5 Bad Ideas Humanity Is Sticking With Out of Habit - #7: Right-Side Driving - 4/30/11
And here's #7 for the Cracked.com 5 Bad Ideas Humanity Is Sticking With Out of Habit article. This one, I admit, is perhaps that one thing on this list that's becoming LESS useless as time goes on... but found some fascinating history about it.

Traveling in South America for the week, but more come soon!

#4. Driving on the Right

Yeah, wait a minute, why do Americans drive on the right side in the first place? Does it have anything to do with hating the British?

Sadly, not really, but the history of left vs. right-hand driving is a fascinating and complicated tale of weapon-wielding pedestrians, whip-cracking wagoneers and imperialism.

In short, most traffic in early Roman and feudal societies flowed on the left, partly so that swordsman could keep their sword-hand free and close to oncoming - and potentially hostile - passersby. In France and America in the 1700s, however, teamsters began hauling farm produce in horse-team-pulled wagons (In France, they may have also loathed the British and/or the Pope). These wagons had no driver's seats, so the driver sat on the left rear horse, thus keeping his right arm free to whip the horses. Since he was sitting on the left, he wanted traffic to pass on the left for better viewing. Thus, right side driving.

Smaller England did not have the same teamster influence and stayed left, and Imperialism did the rest. These days, more than 75% of the world drives on the right, except for a handful of former British colonies.

Proving once again that nobody better at imposing their culture on other countries than the good old U.S. of A.
And Napoleon, but nobody cares about the French.

But that doesn't mean that just because America drives does it, it's better. After all, we also brought the world Fergie.


Admittedly, in this age of cars that basically steer themselves, it doesn't make THAT much difference which side you drive on, although it can require a bit of creativity in places where left and right-side driving countries border each other.

Or, you know, they just have a giant traffic jam.

But it does make a LITTLE difference. When J.J. Leeming studied the matter, he found that right-driving countries had consistently higher collision rates, perhaps due to the fact that more people are right-hand, and therefore right-eye-dominant... the eye that's closer to oncoming traffic in left-driving countries.

Left-driving is also safer for elderly people, given the higher likelihood of having visual deficits on the left side. Finally, the ubiquity of right hand dominance means those few who still drive manual transmissions have to leave their weak hand to the steering whenever they shift gears. And so, while right-hand driving is as American as apple pie and yelling at the TV, we have to accept that there will probably be a few thousand more car accidents this year than there would be if we all still drove Limey-style. All because teamsters wanted to whip animals.


Obviously, nobody is excited to spend the billions needed to reverse every road and street sign in their country (although Samoa recently did it), no matter which side they drive on. So the current map is likely to stick.

But who knows. Maybe replacing ten million signs could be just the employment bump this recession needs.

Read the rest of the article here!



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