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Friday Fun - which side of the road is the best to drive?

So let's have a pillow fight on a global scale! 🙂 This community is a perfect theater for this!

I was born in continental Europe and learned to drive on the right side of the road. 

But my first car was this.... a 1998 Mazda 626 with 100,666 miles on the clock that I bought in London, UK. Look where the steering wheel is 🙂

Mazda 626.JPG

It was an automatic so adapting to left-hand traffic was a breeze. I drove it for 4 years and sold it upon leaving the UK in 2006.

Strangely, to this day, I feel safer and more comfortable driving on the left. My dominant right arm is on the steering wheel, my dominant right eye has a better view of the oncoming traffic. And it's like that even when I drive a European car in Britain (which I did for quite some later in my life) - and that's just weird 🙂

To me driving on the left makes more sense and I know quite a few people, all Europeans, who share my opinion.

Anyone with the same experience? Anyone from Sweden who experienced Dagen H?

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Sebastian Krzewiński
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March 15, 2024

I never had a chance to ride on the left side of road so I can't tell you what is better. Probably this will be mind blowing moment in my life when I will have a chance :D

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Michael Karl March 15, 2024

Well... first thing that came to my mind (and it's "Friday Fun") is "Asterix in Britain" where the Brit tells Asterix "No, you drive on the wrong side of the road, and that has to change when the tunnel comes" (or something alike, I read that hilarious comic book decades ago).

Since I never drove on the left side, I have no idea what's better. Actually, the idea of driving on "the wrong side of the road" even gets me scared a little. Sometimes I imagine driving in Australia or Britain, and I ask myself wether I could handle it. And I wonder what's harder: Driving a car designed for the left side on the left side (weird side for the driver's seat, but appropriate for driving on the weird side of the road) or driving a "normal" car on the left side (as it comes to the car, things are the way I'm familiar with, but probably it makes good sense to have the driver's seat on the right...).

I have to add some context: I am 52 years old, living in Germany, and I never owned a car. I have a driver's license since I was 18, but I don't drive often. I drove in the US once, and made some miles in France, but I would not say that I am an experienced driver. I am not sure wether this is good or bad when it comes to driving on "the other side".

To wrap it up: Since I am quite reluctant to drive on the left side, I feel quite some respect for the drivers who make themselves a home on both side of the road and feel comfortable in the driver's seat no matter on which side of the car it is located.

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Dan Breyen
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March 15, 2024

OMG!  @Michael Karl that is TWO references to Asterix I've had in the last two days!!   How awesome is that. 

 Opiniones de asterix

Oh, I spose I need to answer the question.  I typically like to drive on the top side of the road.  It's very difficult to see the actual road from the bottom side. :)

I can imagine it all comes down to what you're more comfortable with.  You have the pedals, steering, mirrors, shifter all coming into play.  Now mind you, I would be terrified right now to drive in London, even though I've been driving for almost 40 years because everything is switched around.  But I'm sure I'd get used to it if it was something that I had to do on a regular basis.

 

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Nic Brough -Adaptavist-
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March 15, 2024

I was born, and live, in the UK, so I've not often driven on the wrong side of the road. 

I find it very scary driving on the wrong (right) side of the road.  It's not the change of road layout though, it's the car that I've borrowed.  I'm ok driving a car where the driver's seat is on the right (a car built for driving on the left), on either side of the road.

I think it's because I'm aware that as a right-hander (as are about 90% of humans), I prefer to have my stronger, more reactive, and finely controlled hand on the wheel instead of the gearstick.

I vaguely remember my driving instructor telling me that the second or third reason that places like Japan, Australia and the UK score much higher on road safety than right-hand driving countries is because of that!  (The other important factors are regulation and wealth, assuming the measure is "accidents per x miles driven") 

 

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Michael Karl March 15, 2024

@Nic Brough -Adaptavist- 

Okay, mate... you got me confused with your post.

1. you're telling me that right is wrong?

2. also you're telling me that the right hand drivers drive left-handed?

That's quite something... ;)

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Kristian Klima
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March 15, 2024

@Michael Karl 

Well of course, LHD cars (left-hand drive) drive on the right, while RHD cars drive on the left! :D 

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Barbara Szczesniak
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March 15, 2024

Born and raised in the US, so I learned to drive a left-hand drive car on the right-hand side of the road (stick-shift and automatic). 

My first experience of driving on the left-hand side of the road was when I finished my job in The Netherlands and spent a 6-week holiday in the UK. I took my rental car from Holland to the UK with me, so I got to learn how to drive on the left side of the road, while driving a left-hand drive car. In some ways, this made things easier because I was used to that side of the car, but it was difficult in other ways because the roads are set up for the driver to be on the right side of the car. It was hard to see traffic coming from other directions, and you really couldn't go through a drive-through or buy tickets to enter a tourist site. (A mate needed to go to Holland at the end and returned the car for me)

9 months after this trip, I got a job in the UK and moved there. I managed to drive the stick-shift rental car for the first week thanks to a college boyfriend who liked to drive with his hand on my knee, while telling me when to shift, so I was not unfamiliar with shifting with my left hand. That mate I mentioned earlier found me an automatic, which I drove for the 3+ years I lived there. 

I really had no issues driving on either side of the car/road, except:

  • when I would travel to the US for a few weeks and back, it always took me a day to remember which side of the road I should be driving on in that location
  • I never realized that, in the US, we have yellow lines between lanes of traffic going in different directions, while, in the UK, they have white lines (on non-motorways). I learned this very quickly one day when I was driving on a road with 1 lane in each direction (single carriageway) and passed someone who was going slow. It didn't occur to me to move back over to the left lane until someone was coming the other way in the lane I was in!
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Summer_Hogan
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March 15, 2024

I have never driven on the wrong side of the road because I have lived most of my life in the US, but when I lived in Okinawa on Kadena Air Base, it was interesting because we drove on the right side of the road on base and then when we left base they had lanes to transition to the left side of the road. 

Great question @Kristian Klima!

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Shawn Doyle - ReleaseTEAM
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March 15, 2024

Back in 2014 I attended a partner conference in Malta.  We had a group of 5.  We rented a car to get around not knowing anything about the country.  When we arrived we found out, they do not rent automatics and they drive on the wrong side of the road.  

We made it to the hotel, luckily one of us had driven a manual in the last 20 years, but the combo of not being used to driving stick, the wrong side of the road, and a crappy slow-as-mud GPS made the trip very iffy.

We ended up having the hotel return the rental for us and we took public transportation for the rest of the trip.

 

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Nic Brough -Adaptavist-
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March 15, 2024

@Michael Karl 

Yep, the wonders of the English language :-)

1. Yes and no.  Driving on the right-hand side of the road is less safe than driving on the left.  But that is probably down to the build of the car.

2. Yes, when the driver is on the left, they steer more with their left hand than their right

It's all down to the build of the car - having the driver on the left means around 90% of people will not be steering with their dominant hand.  Thanks Henry Ford, for making car travel even less safe than it could be!

 

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John Funk
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March 18, 2024

I have never driven on the non-right side of the road (didn't want to say wrong so some might get offended  :-) 

It would most definitely be very strange for me to do that - especially with a manual drive and a stick. 

I have ridden in several vehicles in India (never been to the UK), so I have experienced it at least - just didn't drive there. Which might explain why I am also still alive.   Anybody else I can offend??  haha

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Kristian Klima
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March 18, 2024

@John Funk There are countries where people tend to drive every which way is convenient at any given moment and it doesn't matter what the highway code says :)

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John Funk
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March 18, 2024

hahah - True dat!

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Michael Karl March 18, 2024

@Nic Brough 

Yeah, sure. "The wonders of English language"... right you are, just wanted to make a little fuzz.

By the way, since we shared a lot of thoughts about left-steerers and right-steerers ... Just to add more to the casual conversation, I'd like to throw in the topic of central-steerers. Of course, it's not a serious topic for most of us since most of central-steerers are exotic and not very much affordable cars... but still, it's friday fun.

So what do you think? (You might refer to https://www.topgear.com/car-news/supercars/top-gears-top-9-road-cars-central-driving-position for example).

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Kristian Klima
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March 18, 2024

@Michael Karl 

Every motorcycle is a central steerer - with the advantage to move within the lane to get the best view :)

I remember seeing a concept city car, fully functional, that had the whole driving console (steering wheel, instrument cluster, pedals, shifter) movable along two rails left, right, center. Made possible by drive by wire.

French (or European in general) community members may remember a scene from the Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez movies when Luis de Funes and Michel Galabru are fighting over a steering wheel of their police buggy and put it on both sides of the car while driving :)

In many ways, the central position doesn't work whether in LHD or RHD country. You just can't see oncoming traffic. I drove both LHD and RHD cars on their respective wrong sides of the road and there were situations where this was challenging :)

But it works from the wight distribution point of view in cars where that's important.

 

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Ananjan_miniOrange March 18, 2024

I've always driven cars with right-side steering, so I don't have much experience with different steering sides. However, I do love driving cars on the right side and motorcycles on the left side.

The comment section for the post is a blast to read😂. Really enjoyed your post, @Kristian Klima  !"

 

 

 

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Laurie Sciutti
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March 18, 2024

I have a hard enough time driving on the "right" side of the road!   😆

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Nic Brough -Adaptavist-
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March 18, 2024

@Laurie Sciutti - I'm with you on that.  I don't think I'm a good driver. 

Since I left university, I've always lived within walking distance of work, with the odd exception where a client visit is not easy to do via trains.  So I do not drive a lot.  I think my lack of practice may be the main problem.  I borrow my wife's car maybe once every 7-8 months to visit clients that are a pain to get to on the train, and taxi duty when she's going out for cocktails, but:

She (understandably) hates my driving, and won't let me most of the time

  • I have not owned my own car since I moved in with my wife (and I didn't drive much before then either) 
  • I have a "heavy right foot" when I get on to dual carriageways or motorways
  • "three point turn for most people" = "twelve point turn for nic"
  • I can't park unless it is the most simple of scenarios.  
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Laurie Sciutti
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March 19, 2024

@Nic Brough -Adaptavist- ~ yep.  I have that same "lead foot"!  And while I may not be a twelve-point turner, I'm definitely NOT a 3-pointer!  😆

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Brant Schroeder
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March 19, 2024

While living overseas the larger vehicle won and would often drive in the middle.  So I would suggest the middle of the road as an option.  

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Walter Buggenhout
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March 24, 2024

Haha, awesome discussion! 😅 I've been driving on the right hand side of the road for almost 30 year and had the pleasure of driving on the opposite side with my own car in Scotland last year. Apart from the roundabouts and priority rules, that went quite well. My wife was less amused though, as she was always very close to oncoming traffic from the other side with no steering wheel nor any sense of control. She ended up under the dashboard quite a few times there, while the kids and I had the best of times.

What I think would be great would be to change sides every 5 or 10 years or so. By sheer coincidence, there was a short reference in a tv show here last week referring to Sweden, who switched sides in 1967 and apparently had to stop on one side of the road, collectively wait a couple of minutes to switch sides. Wait again for the proverbial green light and then continue. Which led to the following, remarkable sight ...

Screenshot 2024-03-24 at 19.02.17.png

(Jan Collsiöö - taken from this article on Medium)

... and as was told to a remarkable decrease in the number of accidents.🤯

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Kristian Klima
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March 25, 2024

@Walter Buggenhout Oh yeah, the famous Dagen H in Sweden :)

The photo is often used to document 'chaos' but in fact it was an extremely well organized switch.

Regarding the 'no controls while in the driving seat' situation, that takes some time getting used to.

When I drove my RHD Mazda in Europe, my brother, while sitting in the passenger seat and facing oncoming traffic, used to open a newspaper and pretended to read as the oncoming car was approaching. Freaking out the driver in the process :D

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Kristian Klima
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March 25, 2024

One more thing... 

If you ever switch from an LHD to RHD car (or the other way round) on your vacation, remember that the wipers move in the opposite way. As a driver, you probably won't notice.

As a passenger... it does make some people sick - can confirm :D as I had to stop the car and let the person take the back seat.

You've been warned!

 

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