The Curious Case of Driving on the Right vs. the Left

Triggerfish Writing
5 min readApr 30, 2024

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Conestoga Wagon by Randy Fath on Unsplash

Many of us have had to adjust to driving on a particular side of the road when visiting different countries. Some people take it in their stride and switch over seamlessly, while others (like me) have a much more difficult time.

But have you ever wondered why Americans drive on the right side of the road, while the British stick to the left? I have. And I had always thought it had to do with the Americans wanting to do everything different from their erstwhile colonial masters. How wrong I was. This curious driving custom has a fascinating history that spans centuries and continents.

We need to go back to the earliest days of horse-drawn carriages and gallant knights. Back in medieval times, knights travelled on horseback. They would pass each other on the left side of the road, keeping their sword arms — typically their right arms — closest to any potential enemies, in case of an attack. This tradition was adopted by horse-drawn carriages later. The driver of the carriage sat on the left rear horse and being on the left side of the road gave him a wider view, to see oncoming traffic and made it easier for him to whip the horses.

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Triggerfish Writing

I write on science, history, nature, climate change, feminism, religion & politics. My members only stories on science & history are free on 360onhistory.com.