Why are there Left and Right Hand Drive Cars?

3 3,949

In our diverse world, 65% navigate roads with left-hand drive (LHD) cars, leaving the remaining 35% steering right-hand drive (RHD) vehicles amidst left-hand traffic (LHT). This historical dichotomy traces back to the seventeenth century when commuters, likely wielding weapons, rode on the left side. Wagons then continued this tradition, allowing riders to use their right hand for the whip.

65% of the World Left Hand 35% Right hand

What is the Difference between L/RHT (Left or Right Hand Traffic) and L/RHD (Left or Right Hand Drive)?

Don’t be fooled by these two apparently synonymous terms, since the application of one of these terms reverses the other. I will explain these two terminologies in this paragraph. Right or Left Hand Traffic (R/LHT) just means the side where traffic flows, as far as Pakistan is concerned, we are a Left Hand Traffic (LHT) country. However, the Right or Left Hand Drive (R/LHD) represent the side in which the driver sits, which in the case of our country is Right Hand. As you might have noticed, the side of the driver seat defines an RHD/LHD car which is the opposite of the direction the traffic flows in the country.

The Traffic Shift

The French Revolution sparked a traffic upheaval in the eighteenth century. Initially, rulers in France traveled left, compelling the public to walk on the right. Amidst the revolution, even aristocrats switched to the right side to evade protests and the guillotine. Napoleon Bonaparte later standardized the “common right,” associating France with driving on the right (RHT) and utilizing left-hand drive (LHD) vehicles.

Global Influence

French-controlled territories and German driving conventions furthered the dominance of left-hand drive (LHD) and right-hand traffic (RHT) in Africa and the Middle East. France’s influence also shaped Arab nations in the Middle East to adopt right-hand traffic (RHT). 

The Left Hand Legacy

During British rule, territories like Australia, India, and Pakistan embraced left-hand traffic (LHT) and right-hand drive (RHD) cars. The 1835 Highway Act cemented this norm, making it a legal obligation in Britain and its colonies.

Right Hand Drive Cars outside British Rule

Napoleon, during his rule, kept on implementing the Right Hand Convention on the acquired countries while the opponents of France continued driving on the left, with Britain leading the pack. Initially, England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland were kept to the left side of the road (LHT) due to an ongoing custom. However, driving to the left was incorporated into the law in Britain and all of her colonies in 1835 through The Highway Act, leading to right-hand drive (RHD) cars.

In light of this, the territories acquired by the British assumed the keep left rule, which is why today, Australia, India, and Pakistan drive on the left (LHT) and use right-hand drive (RHD) cars.

Pakistan is the Western Most Country with Right Hand Drive cars

Exceptions to the Rule

Several countries stand as exceptions, never part of the British Empire yet practicing left-hand traffic (LHT) with right-hand drive (RHD) cars. Bhutan, Indonesia, East Timor, Nepal, Suriname, Mozambique, Thailand, and Japan navigate the left side of the road despite their unique histories.

In Africa, colonial legacies shaped traffic directions, with British and Portuguese colonies adhering to Left Hand Traffic (LHT), while those under French and German rule drove on the right (RHT). Post-independence, some retained these conventions, while others aligned with neighboring countries.

Which side of the road do you prefer? Tell us in the comments below! 

Google App Store App Store
3 Comments
  1. Guest says

    Afghanistan during the time of Mulla Umar used RHD & RHT. Means they had right hand drive cars but used to drive on the right side of the road.
    The concept was that right hand is always preferred in Islam, but going by the conventional method, you have to choose “one good” and “one evil”. If the driver drives on the right, he/she sits on the left of the car. If he/she sits on the right, has to drive on the left.

    Wonder how many of the readers of PW blog are old enough to know about Mulla Umar.
    But then that government was not recognized by most of the countries of the world.

  2. twister286 says

    The convention of mounting the steering controls on the opposing side of traffic flow is to maximise the driver’s line of sight. In LHT, the oncoming traffic is to the right side, which means the driver sitting on the right side of the car will have greater line of sight into oncoming traffic. Same goes for RHT/LHD.

  3. Grewal says

    Being a Pakistani you have to change that maps in which Kashmir is showing the part of India but actually its conflict between us. I know you took these images from google but you are running Pakistan major web blogging site.Could you edit such stuff before publish but you have to edit? My aim is not to criticize some one, but you are the face of our country.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.