In the United States, like the overwhelming majority of countries, motorists drive on the right side of the road. Have you ever wondered, though, why some countries go against the grain and drive on the left?
Well, the reason can be traced to before the existence of cars, during a time when the very idea of an automobile probably would have been considered witchcraft.
During the Middle Ages, there weren’t any rules governing which side of the road people had to travel on, but it became common to do so on the left, according to World Standards. Traveling on the left allowed swordsmen to keep their swords sheathed on their left and have their dominant hand nearer to their opponent, as most people are right-handed.
Although sword fights no longer are common occurrences on the roadways, at least part of this logic has carried forward to today. The steering wheel still is kept on the side of the car nearest to the middle of the road, but for the purpose of visibility rather than ease of attack.
Countries later implemented their own traffic laws at various points throughout history, and though often for different reasons, most opted for right-hand travel. The British Empire didn’t, which is why most of the countries that keep to the left side of the road are former British colonies.
The U.S. is an exception to that rule, as we reportedly wanted to completely dissociate from the British, so we transitioned to right-hand travel — and ditched those silly accents.
Jeremy Clarkson likes to say the steering wheel is on the “right,” as in correct, side of the car in the U.K., and that’s seemingly true — if sword fights still are a part of daily British life.
Thumbnail photo via Toyota