Driving on the Left

This one should be really simple… here in the UK we drive on the left.

The original intention, according to popular tradition is that by driving on the left with the driver on the right hand side of the carriage, then the driver’s sword arm was closest to any foe that might attack him on the road.

We Brits aren’t the only country to drive on the left, there are around seventy countries around the world that follow this rule, mainly former British Colonies, such as Australia, Hong Kong, India and New Zealand, but also Japan, Thailand and Macau – this leads to come confusion at the land border between Macau and the rest of China, who drive on the right!

Mainland Europe drives on the right, and legend has it that this was introduced by Napoleon Bonaparte who, being left handed preferred to drive on the right for the same reason as the Brits on the left.

There are a number of interesting suggestions as to why America drives on the right, one theory suggests it was a deliberate break from the past after America gained independence from Britain; while another suggests that the large Conestoga wagons were piloted by teamsters who would control their horses with a whip in their right hand while sitting to the left of the wagon. It therefore followed that wagons passing left to left would be better placed to avoid collisions and thus driving on the right evolved.

It’s probably also worth mentioning a couple of other traffic rules in the UK that might confuse visitors… in the first place there is no option to turn left at traffic lights while they’re red (where you can filter without crossing the other traffic), unlike in the US and other countries where there is a ‘filter’ option.

And roundabouts… these are very common in the UK, with traffic rotating in a clockwise direction. The right of way is given to the vehicle on the right – that is the vehicle already on the roundabout.

Bus Lane in Central London

Bus Lane in Central London

In major cities there are also a large number of dedicated ‘bus lanes’ – usually clearly marked – that are for the exclusive use of buses, taxis and cyclists. There are heavy fines for transgressing into these areas, so be aware.