of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars , France, the defeated countries of Europe and the French colonies and America were switched to right-hand traffic. In Austria, after the defeat of Napoleon, there were changing regulations.

    Further changes took place after the end of the First World War . Legal traffic in continental Europe was standardized until 1927 with various contractual agreements. Exceptions are the fragments of the KuK dual monarchy, Austria (1938), Czechoslovakia (1939) and Hungary (1941), which switched to right-hand traffic in the course of the expansion of the German Reich at the time of National Socialism , and Sweden (1967).


    In 1998, archaeologists found a well-preserved double carriageway that led to a Roman quarry at Blunsdon Ridge near Swindon . The worn-out carriage tracks in the Roman pavement were significantly deeper on the left (when the viewer has their back to the quarry) than on the right. At least this indicates left-hand traffic, because the wagons should leave the quarry heavily loaded.

    In France, pedestrians traditionally kept right and cars left. As a result of the French Revolution, all traffic in France was switched to the right. In the United States, backed by French troops in the War of Independence, right-hand traffic was regulated, starting in Philadelphia in 1792. After the Napoleonic Wars, the French imposed right-hand traffic in Germany, Austria, and other conquered European countries, with the Danube Monarchy turning left-hand traffic after defeating Napoleon returned. During the colonial period, right-hand traffic was introduced by the French into their colonies in West Africa , the Maghreb , Indochina , the West Indies , French Guiana and elsewhere. Before and during the Second World War, annexed and conquered parts of Europe were switched to right-hand traffic by the Germans, even on the occupied British Channel Islands .

    So it happened that in 1919 half (104) of the world's 208 territories were driving on the right. From 1919 to 1986, 34 other territories changed from left to right.


    All explanations for left-hand traffic are ultimately based on the fact that the majority of right-handers determined the respective norm. However, they only partially explain why after the Napoleonic conquests there was a relatively quick switch to right-hand traffic in many countries.

    • A simple theory for left-hand traffic is that when riding a horse , many people first step into the stirrup with their left leg and then swing their right leg over the animal's back. In such cases, the orientation of the animal is necessarily looking to the left as seen from the rider. So that the horse did not have to be turned around, one simply stayed on the left side or led the animal directly towards the path with this orientation.
    • Another theory says that left-hand traffic can be traced back to the right-handed driving of draft animals (by the team leader running alongside). By passing in left-hand traffic , the train driver avoids getting between the two teams or walking in the middle of the street. Opponents of this explanation argue that right-hand traffic is more suitable for this type of guidance , as it allows the driver to walk more comfortably in the middle of the road and more effectively push the draft animal to the edge of the road when there is oncoming traffic and the critical, collision-endangered side of the car facing oncoming traffic better keep an eye on.
    • With carts controlled from the trestle , the driver sat on the right side because he had to operate the brake with his right hand. So he drove as far to the left as possible , from where he could see oncoming traffic better.
    • It is different with carts, in which the carter rode on one of the draft animals : in this case the rider had to ride on the furthest left animal in order to be able to steer the other horses with his whip; the preferred side of the road for these wagons was therefore on the right . However, this only applies to right-handers.
    • Another plausible theory is based on gun wielding. You led your horse to the left in order to be able to meet the opponent with your right weapon.
    • In canal shipping, left-hand traffic resulted from the helmsman holding the rudder in his right hand ( starboard ). In order to keep the rudder free when mooring, he moored with the left side of the ship ( port ). So everyone drove to the left to avoid unnecessarily crossing the fairway.

    Roman Empire

    From the Roman Empire are known

    • Coins (Roman denarius , around 50 BC to 50 AD) on which two riders ride past each other on the right shoulder (left-hand traffic),
    • Car tracks from a Roman quarry at Blunsdon Ridge , near Swindon , the left track of which from the quarry is more pronounced than the right one from the loaded car. Strictly speaking, this only indicates left-hand traffic at this location.

    There is also evidence that Roman soldiers marched on the left. It is not known whether this was always the case.

    Middle Ages and early modern times

    Left-hand traffic prevailed in Central and Eastern Europe.


    The choice of right-hand or left-hand traffic is probably due to the widespread form of the wagons. Horse-drawn vehicles dominated revolutionary France, and the Robespierre government passed a law that required legal traffic in Paris. Napoleon Bonaparte extended this law to include military vehicles , the rest of the traffic had to adapt to it. Napoleonic France then introduced legal traffic in large parts of Europe in the wake of its conquests. After Napoleon's defeat, most countries kept right-hand traffic.


    The question of right-hand or left-hand traffic only acquired greater practical importance when there was increased car traffic. Today there is a uniform regulation in each country as to whether one drives left or right. However, in many countries there are exceptions on short routes, which are mostly due to the course of the road. In London, for example, right-hand traffic is compulsory on the short private street “ Savoy Court ” in front of the Savoy Theater so that the entrance to the Savoy Hotel is not blocked by the traffic jam in front of the performance , even though this street is separated from the main street “ Strand ”. branches off. Another example is the Bolivian Yungas Street , on which there was a risk of vehicles falling, whereby the driver seated on the left (otherwise right-hand traffic in all of Bolivia) was able to better control the distance between his left wheels and the edge of the road. A less dangerous bypass has now been built.

    Hazards when moving in traffic

    Sign for left-hand traffic at the parking lot exits on the Great Ocean Road in Australia - addressed to drivers from countries with right -hand traffic

    Switching from right-hand to left-hand traffic or vice versa for the first time is dangerous for road users, as the conditioned reflexes from traffic education are ineffective: Pedestrians are at risk when crossing the street without traffic lights, as the trained safety eye goes in the wrong direction before entering the lane .

    Motor vehicle drivers are also at risk for the same reason. Turning has to be relearned in order to avoid reflexively getting into the opposite lane.

    When changing vehicles, there is no mistaking the pedals, but the first move to the gear stick often reflexively goes to the driver's door. Sitting on the supposedly "wrong" side also distorts perception and leads to drifting off the road. Difficulties in switching can also arise again after returning.

    The “right of way” rule (Austria: “priority”, Switzerland: “right of way”) “right to left” applies in most countries where people drive on the right. In Australia and New Zealand, which drive on the left, “right to left” also applies, while other countries have “left to right”. Other countries like Great Britain do not have general rules of right of way. Every intersection is signposted there (lane markings, traffic signals, etc.).

    Bilingual sign indicating left-hand traffic in Cyprus

    Accident statistics

    In right-hand traffic, the driver's right (usually dominant) hand is on the gear shift instead of on the steering wheel. Conversely, when driving on the left, the right hand is on the steering wheel. There is also a corresponding difference when it comes to the eyes: researchers are of the opinion that left-hand traffic is safer, especially for older road users, since most people have the dominant right eye. The following table shows the death statistics in road traffic in comparable country pairs in Europe.

    country Road
    deaths per 100,000
    per year
    deaths per 100,000
    deaths per 1 billion
    vehicle km
    Deaths in the
    current year
    (according to
    WHO statistics)
    Year, source
    (main source:
    WHO 2015,
    data from 2013
    L / R

    Cyprus RepublicRepublic of Cyprus Cyprus 5.2 9.2 n / A 59 2013 L.
    GreeceGreece Greece 9.1 12.6 n / A 1013 2013 R.
    United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 2.9 5.1 3.6 1827 2013 L.
    GermanyGermany Germany 4.3 6.8 4.9 3540 2013 R.

    Vehicles that are used by accustomed people in a form of traffic for which these vehicles were not built (for example left-hand drive in left-hand traffic) are much less likely to be involved in serious accidents. In continental Europe, cars are statistically safer with the steering wheel on the right. This is mainly attributed to the fact that the driver is sitting on the "wrong" side in such vehicles and is thus prevented from risky overtaking maneuvers and frenzy . In Great Britain , where more vehicles from mainland Europe are on the road, this effect is more noticeable than in countries like Germany, in which only a few vehicles from Great Britain / Ireland are on the road.

    vehicle construction

    Position of the driver's seat when driving on the left

    In the case of a motor vehicle , the driver usually sits towards the middle of the street in order to have a better overview of the oncoming traffic, i.e. on the right in left-hand traffic. The oldest motorized vehicles still had the driver's seat in the middle. For the import of left-hand drive vehicles into countries with left-hand traffic or vice versa, different regulations have been made depending on the country .

    However, there were or are also vehicles whose driver's seat is on the opposite side - away from the middle of the street - in order to improve the overview on narrow streets, ditches, walls or hedges. This is widespread today, for example, in trucks that are mainly used on mountain routes. Street cleaning vehicles, too, often have the driver's seat on the side facing away from the middle of the road to make it easier for the driver to keep an eye on the curb. Even trucks that are used for garbage collection are often right-hand drive in Germany. Vehicles in the upscale chauffeur service are sometimes ordered as right-hand drive, especially when mainly used in city traffic. Usually the passenger sits in the back on the right so that the chauffeur can open the vehicle door for the passenger more quickly. Vehicles (trucks) from dairies, with which the milk is collected from the milk cans, which are placed by the farmers on the roadside, are controlled on the roadside for technical reasons.

    There are also vehicles in which the driver's position can be changed, for example the Unimog . However, this is mostly used to provide an overview during various work, rarely for use in left-hand and right-hand traffic.

    Structural adaptation of motor vehicles

    Position of the steering wheel and the wipers on a vehicle for right-hand traffic (view from outside)
    Earlier labeling of left-hand drive vehicles in East Africa with an "LHD" sticker (Left Hand Drive)

    The construction of cars of the same brand for left-hand and right-hand traffic requires adaptations to the other conditions, which can be carried out to different degrees.

    The windshield wipers must be stored according to the driver's seating position . For example, to create an optimal field of vision on the right-hand side for a driver sitting on the right, the windscreen wipers are hinged on the right in the direction of travel.

    The illumination geometry of the headlights must also be adapted to left-hand or right-hand traffic in order to keep oncoming traffic as low as possible. When traveling on holiday from mainland Europe to a country with left-hand traffic and vice versa, the headlights must be masked accordingly.

    The situation is similar with the rear lighting devices: if there is only one rear fog light , it is either in the middle or on the side facing the middle of the road. Often - with a symmetrical shape of the lighting devices - the reversing light is arranged on the other side.

    When developing a vehicle, the filler neck for the fuel is usually placed on the left or right depending on the home market or the main sales market. The main reason for this is that the fuel tank, which is usually fixed in the middle of the vehicle floor, can be filled with a reserve canister on the side facing away from traffic ( shoulder / ditch). In vehicles developed exclusively for left-hand traffic, on the other hand, it is mostly on the left for the same reason. This construction is usually not changed for other sales markets, as this would unnecessarily increase the development and production costs of the vehicles.

    The same applies to exhaust tailpipes , which are often asymmetrical. Out of consideration for pedestrians, they are mostly on the left in motor vehicles designed primarily for right-hand traffic, but on the right for left-hand traffic. When positioning the entire exhaust system, attention is also paid to the fuel tank, filler neck and fuel lines in order to avoid unnecessary heating of the fuel and thus increase safety. Here, too, these constructions are normally not adapted to other markets for reasons of cost. In addition, there are exhaust systems with tailpipes on the left and right or in the middle of the vehicle's rear, whereby a reversed positioning is not necessary.

    In the construction of vehicles, the brake booster with the master brake cylinder is usually installed directly in front of the brake pedal in order to be able to transfer the maximum force from the pedal into the system. When used in other markets, the position of the brake booster can be retained; in this case, the forces are transferred from the pedal to the other side of the vehicle in the master brake cylinder via an additional linkage.

    Pedals: clutch, brake, accelerator

    The accelerator and clutch pedals are arranged identically on right-hand and left-hand drive vehicles. The gears are also identical. However, there are differences in the control levers for indicators and windshield wipers. Some manufacturers reflect the arrangement, others do not.

    These changes are not always planned for Japanese vehicles that are exported to Europe. In almost all Japanese models, the fuel filler flap is on the left and often the exhaust is on the right. Conversely, German manufacturers do not always make all the changes: In the first series of the VW Passat, the windshield wipers and the technology were largely mirrored for the right-hand drive: The master brake cylinder is on the right, behind the brake pedal. In the second series (Type 32B) the windshield wipers were not mirrored, and the braking force from the pedal on the right-hand side was diverted via a lever to the main brake cylinder on the left.

    The arrangement of the levers for operating the indicators and windshield wipers is implemented differently. In vehicles from European manufacturers, the lever for the indicators and high beam is always on the left side of the steering wheel, while in Japanese models it is always on the outside of the vehicle.

    In smaller markets, "subtleties" are also dispensed with:

    • Because of the relative proximity to Japan, in Myanmar (Burma), Palau and in the Far East of Russia mainly used Japanese vehicles (with right-hand drive) are driven, although right-hand traffic prevails in the respective countries.
    • The American Virgin Islands are almost exclusively left-hand drive vehicles, most of which are imported from the USA, although these islands are the only US area with left-hand traffic.

    Individual countries and territories

    The United Nations Convention on Road Traffic (1949) only states: “All vehicle traffic traveling in the same direction should drive on the same side of the road. This side should be the same throughout the country. ”After the First World War, many countries in continental Europe switched to right-hand traffic. Before that, left-hand traffic was predominant in Eastern Europe. In 1967, Sweden (section below) became the last continental European country to switch to right-hand traffic.

    In railway traffic , left-hand driving is still used in large parts of continental Europe. See the worldwide listing in Multi-track # Driving regulations in the individual countries .


    In Bolivia , right - hand traffic applies, only on the dangerous Yungas road is left-hand traffic mandatory for safety reasons.


    Traffic management between China and Macau at the Lotus Bridge
    Toll booth at the port tunnel in Hong Kong

    The special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau have - unlike mainland China - on the left. At the Lok Ma Chau border crossing between Hong Kong and Shenzhen , the two lanes cross with a flyover structure . At the Lotus Bridge to Macau, road traffic is converted to right-hand traffic via a 360 ° loop (full changeover system) ( 22 ° 8 ′ 24.5 ″  N , 113 ° 32 ′ 47.6 ″  E ).


    Multilingual information sign, Ireland

    In Ireland wagon teams predominated. In 1835, the Highway Act made left-hand traffic a law in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland .


    Right- hand traffic was introduced in Iceland in 1968 , one year after Sweden.


    In Italy , traffic on the right was switched from 1924. In the city of Milan, extensive work on the tram network was necessary and the changeover did not take place until August 1926. Before that, for a while in the province of Milan - outside the city - driving on the right and in the city on the left. In Italy, trains drive on the left.


    In Japan , left-hand traffic has always been the rule, although it was never part of the British Commonwealth . The main reason for this is seen in the fact that Japan was helped by British engineers to set up its rail network in the 19th century.

    As part of Japan, Okinawa initially had left-hand traffic. The American occupation in 1945 then led to the introduction of right-hand traffic. When the archipelago was returned to Japan in 1972, right-hand traffic initially remained. On July 30, 1978 Okinawa was switched back to left-hand traffic.


    There was never left-hand traffic in the provinces of Ontario and Québec because they were originally French colonies. When Great Britain took over Québec from France, concessions were made to the population with regard to their language, their traditional customs, their religion, their legal system and legal relations. In the rest of Canada , formerly British colonies, there was initially left-hand traffic. The change was made to standardize traffic within Canada - and with that of the USA.

    Channel Islands

    The Channel Islands occupied by the German Wehrmacht during World War II switched to right-hand traffic on June 3, 1941. After the end of the occupation, left-hand traffic was reintroduced.


    Korea had been a colony of Japan since 1910 and practiced left-hand traffic.

    When the USA and USSR occupied Korea after the surrender of Japan, both powers conducted the legal traffic in their respective zones of occupation north (today DPRK - Democratic People's Republic of Korea or colloquially North Korea) and south (today ROK - Republic of Korea or colloquially South Korea) of the 38th parallel.


    In the former British colony of Malta - independence in 1964 - left-hand traffic still applies today.


    Myanmar (former names: Burma and Birma) was a British colony until 1948 and left-hand traffic until 1970. The head of state Ne Win had a dream in 1970 that made him switch to right-hand traffic. However, all old vehicles and most modern cars (Japanese used cars) are still provided with right-hand drive today.


    In the former colony of German South West Africa , traffic was on the right until 1915. The subsequent South African administration introduced left-hand traffic, which is still valid today.


    Left-hand traffic in the monarchy
    In Vienna in 1938 reported working car out of the tram on the conversion to right-hand traffic


    Switching from left-hand to right-hand traffic in Austria was particularly complicated . For years there was no uniform regulation for the whole country, but a left and a right driving zone. After Napoleon's defeat, Austria-Hungary had returned to left-hand traffic - with the exception of the former crown lands of Tyrol (this also included Vorarlberg ), Dalmatia , Carniola and the coastal region . In 1915, left-hand traffic was generally introduced on the roads - including in Tyrol and Vorarlberg. This met with resistance from the population. That is why Vorarlberg was allowed to return to right-hand traffic on August 21, 1921. At that time, this federal state was only connected to the rest of the country by two mountain passes.

    In four further stages, all of Austria was switched to right-hand traffic by 1938. In 1927 it was determined that traffic in continental Europe should be routed uniformly to the right. In 1929 the Austrian Parliament decided to drive right across Austria from 1932 onwards. Tyrol wanted to implement the decision immediately, in Vienna there were considerable concerns because extensive work on the Vienna tram network was necessary. Therefore, on April 2, 1930, right-hand traffic was only introduced in western Austria, namely in Tyrol (excluding East Tyrol) and in the west of the state of Salzburg . The exact border ran at Lend , east of the confluence of the Gastein Valley and the Salzach Valley. As a result of this “demarcation” there was only one street in the interior of Austria on which the driving side had to be changed.

    Temporary left-hand traffic on the Hütteldorfer Bridge in 2016

    Carinthia and East Tyrol switched to right-hand traffic on July 15, 1935. On July 1, 1938, after the annexation to the German Reich, the German road traffic regulations came into force throughout Austria. For Lower Austria and Vienna , northern Burgenland and parts of northern Styria , however, there was again an exception. Vienna and the surrounding areas did not move to the right side of the street until September 19, 1938.

    In 2016, the Hütteldorfer Brücke in Vienna was temporarily converted to left-hand traffic during the modernization of the U4 underground line in order to ensure that the replacement buses on the U4Z line could be turned around quickly . Borschkegasse / Leo-Slezak-Gasse was permanently left-hand traffic on the 40-meter-long section between the two lanes of the Währinger belt in the 9th and 18th districts of Vienna. Since it was compulsory to turn left at both ends, this prevented traffic from being obstructed there.


    Since 1909, Austrian rail traffic has switched from left-hand to right-hand traffic in parts. For many years people have predominantly driven on the right, but there are still remaining stretches with left-hand traffic. The Western Railway as the longest and frequented most line was after the "Anschluss" to the German Reich ago (1938) from the west end only to Amstetten converted to right-hand traffic. The remaining 130 kilometers to Wien Westbahnhof, on the other hand, were not made until 1991. Since August 6, 2012, the rapid transit lines in the greater Vienna area have also been running on the right. With the ÖBB timetable change on December 15, 2019, the geographically closest section of the southern runway between Payerbach-Reichenau and Bruck an der Mur was switched from left-hand to right-hand traffic. The Koralm tunnel is being built for right-hand traffic.


    Portugal switched from left-hand to right-hand traffic in 1928, thereby making road traffic easier across the long land border with Spain. At the same time, right-hand traffic was also introduced in the Portuguese colonies, except where the colony had a long land border with neighboring countries where left-hand traffic was used. In Mozambique , Goa and Macao , left-hand traffic continued (China only switched from left-hand to right-hand traffic in 1946).


    In Samoa on September 7, 2009 at 6 am, against the resistance of large parts of the population, the existing right-hand traffic was switched to left-hand traffic. The government justified the measure by saying that in this way you would not have to import expensive US vehicles, but could fall back on cheaper Japanese, Australian or New Zealand imports or used cars that have the tax on the right side. There were two public holidays and a ban on alcohol so that drivers could get used to left-hand traffic.


    Changeover from left-hand to right-hand
    traffic on Dagen H

    Until 1967 there was left-hand traffic in Sweden , while the neighboring countries Norway and Denmark have always had right -hand traffic, and Finland since 1858. The situation was made even more difficult by the fact that the steering columns of Swedish cars were installed on the left.

    The government commissioned a commission to investigate the problem in 1955. This estimated 2.7 million crowns for a switch to right-hand traffic, 500,000 crowns alone for information material. The government then carried out a referendum, but only 15.5% of the population voted for a transition to right-hand traffic. One of the most common reasons against the change was the ease of getting on and off the sidewalk. A motion to introduce legal transactions won a majority in the Swedish parliament in 1963 . As a result, the law to change from left-hand to right-hand traffic was passed, which came into force on September 3, 1967, the so-called Dagen H.

    Tram train in Malmö 1972. The sidecar runs backwards, recognizable by the mirror-image structure compared to the railcar.

    The changeover to right-hand traffic was the reason for the abolition of the tram in several Swedish cities: The existing one-way wagons would have had to be converted or replaced with new vehicles in addition to the switch drives and stops. Both were felt to be too expensive. Either the tram was shut down no later than the day of the changeover, for example most of the network in Stockholm , or, as in Malmö , it was operated for a few years with the existing trams. In Malmö, only the railcars were completely rebuilt for right-hand operation for the rest of the operation until the closure in 1973, the sidecars were used in reverse after minimal adjustment such as moving the tail lights to the other end of the car. Apart from two suburban lines in the greater Stockholm area, Gothenburg and Norrköping are the only cities in Sweden that have kept their trams long-term even after switching to right-hand traffic. In both cities, the changeover to right-hand drive was prepared before the changeover by partially adapting the number of vehicles and operating one motor car each for left-hand and right-hand drive operation "rear-to-rear".


    On April 10, 1924, the dictator Primo de Rivera decreed that vehicles should keep to the right in traffic.


    In Czechoslovakia (as one of the successor states of Austria-Hungary) people originally drove on the left. Around 1925, however, the Paris Convention was adopted and a plan was made to convert "within a reasonable time". In 1931 this was concretized for a five-year period, but this had no consequences. In November 1938, shortly after the occupation of the Sudetenland , parliament decided to switch to May 1, 1939. In newsreel footage of the invasion of the Wehrmacht on March 15, 1939, a sign “In Prague is driven left!” Can be seen, while on the Country road is driven on the right. During the German invasion of March 15, 1939, traffic was switched to right-hand traffic within hours: the Wehrmacht drove on the right-hand side, and it stayed that way.


    When Hungary entered the war against the Soviet Union on the Axis side in 1941, it switched to right-hand traffic.

    United States of America

    As a former British colony, the United States probably initially drove on the left. Nevertheless, it is controversial whether left-hand traffic was widespread in the American colonies. After independence, legal traffic was gradually established.

    The legal stipulation on right-hand traffic was made in:

    • Pennsylvania 1792
    • New York 1804
    • New Jersey 1813

    It is not known whether it was a change from left-hand traffic at the time or whether it was just the existing practice.

    In the early 20th century, American cars had their steering wheel on the right. Right-hand traffic is common today, with the exception of the American Virgin Islands in the Caribbean ( Lesser Antilles ). The non-incorporated outlying area is the only left-hand traffic in the USA.

    United Kingdom

    In the United Kingdom , wagon teams predominated. In 1835, the Highway Act made left-hand traffic a law in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland .

    The only exception is the “Savoy Court” in front of the Savoy Hotel in London (see section history ) . In order to avoid accidents to tourists who are used to driving on the right, warning notices have been placed on the lane at pedestrian crossings for left-hand traffic, especially in London.

    Warning notice to pedestrians on London lane

    Falkland Islands

    During the Argentine occupation of the Falkland Islands in 1982, right-hand traffic was ordered, but the population often opposed this. After the reconquest, left-hand traffic was reintroduced.


    Although Gibraltar is under British sovereignty, due to its small size and proximity to Spain, traffic has been on the right since 1929.

    Change of modes of transport

    Switching from left-hand to right-hand traffic - or vice versa - is very complex and expensive today. To do this, all road users suddenly have to switch over at a certain point in time. In addition, numerous road facilities have to be adapted, traffic signs have to be moved to the other side of the road, motorway junctions, elevated roads and other things have to be rebuilt in many cases because the intersection facilities, entrances and exits are tailored to a type of traffic. The same applies to traffic concepts and traffic lights including controls. Because of this great effort, Nigeria was the last major country to convert in 1972 . Most recently, in 2009, as a small island nation, Samoa switched from right-hand to left-hand traffic.

    Change of direction from left to right traffic at borders

    Traffic signs for the imminent change of direction in road traffic in front of the first Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge on the Laotian side

    At the following national borders, there is currently a change in driving directions from left (LV) to right-hand traffic (RV) when crossing the geographical borders on continuous lanes (water borders (e.g. between Suriname and French Guiana ) are not included):

    Legends about the origin

    There are many legends about the origin of left-hand and right-hand traffic that are not backed up by historical sources:

    • The encounter of armed men on a street is often used as an explanation for left-hand traffic: According to this, because people are predominantly right-handed , it is safer to approach one another with the armed right side, i.e. in left-hand traffic, so that a potential attack can be fended off more efficiently can.
    • On the other hand, knights fought in knight tournaments in right- hand traffic . So they rode past each other with their left shoulders and pointed the lance carried on the right over the horse's neck to the front and left at the enemy. There are also contemporary images.
    • Chariots fought in "left-hand traffic" for the same reason, namely because the driver of the chariot or the fighter on board could use the weapon more skillfully with the right hand on the right side of the car. Despite this theory, however, the chariot races in ancient Rome in the Circus Maximus ran counter-clockwise. However, the relevance of this observation for everyday traffic is low: there was no oncoming traffic in the Circus Maximus.
    • The upgrade to a horse falls an armed warrior who carries the sword left on the belt, on the left side of the horse much easier. A rider who has "parked" his horse on the left side of the road can safely get on from the roadside without being "caught" by traffic. In any case, people still climb horses, but also motorcycles and bicycles traditionally from the left.
    • Similarly, to justify left-hand traffic in Japan, it is claimed that this is related to the samurai . They always carried their two swords on their left side, so that they drew the sword with their right hand. In order for the samurai to be able to parry an attack , the opponent should not be on his left side if possible. Therefore, the samurai always let people pass on his right side and greeted them with his left hand, which is why the Japanese supposedly stems from the habit of walking on the left side before regular traffic was introduced.
    • Napoleon introduced right -hand traffic in France because the halberds worn by his troops on the right always got stuck in left-hand traffic. However, halberds were no longer military weapons in Napoleon's time.
    • Napoleon's right-hand drive requirement comes from the fact that Napoleon was left-handed.
    • Napoleon wanted - with the help of the hot air balloons newly invented by the Montgolfier brothers - that the French troops would be easily recognizable as they marched. All other troops marched on the left. So Napoleon ordered that his troops march to the right. The number of balloon observations by the French military is likely to have moved within narrow limits.
    • The common people have always passed each other on the right, but among aristocrats it was considered noble to pass each other on the left. In England, for example, traffic rules for left-hand traffic were established, but in France, during the revolution, people switched to right-hand traffic, which is common among the people.
    • Throughout Europe, due to a papal decree from 1300, left-hand traffic prevailed. In rebellion against the Pope, legal relations had been introduced in some countries. In the jubilee year 1300, Pope Boniface VIII issued an order for pilgrims on the Angel's Bridge who were on their way to St. Peter's Basilica to keep to the left.

    Other modes of transport

    The conversion to right-hand driving was completed by the ÖBB in the Vienna area on August 6, 2012

    Analogies with lifts, sports, escalators

    • Circulating ropeways have something like right-hand traffic when the rope revolves counterclockwise when viewed from above .
      • In the case of drag lifts and firmly coupled chair lifts , the rope for the ascent - in the sense of right-hand traffic - is often laid to the right in order to allow access from the right and exit to the right. Users train the sequence of movements better in this orientation. With triangular lifts, i.e. surface lifts with lateral rope deflection, terrain shapes can be decisive for the orientation of the rope's direction of rotation. Approach and exit, on the other hand, can be selected independently because the rope return is free or via its own supports.
      • In the simplest case, the approach, exit and piste are all on the right - from the point of view of the person using the uphill lift. The rope circuit then affects the circuit of the skiers, whose descent takes place almost in left-hand traffic if one regards the lift users as oncoming traffic.
    • When cross-country skiing , sledding , and cycling riding and inline skating (on closed roads) is overtaken typical left, which corresponds to control right-traffic one. The same applies to the slipstream gyro .
    • Escalators (and moving walks) arranged in pairs typically move in the direction of right-hand traffic. The Wiener Linien promote "are right - left to go" with the slogan on the escalators even the links overtaking as in legal transactions.
    • In countries with right-hand traffic, the taxiways in the supermarket are arranged in a counter-clockwise direction, in countries with left-hand traffic in a clockwise direction. Sometimes structural conditions or psychological considerations lead to the opposite arrangement.


    For port catheter wearers , which are usually implanted under the collarbone , the side is chosen so that the seat belt does not lie over the vehicle when driving, in order to avoid damage. Problems arise as a passenger and on the other side of the traffic.


    • Peter Kincaid: The Rule of the Road. An International Guide to History and Practice , Greenwood Press, New York 1986, ISBN 0-313-25249-1 (English)

    Web links

    Commons : Left and Right Traffic  - Collection of Images
    Wiktionary: Left-hand traffic  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

    Individual evidence

    1. ^ John Nettles: Jewels and Jackboots . Channel Island Publishing; 1st Limited edition edition (25 October 2012) ,, ISBN 978-1-905095-38-4 .
    2. ^ Bryn Walters: Huge Roman Quarry found in North Wiltshire . In: ARA The Bulletin of The Association for Roman Archeology . Autumn 1998, No. Six, August, ISSN  1363-7967 , pp. 8-9. Retrieved October 7, 2016.
    3. ^ Mike Hamer: Left is right on the road . In: New Scientist . No. 20 December 1986/1 January 1987, August, pp. 16-18. Retrieved October 7, 2016.
    4. Richard Weingroff: On The Right Side of the Road . United States Department of Transportation. Retrieved January 10, 2014.
    5. ^ The occupation period . Retrieved February 2, 2017.
    6. ^ Ian Watson: The rule of the road, 1919-1986: A case study of standards change . Retrieved November 30, 2016.
    7. C Foerch, H Steinmetz: Left-sided traffic directionality may be the safer "rule of the road" for aging populations . In: Med Hypotheses . 73, No. 1, 2009, pp. 20-3. doi : 10.1016 / j.mehy.2009.01.044 . PMID 19327893 .
    8. Your Dominant Eye and Why it Matters . Retrieved December 11, 2016.
    9. a b c d WHO Report 2015: Data tables (PDF) World Health Organization (WHO). 2015. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
    10. Road Safety Annual Report 2015 (PDF) International Traffic Safety Data and Analysis Group, International Transport Forum (irtad). P. 47ff. October 12, 2015. Accessed on January 29, 2016: "data from 2013"
    11. Global Status Report on Road Safety 2015 (PDF) World Health Organization (WHO). S. vii, 1-14, 75 ff. (Countries), 264-271 (table A2), 316-332 (table A10). 2015. Accessed on January 27, 2016: "Tables A2 & A10, data from 2013"
    12. John Nettles: Hitler island delusion. The British Channel Islands under German occupation 1940–1945. Osburg Verlag, Hamburg 2015, p. 75 ISBN 978-3-95510-094-0 .
    13. From April 4: First preparatory work for the U4 closure begins, March 29, 2016, mein district.at, accessed on August 8, 2016.
    14. Greater Vienna: Switching to driving on the right ( memento from November 24, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
    15. ÖBB put 16 million euros on right-hand traffic at derstandard.at, July 18, 2012, accessed July 8, 2017. - Overview map of the 7 lines.
    16. Definitive end for "British" platforms. In: ORF.at . December 8, 2019, accessed December 8, 2019 .
    17. Urs Wältin: From right to left traffic: Samoa changes sides. Basler Zeitung, September 7, 2009, accessed on September 7, 2009 . The Berliner Zeitung of September 8, 2009 (p. 28) contains additional information.
    18. Web Archive: Historia de las policías municipales . In: web.archive.org . May 1998. Retrieved on May 22, 2020: "El día 10 de April del año 1924, El Gobierno del General Primo de Rivera, estableció la circulación de carruajes por el lado derecho de la calzada."
    19. ^ Hugo Theisinger: The Sudeten Germans. Origin, the time under Konrad Henlein and Adolf Hitler, expulsion. A contribution to Sudeten German history. Obermayer, Buchloe 1987, ISBN 3-9800919-1-0 , p. 257.
    20. www.yearbook.gov.hk Cross-boundary Traffic> Road Crossings, 2006. Accessed January 25, 2017. - The site does not explain any facts on the subject.
    21. Ōtsuka Hironori : KARATE-DO , Sportimex JF Baer GmbH, 2009, ISBN 3-86836-055-7 , p. 48.
    22. If you drive and walk to the left, you can more easily draw your sword ( memento from July 18, 2012 in the web archive archive.today ), October 17, 2003, last updated on March 26, 2009
    23. The Metrobüs in left-hand traffic ( memento of the original from September 25, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. English website of the Istanbul Transport Authority @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.iett.gov.tr
    24. Why you should rather stand on escalators orf.at, April 5, 2017, accessed July 8, 2017.
    25. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qfG3clJ1V4&pbjreload=10
    26. Psychology in the discounter: always on the right-hand side, Verektiven.de, November 11, 2010, accessed on December 3, 2019.
    27. ^ Roche (Ed.): Information and manual for port carriers . S. 14 ( accu-chek.de [PDF]).