Why Do Some Places Drive On The Other Side Of The Road?

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If you’re in England, it’s perfectly natural to drive on the left side of the road. In North America, however, that’s backwards. So what’s the deal?

This one goes all the way back to Roman times (as many things do). Most people are right handed, and in Roman times men rode horses. It’s believed that Romans rode on the left side of the road so they could hold the reigns with their left hand and their sword with their right. Rome was a congested place, so the rule was well established.

That carried on until Napoleon. The Emperor ordered the shift to the right, and demanded that his troops march on the right side even while in other countries. That way, everybody had to yield the right of way to the army.

As Napoleon went on to conquer much of Europe, countries started using the right side of the road. Napoleon’s bitter enemy, England, continued to drive on the left.

The French custom influenced their vast empire, including parts of Canada and the United States.

But wagons pulled by teams of horses changed things to the right for good. Drivers held a whip with their right hand, which made sitting on the left side of the bench seat a good idea. Drivers liked to make sure they wouldn’t crash into each other in passing, and because they were sitting on the left side of the wagon, they’d pass on the right.

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