In almost every country, cars drive on the right side of the road. But not in the United Kingdom. Why don’t our British neighbors drive on the same side as we do?
It hurts a little to admit it, but the English are correct. Because in the very beginning, ALL people drove on the left!
The origins of left-hand traffic
The beginnings of these traffic rules can be found in ancient times and the Middle Ages. At that time, people carried weapons on their bodies in everyday life, and most were right-handed.
The sword always hung on the left side of the body, so it was easy to grab and pull out with the right in case of conflict with an opponent.
In addition, riding on the left side of the road was intended to prevent the sword from accidentally slipping out. The sheath could easily change its position when the bearer was on horseback.
Therefore, driving in the left lane was polite to avoid a collision of swords at the intersection. Not doing so was considered a provocation.
Why are we driving on right now?
Incidentally, wearing swords led to another tradition that has remained with us in Western societies: shaking hands in greeting. This gesture was considered a sign of peace. This has not changed to this day.
The change in the means of transportation led Europeans to change their habits: In the 18th century, horse-drawn carriages were introduced, which could transport several people at once.
To steer them, coachmen were trained, most of whom were right-handed, so they held the horsewhip in their right hand.
But here was the problem: on the left side, there was a greater chance that the other carriage or a traveler would get a lash when overtaking. For this reason, the side of the road was changed.
What Napoleon had to do with it
Another scenario: wars and battles under Napoleon Bonaparte. Initially, military strategy targeted attacking an enemy cavalry from the left flank.
Napoleon, however, wanted to take advantage of the surprise effect and trained his battalions to attack from the right flank.
This tactic won him an impressive number of victories. His victory at Austerlitz was also due to this fancy method.
As he expanded his empire, Napoleon decided to introduce right-hand traffic. The people of Europe saw no problem in this decision and complied.
Why do the English still drive on the left?
The fact that the English still drive on the left side of the road today is also thanks to the French ruler! Because the rivalry between France and England continued until Napoleon’s death.
In his campaigns of conquest through Europe, he never succeeded in putting England in its place. As a sign of their resistance to Napoleon, the English decided not to change their ways and continued to drive in the left lane.
Quite rebellious! Throughout the country, there is one exception: in London, people drive on the right side of Savoy Court, the private road leading to the Savoy Hotel.
Not only do the British drive on the left, but they are one of the few people in Europe whose driver’s seat is on the right side of a car.
Today, the United Kingdom is the only country in Europe that drives on the left, but several former colonies and several Asian countries have retained the practice.
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