eli5 Why do countries differ on the side (left or right) the driver seat should be placed?


eli5 Why do countries differ on the side (left or right) the driver seat should be placed?

In: Other

Because different countries started importing cars from different places. The first cars in India came while it was part of the British empire, so the infrastructure was built to accommodate them. Same reason Canada uses 110V outlets – the first generators were imported from the US.

Mainly historical reasons. I’ll use a few examples in Southeast Asia

Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore are former British colonies, so they followed British legacy and drive on the left.

Indonesia is a former Dutch colony, having been under Dutch rule since 17th century. Netherlands switch to driving on the right at 1906, but Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) did not. However, their railway followed suit, and thus runs on the right.

East Timor used to be a Portuguese colony and switched to the right when Portugal did so in 1928. However, they switched to the left in 1970s when they were invaded by Indonesia. After they regained independence in the 1990s, they kept the same driving direction.

Thailand is not a British colony. However, they drove on the left likely due to close ties with neighbouring then-British colonies of Malaya and Burma. .

Myanmar is a former British colony and initially drove on the left. But it then switched to right in 1970, presumably due to the eccentricity of its then-dictator.

Philippines is quite interesting. It drove on the left during Spanish, pre-WW2 American, and Japanese occupation period. They only switched sides on 1945 after American reoccupation of the archipelago.

Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam are formerly part of French Indochina, and thus followed France’s drive on the right rule.

In general, the driver is positioned on the left side of the car in countries that drive on the right side of the street, and on the right side of car in countries that drive on the left side of the street.

This is because drivers are more likely to make an error involving the side of the car that they’re further from, and accidentally straying onto the shoulder is normally not as catastrophic an error as accidentally straying into oncoming traffic.

See the other answers for why some countries drive on the right and others drive on the left.