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The right way to drive?

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September 7 2009

The right way to drive?
News that the tiny island nation of Samoa has switched from right hand to left hand driving has reopened the debate over whether Britain should try the reverse.

Left hand travel has been the norm for centuries from a time when horseback riders wished to leave their strong right arm free to engage in attack or signal friendship to oncoming riders. With urbanisation and growing congestion these preferences came to be enshrined in law.

From the 1700’s however some countries switched to right hand drive, apparently prompted by large driverless wagon trains where a rider to the rear left kept his right arm free to whip the horses along.  In this situation it became preferential to have opposing traffic pass on the left to reduce the risk of collision.

This way of doing things has slowly taken root worldwide as neighbouring countries seek to harmonise their transport rules such that now Britain (and her former colonies) remain the only hold outs.

It is a situation that is unlikely to change however, due to the horrific cost involved in re-engineering motorway junctions and transplanting signs. Not to mention the logistical nightmare of planning it all and the likely spike in road casualties which would take a heavy toll on the country to no appreciable benefit.

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