Reasons Behind Left Hand and Right Hand Driving

right hand drive motorway

Have you ever wondered why American steering wheels are on the left and UK models are on the right? It’s a strange phenomenon that has led to plenty of car accident claims for tourists. Here’s the history behind left-hand and right-hand driving and why countries differ in their choices. 

Feudal Times

Back in the times of knights and horse-drawn wagons, driving on the left side made the most sense. The majority of people were right-handed, allowing them to wield a sword or spear as they steered their horses. With everyone following that system, no one had to worry about accidentally hitting someone with their weapon’s sheath either, ironically points out

Staying on the right side of the road became popular in 1700s France, where people hauling farm products found it easier to sit on the left side while whipping their horses with their right hand. Royalty in several countries eventually decreed that riding on the left side was the way of the road, but subsequent revolutions saw peasants change that to the right side. It was a mess for a long time reports


As Napoleon laid conquest to Europe, he brought with him the custom of riding on the right side of the road. Countries able to resist kept to the left instead, starting the first engrained split between driving styles. After Napoleon, customs would only change during war and takeovers. Things were still a mess but beginning to solidify. 

America’s Colonization and WWII

Britain retained its left-handed stance in all its colonies, including the soon-to-be United States. After the revolution, however, the country tossed that notion out in defiance and everyone began driving on the right side of the road. 

Pennsylvania wrote it into law in 1792, and other states soon followed. By the end of World War II, it was simply what everyone did. The only difference now was that people had cars instead of horses in most places. 

The Rest of the World

One by one, European countries and their territories adopted right-driving as the norm. Many did so to eliminate accidents when drivers from neighboring countries visited. Those heavily influenced by left-driving rulers tended to stay that way, though, stated Kathleen A. Sigurdson Attorney At Law

Great Britain even considered changing to right-driving in the 1960s, but decided against it in the end. The resource and economic strain to change sides is immense, as is the toll it takes on drivers to adjust to the new system. 

When Traveling Abroad

If you find yourself in a country that drives on the opposite side of the road, you might experience a sharp learning curve. It’s vital that you have an auto accident injury attorney you trust in the event of a wreck. This can help decrease liability to get you the compensation you deserve if the accident was caused by someone else’s negligence. 

The history behind left-handed and right-handed driving is an interesting one with plenty of twists and turns. In the end, each country has made its own choice based on economic and safety factors. Always make sure you’re following the laws of the land you’re in.