Right- and left-hand traffic

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"LHT" redirects here. For the German airline Lufthansa's maintenance company, see Lufthansa Technik.
Countries by handedness of traffic, circa 2016.
  Right-hand traffic
  Left-hand traffic
Countries driving on the left or right hand side of the road, early 20th Century. Canada was mixed.
  Right-hand traffic
  Left-hand traffic
A sign on Australia's Great Ocean Road reminding foreign motorists to keep left. Such signs are placed at the exit of parking areas associated with scenic views, where other road traffic may at times be sparse.

The terms right-hand traffic and left-hand traffic refer to regulations requiring all bidirectional traffic, unless otherwise directed, to keep to the right or to the left side of the road, respectively.[1] This is so fundamental to traffic flow that it is sometimes referred to as the rule of the road.[2] Today, about 65 percent of the world's population live in countries with right-hand traffic and 35 percent in countries with left-hand traffic.[3][unreliable source?] About 90 percent of the world's total road distance carries traffic on the right and 10 percent on the left.[4][unreliable source?] Right-hand traffic predominates across most of the continental landmasses, while the majority of the world's island nations and territories drive on the left.



The following terms are used in this article:

  • LHT: left hand traffic, in which traffic keeps to the left side of the road.
  • RHT: right hand traffic, in which traffic keeps to the right.[5]
  • RHD: right hand drive, used in LHT, when driving on the left side of the road. The driver sits on the right hand side of the vehicle.
  • LHD: left hand drive, used in RHT, the opposite of RHD. The driver sits on the left hand side of the vehicle.
  • Nearside: a term used in some countries (but not in North America) for the side of the car closest to the kerb.[6]
  • Offside: the opposite of nearside, the side closest to the centre of the road.[7]


Ancient Greek, Egyptian, and Roman troops kept to the left when marching.[8] Which side of the road the Ancient Romans drove on is disputed. Roman roads in Turkey suggest Romans used the right-hand side of the road.[9][unreliable source?] Archaeological evidence in England suggests driving on the left. In 1998, archaeologists found a well-preserved double track leading to a Roman quarry near Swindon. The grooves in the road on the left side (viewed facing down the track away from the quarry) were much deeper than those on the right side. These grooves suggest that the Romans drove on the left, at least at this location, since carts would exit the quarry heavily loaded, and enter it empty.[10]

The first reference in English law to an order for traffic to keep to the left was in 1756, with regard to London Bridge.[11] The General Highways Act of 1773[12] reportedly contained a recommendation that horse traffic should keep to the left.

Some historians, such as C. Northcote Parkinson, believed that ancient travellers on horseback or on foot generally kept to the left, since most people were right handed. If two men riding on horseback were to start a fight, each would edge toward the left.[8] In the year 1300, Pope Boniface VIII directed pilgrims to keep left.[8]

In the late 1700s, traffic in the United States was on the right was based on teamsters' use of large freight wagons pulled by several pairs of horses. The wagons had no driver's seat, so a postilion sat on the left rear horse and held his whip in his right hand. Seated on the left, the driver preferred that other wagons pass him on the left so that he could be sure to keep clear of the wheels of oncoming wagons.[13]

In France, traditionally foot traffic had kept right, while carriage traffic had kept left. Following the French Revolution, all traffic kept right.[11] Following the Napoleonic Wars, the French imposed RHT on parts of Europe. During the colonial period, RHT was introduced by the French in New France, French West Africa, the Maghreb, French Indochina, the West Indies, French Guiana and the Réunion, among others.

Meanwhile, LHT traffic was introduced by the British in Lower Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the East Africa Protectorate, the British India, Southern Rhodesia and the Cape Colony (now Zimbabwe and South Africa), British Guiana, and British Hong Kong. LHT was also introduced by the Portuguese Empire in Portuguese Macau, Colonial Brazil, East Timor, Portuguese Mozambique, and Angola.

In the 1900s some countries changed. The most common reason for countries to switch to right-hand traffic is to harmonise with their neighbours. Several former British colonies changed to driving on the right. Decisions by countries to drive on the right typically centre on regional uniformity.

Though Austria, Czechoslovakia and Hungary had plans to change to driving on the right, the change took place under German occupation in the 1930s and 1940s, as in the switch to right-hand traffic in Czechoslovakia. In Europe, only four countries still drive on the left: the United Kingdom, Ireland, Malta, and Cyprus, as well as the British Crown Dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man. All have their entire territories located on islands.

The first keep-right law in the United States was passed in 1792 and applied to the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike. New York formalised right-hand traffic in 1804, New Jersey in 1813 and Massachusetts in 1821.[14] During the planning of the Pan American Highway from Alaska to Cape Horn in the 1930s, it was decided that the road should use right-hand driving on its entire length. Panama changed to right-hand traffic in 1943[15][16] and Paraguay[17] and Uruguay did the same in 1945.

China adopted RHT in 1946. Taiwan changed to driving on the right at the same time. Hong Kong and Macau continue to be LHT.

In Korea under Japanese rule, the country changed to driving on the right at the end of World War II, when Soviet-backed forces occupied North Korea and American forces arrived in South Korea. Driving on the right was implemented in both territories because military vehicles were now either American-made or Russian-built LHD models. The Japanese prefecture of Okinawa drove on the right under US control after World War II, since 24 June 1945. In 1972 Okinawa was returned to Japanese sovereignty, and on 30 July 1978 reverted to left-hand traffic.

LHT was in force on the island of Vágar during the British occupation of the Faroe Islands in the Second World War. The Channel Islands changed to RHT during the German occupation of the Channel Islands, but changed back in 1945.

Traffic behaviour[edit]

Right-hand traffic
Left-hand traffic
Manoeuver LHT RHT
Unless overtaking stay on the left right
On roundabouts traffic rotates clockwise counterclockwise
Driver sits on the right left
Oncoming traffic is seen coming from the right left
Traffic must cross oncoming traffic when turning right left
Most traffic signs are on the left right
Pedestrians crossing a two-way road look first for traffic from their right left
Dual carriageway ramps are on the left right
After stopping at a red light it may be legal to turn left right

Worldwide distribution by country[edit]

Of United Nations recognised countries, RHT is used in 129, and LHT is used in 63. A country and its territories and dependencies is counted once.

International law[edit]

The Geneva Convention on Road Traffic (1949) has been ratified by about 100 countries[31] and requires each ratifying country to have a uniform direction of traffic rule in the country if the road is not one-way. Article 9(1) provides that

Historically some countries had different rules in different parts of the country (e.g., Canada until the 1920s, Spain, Brazil and others). Currently, China (which has not ratified the Convention), is RHT, while in the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau are LHT. The United States is RHT but the US Virgin Islands, like many Caribbean islands, is LHT.[32] The United Kingdom is LHT, but its overseas territories of Gibraltar and British Indian Ocean Territory are RHT.

The 72 countries that are parties to the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic are not allowed to make restrictions on foreign-registered vehicles. Paragraph 1 of Annex 5 states "All vehicles in international traffic must meet the technical requirements in force in their country of registration when they first entered into service". Therefore, all parties and most non-party countries allow the temporary import (e.g., by tourists) of foreign-registered wrong-hand drive vehicles.

Oman, which is not a party to the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, bans all foreign-registered RHD vehicles.[33]

Changing sides at borders[edit]

One of many road signs in the British county of Kent placed on the right-hand side of the road.
The change of traffic directions at the Laos–Thai border takes place on Lao territory just off the Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge.
Vehicles entering and leaving Macau cross over each other at the Lotus Bridge.

Some countries have land borders where drivers change to the other side of the road because neighbouring countries drive on opposite sides of the road. The four most common ways of switching traffic from one side to the other at borders are:

Safety aspects[edit]

Research in 1969 by J. J. Leeming showed that countries driving on the left have a lower collision rate than countries driving on the right, although he acknowledged that the sample of left-hand rule countries he had to work with was small, and he was very careful not to claim that his results proved that the differences were due to the rule of the road. It has been suggested that this is partly because humans are more commonly right-eye dominant than left-eye dominant.[34][35][36] In left-hand traffic, the predominantly better-performing right eye is used to monitor oncoming traffic and the driver's wing mirror (side mirror). In right-hand traffic, oncoming traffic and the driver's wing mirror are handled by the predominantly weaker left eye. In addition, it has been argued that left-sided driving is safer for elderly people given the likelihood of their having visual attention deficits on the left side and the need at intersections to watch out for vehicles approaching on the nearside lane.[37] Furthermore, in an RHD car with manual transmission, the driver has the right hand, which for most people is dominant, on the steering wheel at all times and uses the left hand to change gears and operate most other controls.

Cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders typically mount from the left-hand side, with motorcycle side stands almost always located on the left. This places them on the kerb when driving on the left.

Road vehicle configurations[edit]

Driver seating position[edit]

Driver on the right side for left-hand traffic

In the very early days of motoring, the steering wheel could be positioned on either side of the car. In modern times the driver sits on the offside, which affords a better view of oncoming traffic. So LHD cars are used for RHT and vice versa. In most countries this is required by law. However, there are countries where this is not the case, usually caused by proximity to countries driving on the other side, for example the Russian Far East's proximity to Japan. Also in the United States they use RHT but postal service vehicles are RHD imported from Japan. In some Caribbean islands like the Bahamas, US Virgin Islands, and the British Virgin Islands have LHT with mostly LHD vehicles imported from the United States.

A Canada Post right-hand-drive delivery van. Extra mirrors placed on its left side compensate for the driver's positioning.

In specialised cases the driver will sit on the nearside, or kerbside, such as street sweepers and delivery vehicles. Visitors from outside a country are usually permitted to drive temporarily, for example British visitors to France. The newest Unimog models can be changed from left-hand drive to right-hand drive in the field to permit operators to work on the more convenient side of the truck. In Spain trucks were RHD until the 1950s, to enable drivers to watch for unstable road edges.[38] In Canada, right-hand drive vehicles are heavily used by Canada Post employees who deliver mail to rural areas. RSMCs (rural and suburban mail carriers) are provided RHD vehicles by Canada Post or are acquired privately through dealers across Canada. These RHD vehicles are often imported from other countries such as Japan where they are suitable for designated RHD mail routes in Canada.[39] Mail delivery imports became popular in the early 2000s when more modern vehicles like the Mitsubishi Pajero or Honda CRV became eligible for import into Canada. Such imports are fitted with daytime running lights and DOT tyres in order to make them HTA-compliant and safe for Canadian roads.[40]


Although Brazil has right-hand traffic, there are buses with additional doors on the left side for operation at bus stops in the medians of streets in cities such as Campinas.

Buses typically have passenger doors only on the kerbside, depending on the driving side of the country. This configuration is adequate for most city networks where passengers board and alight from a kerb. Some BRT systems operate with buses that have doors only (or mainly) on the off-kerb side, intended to operate at stations or bus stops in the centre of an avenue with dedicated lanes, such as TransMilenio (LHD) in Bogotá, Colombia and Rea Vaya (RHD), in Johannesburg, South Africa.[41] The Metrobus in Istanbul, Turkey runs on the left even though regular road traffic runs on the right and buses have doors on the right to access centre platforms.

Buses with only kerbside or only off-kerb side doors are limited in their ability to pick up or drop off passengers from both sides of the bus. In some places, such as in some Brazilian cities, buses have doors on both sides, which allows them to operate at bus stops placed in the middle of avenues.

Some touring coaches, which may need to operate in countries which drive on different sides, are fitted with a door on each side of the bus. This configuration is used on coaches which operate in the UK and continental Europe and on some Hong Kong-China cross-border coaches.

On older-style buses with passenger access at the rear, it is possible to retrofit passenger access doors to match the opposite kerbside, on buses with relatively low floor height; the many traditional British double-deckers sold on for tourist use in the US and some areas in Canada are examples.[42]

When Sweden drove on the left prior to September 1967, city buses were among the very few vehicles in that country which conformed to the normal opposite-steering wheel rule, being RHD while most of the rest of the road traffic was LHD.[43] The same was true in Iceland.[44] Buses were rebuilt or replaced during the transition period in Sweden, with governmental financial support, a large part of the cost for the change of side.

Conversely in Italy, where driving is on the right, some buses were built with RHD until the mid-1960s. These buses had a layout with passenger doors directly behind the driver. Some cities (e.g. Turin and Padua) continued to operate RHD buses until approximately 1980.[45][46]

Headlamps and other lighting equipment[edit]

Bird's-eye view of low beam light pattern for RH traffic, with long seeing range on the right and short cutoff on the left so oncoming drivers are not dazzled.

Low beam headlamps for use in RHT throw most of their light forward-rightward; LHT does the opposite. In Europe, headlamps approved for use on one side of the road must be adaptable to produce adequate illumination with controlled glare for temporarily driving on the other side of the road[47] by affixing masking strips or prismatic lenses to a designated part of the lens or by moving all or part of the headlamp optic so all or part of the beam is shifted or the asymmetrical portion is occluded.[48] Some varieties of the projector-type headlamp can be fully adjusted to produce a proper LH- or RH-traffic beam by shifting a lever or other movable element in or on the lamp assembly.[49]

Headlamp sold in Sweden not long before Dagen H change from left- to right-hand traffic. Opaque decal blocks lens portion that would provide low beam upkick to the right, and bears warning "Not to be removed before 3 September 1967".

Within the European Union, vehicles must be equipped with one or two red rear fog lamps. A single rear fog lamp may be located on the vehicle centreline, or on the driver's side of the vehicle.

Rail traffic[edit]

Trams and streetcars generally follow the same rules as other road traffic in the country concerned, both on road and on reserved sections, with the passenger doors on the kerbside, or on both sides.

The entrance to the Channel Tunnel in France.
Crossing loop: up and down working
Possible catchpoints.[clarification needed]

Most passenger trains in the world keep to the left. 95% of the world's rail passenger-kilometres are carried on railways with LHT, due to the popularity of rail transport in China and India.

In many countries where automobiles are RHT, trains are LHT, often because of British influences. Many nations maintained left-handed rail traffic after switching their automobile traffic from left to right. China switched to RHT in 1946 but kept its left-handed railways. China has an extensive passenger rail network and more high-speed rail tracks than the rest of the world combined.[50]

About 50% of the world's freight rail tonnage is transported over right-handed railway networks, and almost 60% of the world's freight rail tonne-kilometres are transported over right-handed railway networks.

For the driver, visibility is good from both sides of the driving cab so the choice on which side to site the driver less important. For example, the French SNCF Class BB 7200 is designed for using the left-hand track and therefore uses LHD. When the design was modified for use in the Netherlands as NS Class 1600, the driving cab was not completely redesigned, keeping the driver on the left despite the fact that trains use the right-hand track in the Netherlands.[51]

Generally, the left/right principle in a country is followed mostly on double track. On single track, when trains meet, the train that shall not stop often uses the straight path in the turnout, which can be left or right.[52]

In France, road vehicles keep to the right, but the first railway lines were built by the British, so keep to the left,[53] even on the modern Train a grande vitesse (TGV).

Light rail vehicles and metro systems tend to have the same handedness as automobile traffic, although the Madrid Metro, Buenos Aires Metro, and the Rome Metro are LHT for historic reasons.

Multiple track usage by country[edit]

This section lists by country the tracks on which trains normally travel when there are two or more. Trams and other light rail systems which include some street running are excluded.

Water vessels and aircraft[edit]

Generally, all water traffic keeps to the right, under the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea. There are exceptions to RHT when passing through bridges, normally indicated at each archway.[4]

The rule of the sea is that vessels crossing give way to the starboard, while if they are head on each must navigate to starboard so as to pass port-to-port.

For aircraft and vessels, the US Federal Aviation Regulations provide for passing on the right, both in the air,[57] and on water.[58]

Specific jurisdictions[edit]

This section gives details about the road traffic, including trams and other light rail systems which include street running. Trains which use segregated tracks usually have separate rules and are included in the Trains section.


In Afghanistan, traffic drove on the left for the first half of the 20th century, in line with neighbouring British India and later Pakistan. This changed in the early 1950s when right-hand traffic was introduced in the capital Kabul by Ghulam Mohammad Farhad, the city's Mayor.[59] Later this extended to the rest of the country. Today most vehicles in Afghanistan are LHD; but some RHD cars are imported from Japan, although these are only allowed to be on the road for two years. For that reason they are cheaper than LHD cars and are used primarily as working vehicles such as taxis, construction and mini-people carriers rather than as private cars.


When the Pan American Highway from Alaska to Cape Horn was planned in the 1930s, it was decided it should use one side of driving its entire length. A few countries along the route used left-hand traffic, one being Argentina.On 10 October 1944 Decreto Nacional 26965 [60] was issued, introducing right-hand traffic in Argentina eight months later, on 10 June 1945.[60] Strict speed limits kept the number of fatal accidents low after the conversion. 10 June is still observed each year as Día de la Seguridad Vial [61] (Road Safety Day) in Argentina.


Road sign near Uluru/Ayers Rock reminding foreign drivers to keep left.

Driving on the left has been the law in Australia since the early 19th century, following the practice in the United Kingdom. Australian states and territories have a "give way to the right" rule – in the absence of regulations specific to a particular situation, at most uncontrolled intersections, except T-intersections, drivers must yield the right of way to all vehicles to their right.[62][63] The give way to the right rule does not apply to merging traffic. If lines are marked at the point of the merger, merging traffic must give way accordingly to all other traffic. In the case of "zip merging", when two rows of vehicles merge into one and there are no lines marked on the road, drivers must give way to a vehicle which has any part of its vehicle ahead of theirs.[62][63]

To be registered to drive on Australian roads, any LHD drive vehicle (other than special-purpose ones) must be converted to RHD if under 30 years old, except in Western Australia where they are only required to be 15 years old. Even if over 30 years of age, LHD cars must have the Australian standard colours for signal, park and reverse light lenses, as well as headlights dipping the correct way.[64] Western Australia and the Northern Territory (both of which have at various times hosted US military facilities and had vehicles imported, used and sold by US service personnel) have LHD vehicles in circulation. The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) previously allowed non-vintage LHD vehicles to be registered, but changed its legislation some years ago.[when?] In the Northern Territory, LHD vehicle registration is allowed if the vehicle was used for at least 12 months whilst overseas by a migrant or Australian citizen returning home.


Left-hand traffic in Vienna, c.1930

The Austro-Hungarian Empire drove mostly on the left during the 19th century. However, some western (Vorarlberg, Tyrol) and southern parts (present Croatia) drove on the right. In 1915 left-hand traffic was introduced everywhere in the Empire.[65] In 1918 the Empire was split up into several countries, and they all changed to right-hand driving at different times between 1918 and 1941. See each country section.

In 1921 Vorarlberg (with better road connections to Germany[citation needed]/Switzerland than the rest of Austria) switched to the right. A national decision was made in 1929 to change to right-hand traffic, but it took time. The Vienna tramway was especially a problem. Tyrol changed in 1930 and Carinthia in 1935. After the Anschluss in 1938 all of Austria changed to right-hand traffic like Germany.

Railways had a later and slower change. There was traditionally right side traffic in western Austria and left side traffic in the east. Piece by piece a change to right side has taken place. In the Vienna region, including the Vienna S-Bahn, a change from left to right side was made on 6 August 2012, because the opening of the Vienna Main station made a common standard necessary.[66]


Bahrain, then a British protectorate, changed to driving on the right on 17 November 1967.[67] This was to bring it into line with neighbouring countries.[68]


Bangladesh has left-hand traffic. All imported vehicles must be right-hand drive, except those imported by foreign embassies or consulates.


Although traffic has been driving on the right in Belgium since 1899,[69] trains in Belgium still drive on the left.


Belize, then the British colony of British Honduras, drove on the left until 1961, when it adopted right-hand traffic, bringing it into line with its neighbours.[70] This was introduced by the then Police Commissioner, Charles Howell, to avoid accidents involving vehicles from Mexico.[71] The rule was changed on 1 October of that year, under Statutory Instrument No 33 of 1961.[72]


Bhutan is one of the 8 countries outside the former British Empire (along with Indonesia, East Timor, Nepal, Suriname, Mozambique, Thailand and Japan) to drive on the left, though it was under British protection before 1949.

Bosnia and Herzegovina[edit]

After the collapse of the Austria-Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina drove on the right.


Yungas Road in Bolivia

Bolivia has right-hand traffic, with the exception of the notorious El Camino de la Muerte ("The Road of Death")—or simply known as Yungas Road, where it drives on left. The reason for this configuration is to help drivers see their outer wheel while traversing the road.


Brazil changed to right-hand traffic in 1928, at the same time as Portugal.[73] Before then, Brazil had no uniform rule.[74] Now, Brazil has only small segments of traffic driving on the left, only to accommodate special cases in some cities, like Curitiba[75] and Belo Horizonte.[76] Brazil funded construction of Takutu River Bridge, from Bonfim to Lethem, Guyana, the only remaining land border in Americas where traffic change sides, since its opening in 2009.[77] Brazil banned registration RHD vehicles in May 2015[78] citing as reasons as suiting vertical signaling (i.e., traffic signs posted on the right side of the road) for drivers of LHD vehicles and headlamp designs, in respect to asymmetrical beam distribution. Antique vehicles (30 years or more) are exempt of this restriction.


Burundi drives on the right, and is considering switching to left-hand traffic.[25]


Cambodia banned the use of RHD cars, many of which were smuggled from Thailand, from 2001, even though RHD vehicles accounted for 80 per cent of vehicles in the country. The government threatened to confiscate all such vehicles unless they were converted to LHD, in spite of the considerable expense involved. According to a BBC report,[79] changing the steering column from right to left would cost between US$600 and US$2,000, in a country where the average annual income was less than US$1,000.


The parts of Canada that were French colonies have always been RHT, including Ontario, Québec, and the central provinces. British Columbia changed to driving on the right in two stages, with the mainland changing sides on 15 July 1920,[80] and Vancouver changing on 1 January 1922.[81] The eastern provinces changed in stages: New Brunswick on 1 December 1922, Nova Scotia on 15 April 1923,[82] and Prince Edward Island on 1 May 1924. Newfoundland changed to driving on the right on 2 January 1947 before becoming part of Canada in 1949.[83]

During World War II, hundreds of thousands of RHD vehicles were built in Canada for the military. Most of these were DND Pattern (later called Canadian Military Pattern) as well as some of the MCP (Modified Conventional Pattern i.e. civilian pattern) vehicles.

A section of the Quebec Autoroute 20 in Montreal has the roadways "switched", so that the forward roadway is to the left. However, this is a limited-access freeway, so driving on the proper side is not a concern.

RHD grey import vehicles from Japan are being imported into Canada, prompting calls for restrictions on their sale by the Canadian Auto Dealers Association, which argues that they are unsafe.[84]


Most English-speaking Caribbean countries – such as Barbados, Bermuda, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, and Trinidad and Tobago – drive on the left and most local cars have a RHD configuration. Conversely, some rental cars imported from the US retain the LHD configuration in Jamaica. Some rental companies use LHD, others use RHD; it usually possible to ask in advance what configurations are available before agreeing on a vehicle.

However, in some islands, mostly Lesser Antilles (such as the British Virgin Islands, United States Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, as well as Turks and Caicos Islands) and the Bahamas, most passenger cars are still LHD-equipped (despite driving on the left), being imported from the United States or Brazil.[85] Only some government cars and those imported from RHD countries (Japan, Thailand and the United Kingdom, among others) are RHD. The US Virgin Islands are particularly known for having a high accident rate caused by American tourists from the mainland who are unfamiliar with driving on the left in their LHD rental cars.[86]

The French Antilles (Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Barthélemy, Collectivity of Saint Martin) and the Netherlands Antilles (Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten and the Caribbean Netherlands), are RHT, with LHD car configurations.


In the late 19th century during the late Qing Dynasty, cars in the northern provinces like Shandong and Zhili (now Hebei) drove on the right due to American influence, and cars in the southern provinces and cities such as Guangdong, Shanghai, and Zhejiang drove on the left due to British influence, but left-hand traffic was uniform throughout the Republic of China in the 1930s.[87] As early as 1943, Clause 7 of Article 58 of the Act Governing the Punishment of Police Offences[88] (Chinese: 違警罰法) required vehicular drivers in the Republic of China to keep left, subject to a fine of up to 20 yuan or a warning upon a violation.[89] On 15 August 1945, the Nationalist Government ordered to change to right-hand traffic on 1 October 1945.[90] However, on 26 September 1945, the Nationalist Government ordered to postpone changing to right-hand traffic on 1 January 1946.[91] As China became a right-hand traffic country,[2] Clause 7 of Article 58 of the Act Governing the Punishment of Police Offences was accordingly amended to require right-hand traffic in June 1946.[92]

The Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau continue to drive on the left hand side of the road.


Croatia was part of the Austria-Hungary until 1918. Right-hand traffic was used during the 19th century, even though most of the empire used left-hand traffic; it later changed to driving on the left during the First World War. After the collapse of the empire, Croatia became part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and drove on the right.

Czech Republic and Slovakia[edit]

Czechoslovakia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918, and used the left side for driving. Now, however, the Czech Republic and Slovakia use the right side like the rest of the European mainland. Czechoslovakia planned to start driving on the right on 1 May 1939, but the change in Bohemia and Moravia took place under German occupation: Bohemia: 17 March 1939, Prague: 26 March. (See switch to right-hand traffic in Czechoslovakia for details.)

Based on international agreement, Czechoslovakia had plans to start driving in the right from 1925, but these were delayed. The change in Bohemia and Moravia was prompted by the German occupation forces (Bohemia: 17 March 1939, Prague: 26 March). Right hand traffic had already been introduced in Slovakia within Czechoslovakia in late 1938, and the last roads in the First Slovak Republic switched to the new system in 1940 and 1941.

The last section of the Czech railways (Line 330 Bohumín-Přerov-Břeclav) changed to right-hand traffic in December 2012.[93]


A former British colony, Cyprus drives on the left, and cars sold locally are right-hand drive, including those used by the British Armed Forces in the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia. However, there are left-hand drive vehicles in northern Cyprus, imported from Turkey after it came under its occupation in 1974. As Cyprus is a European Union member since 2004, it is common to find left-hand drive vehicles also (tourists overland or else second-hand imports from other EU countries with LHD vehicles), although a ban on imports of LHD vehicles has since been introduced under its jurisdiction.[94] An increasing number of right-hand drive grey import vehicles from Japan and the United Kingdom are now sold throughout the island.


In Denmark, the first rule of the road was introduced in Copenhagen.[95] Known in Danish as a Kancelliplakat or Chancellery Bill, it came into effect in 1758, stipulating a fine of one Danish krone for any transgression of the rule.[96] After the construction of roads began in the rest of Denmark in the 1780s, the keep-right rule was adopted all over the country in 1793. However, the first cars in Denmark around 1900 often had steering wheels on the right-hand side. Today all cars in Denmark have the steering wheel on the left-hand side, except for a few special purpose vehicles. Similarly, all trains travel on the right.[97]

East Timor[edit]

East Timor originally drove on the left, as did its colonial power Portugal, but when Portugal changed to the right in 1928, East Timor followed suit.[2] Under Indonesian rule, East Timor changed back to driving on the left in 1976, and continued the practice under UN administration from 1999 and since independence in 2002.


Road vehicles in Egypt use right-hand traffic due to French cultural influence, during the era of Mohamed Ali in the early 19th century when the traffic system was planned. The railway system was established in Egypt in the late 19th century by British companies during the British Colonial Era, and so trains travel on the left.

Falkland Islands[edit]

As a British Overseas Territory, people in the Falkland Islands drive on the left.[98] This practice was interrupted during the Argentine invasion of the islands, leading to the Falklands War. The Falkland Islands were instructed to change to driving on the right during the brief Argentine occupation in 1982, although many islanders continued to drive on the left as an act of defiance.[99]


Finland was ruled by Sweden until 1809, and consequently drove on the left as Sweden did at the time. Although it passed to Russia in 1809, which drove on the right, as an autonomous Grand Duchy, Finland continued to drive on the left. However, on 8 June 1858, Tsar Alexander issued a decree ordering a change to driving on the right.[100]


France has long been a right-hand traffic country.

Despite the rule of the road, trains are still typically driven on the left track (due to technical British influence when the first railways were built at the beginning of the 19th century), as long as they use their autonomous ways and there is no risk of confusion because cars are forbidden to drive on the same lanes (traffic is physically separated). However, the national railways in Alsace and Moselle (which were ruled by German Empire during the railways' main development) are operated on the right track. Some local services tracks which have very low traffic (notably those around harbours), are built on ways that are most often used by cars or open to cyclists and pedestrians. In these cases, the special tracks may be used by trains (only short carriers) in the same direction as the car traffic, at very low speed and with limitations of charge, to avoid accidents.

The Paris and Marseille metro systems, along with VAL metro systems in Lille, Toulouse, and Rennes, are operated on the right track. In Paris, though, the RER (Réseau Express Régional) is operated on the left track. Many towns have streetcars operated on the right track.

Traffic drives on the left in the service tunnel of the Channel Tunnel, part of which is in France;[101] this is not a public highway.

The Gambia[edit]

The Gambia was the first of the former British colonies in west Africa to adopt right-hand traffic. The Gambia's only neighbour is the former French colony of Senegal. The Gambia implemented the switch-over 1 October 1965, months after its independence.[102] RHD vehicles are banned.


External image
Sign announcing change to driving on the right, Ghana, 1974

Ghana changed to driving on the right on 4 August 1974, the last former British colony in the region to do so, the military National Redemption Council having passed the Right Hand Traffic Act by decree in 1973.[103] A popular slogan in the Twi language was "Nifa, Nifa Enan" or "Right, Right, Fourth".[104] Ghana has also banned RHD vehicles. Their traffic has been changed from left to the right. Ghana prohibited new registrations of RHD vehicles after 1 August 1974, three days before the traffic change on 4 August 1974. RHD vehicles may be imported only temporarily into Sierra Leone, for example for humanitarian programmes, but must be exported at the end of the operation.[citation needed]


Traffic drives on the right.

The British overseas territory of Gibraltar changed to driving on the right on 16 June 1929 at 5.00 am.[2] This was following the adoption of the Rule of the Road Ordinance 1929, which was to avoid accidents involving vehicles from Spain.[105] However, some public buses until recently were RHD, with a special door allowing passengers to enter on the right-hand side. However, most passenger cars are LHD, as in Spain, with the exception of second-hand cars brought in from the UK and Japan as well as UK registered military vehicles used by the British Forces.

Guyana and Suriname[edit]

Guyana and Suriname are the only two remaining countries in the mainland Americas that drive on the left. As a result of the construction of the Pan-American Highway, four mainland American countries switched to driving on the right between 1943 and 1961. Both Guyana and Suriname are separated from their neighbours by large rivers, with the first bridge crossing one of these only opening in April 2009. The inland south of both countries is sparsely populated with very few roads and hence no border crossings.

In the south-west of Guyana, near Lethem, work was finally completed[106] on 26 April 2009 on the Takutu River Bridge across the Takutu River into neighbouring Brazil, which drives on the right. The changeover system is on the Guyana side, with one lane passing under the other on the bridge's access road.[107][108] Construction proceeded slowly over the years before being completed by the Brazilian army. Brazil had been keen to open the bridge, as it now gives Brazil access to Caribbean sea ports on the north coast of South America. It is expected that Brazilian (LHD) vehicles will be able to drive all the way through Guyana to the coast. The Takutu Bridge is the Americas' only border crossing where traffic changes sides of the road. Guyana, however, does allow used LHD vehicles to be imported, allowing both LHD and RHD vehicles to be registered and permitted on its roads.

In Suriname most of the privately owned buses are imported from Japan, and the exits are designed for driving on the left. Most state-owned buses, however, are from the US (LHD) and often the placement of the exits has to be adjusted. Private ownership of LHD cars and LCVs in Suriname is less frequent, more concentrated in American and Mexican imports, even though mid-size pickup trucks imported from Thailand such as the Chevrolet Colorado are available in both RHD and LHD configurations.

Hong Kong[edit]

As a former British colony, Hong Kong follows the United Kingdom in driving on the left. Most vehicles, including those of the Chinese garrison in Hong Kong, are RHD. LHD exceptions include some coaches providing services to and from China.

There are four road border crossing points between Hong Kong and China. The largest and busiest is Lok Ma Chau Control Point,[109] which features two separate changeover systems on the mainland side, the Huanggang Port. In 2006, the daily average number of vehicle trips recorded at Lok Ma Chau was 31,100.[110] The next largest is Man Kam To, where there is no changeover system and the border roads on the mainland side Wenjindu simply intersect as one-way streets with a main road.

There are some exceptions. Public Square Street in Yau Ma Tei used to have a small stretch between New Reclamation Street and Shanghai Street with right-hand traffic. Drake Street in Admiralty has an eastbound bus lane on its southern side, leading to a bus terminal. In Tsim Sha Tsui East, Hong Wing Path to the west of one-way northbound Hong Chong Road carries only southbound traffic. The two streets are immediately next to each other, separated only by concrete barriers. In addition, many carparks have their entrances and exits inverted if they are located on one-way roads or roads with separation barriers.


Hungary was a part of the Austrian-Hungarian empire until 1918. It then used the left side for driving. Now it uses the right side. Hungary also acted later than planned: the government planned for a change in June 1939, but postponed it and finally introduced it on 6 July 1941 (outside Budapest), and on 9 November 1941 in Budapest. The government decided about the change to the right side for international conformance reasons in June 1939 after debating it for years. They postponed it but then they introduced it at 3 am on 6 July 1941 outside Budapest, and at 3 am on 9 November 1941 in Budapest.


Iceland switched traffic from left to right at 06:00 on Sunday 26 May 1968, known as H-dagurinn. As in Sweden, most passenger cars were already left-hand drive. The only injury attributed to the conversion was to a boy on a bicycle, who broke his leg.[111] Numerous buses were also stuck in traffic jams.


Following British colonial influence, India drives on the left-hand side of the road. Now all vehicles are RHD with the government banning all new LHD vehicles in the country except under special circumstances, such as cars imported duty-free by foreign embassies. All left-hand drive vehicles (including new ones manufactured for export) carry a prominent sticker reading 'Left Hand Drive Vehicle' on their back to warn other drivers. In India, LHD vehicles cannot be sold commercially to customers, but they can be imported for research and testing purposes under government approval.[112]

There are some legal exceptions to this rule, to overcome traffic problems, where traffic moves on the right-hand side of the road. In Bangalore, for example, between Sheshadripuram and the Majestic bus stand, to enable the city buses to enter and exit easily, normal traffic moves on the right-hand side. Similarly, the traffic flows on the right-hand side on Commissariat Road to ease the traffic entering the 'Garuda' mall. These roads are treated as "two adjacent one way roads" by traffic police.[citation needed]

The border with China is also another place where vehicles have to move over to the other side of the road.


Indonesia drives on the left, despite being a former colony of the Netherlands, which switched to right-hand traffic. Even though the country is an archipelago, there are three land borders, with Malaysia, East Timor and Papua New Guinea. All of these countries also drive on the left: Malaysia as a legacy of British rule, East Timor (which was occupied by Indonesia from 1975 to 1999) and Papua New Guinea as a result of both British and Australian rule.

However, there are exceptions: in Surabaya city, on Praban Street (one of the main streets in central Surabaya), traffic drives in both directions on the right-hand side for approximately 500 metres (550 yards). The street is very crowded and the right-hand drive style helps the efficient flow of traffic, especially from Gemblongan Street, from which vehicles can directly turn right to Praban Street. Vehicles from Blauran Street can similarly turn directly right. Because there is a separator dividing the two sides of the street, local drivers have little difficulty.[113] Other exceptions can be found in Bandung and Manado, in Elang Street and Korengkeng Street, respectively. The traffic of those streets follow right-hand side to ease the traffic.

However, on dual-tracked railroads in Indonesia, trains drive on the right. The Jakarta metro and monorail systems will drive on the left.


Sign reminding motorists to drive on the left in Ireland

Ireland is the second largest European state, after the United Kingdom, with a left-hand traffic system. Ireland displays a few yellow tri-lingual warning signs at the border, particularly in very rural areas, for example 54°32′05″N 7°52′09″W / 54.534788°N 7.869185°W / 54.534788; -7.869185 and 54°37′17″N 7°45′18″W / 54.621445°N 7.755042°W / 54.621445; -7.755042. Ireland shares no border with a RHT land mass. Car ferries from France to Ringaskiddy and Rosslare Harbour are the main source of LHD traffic.


In Israel, despite Mandatory Palestine being under British rule till 1948, road traffic including the Jerusalem Light Rail is RHT. Heavy rail trains keep to the left.


In modern Italy the practice of traffic driving on the right first began in the late 1890s, but it was not until the mid-1920s that it became standard throughout the country. There was a long period when traffic in the countryside drove on the right while major cities continued to drive on the left.[114] Rome, for example, did not change from left to right until 20 October 1924. Milan was the last Italian city to change to driving on the right (3 August 1926). Cars had remained right-hand drive (RHD) until this time. Italian car makers Alfa Romeo and Lancia did not produce LHD cars until as late as 1950 and 1953, respectively.[115]


Japan is one of the few countries outside the former British Empire (along with Thailand, Nepal, Bhutan, Mozambique, Suriname, East Timor and Indonesia) to drive on the left. An informal practice of left-hand passage dates at least to the Edo period, when samurai are said to have passed each other to the left to avoid knocking their longer katana swords with each other (as swords were always worn to the left side). During the late 19th century, Japan built its first railways with British technical assistance, and double-tracked railways adopted the British practice of running on the left. Stage Coach Order issued in 1870 and its revision in 1872, followed in 1881 by a further order, stipulated that mutually approaching horses had to avoid each other by shifting to the left.[116] An order issued in 1885 stated that general horses and vehicles had to avoid to the left, but they also had to avoid to the right when they met army troops, until the double standard was legally resolved in 1924.[117]

After the defeat of Japan during World War II, Okinawa was ruled by the United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands and compelled to drive on the right. Okinawa was returned to Japanese control in 1972 and changed back to driving on the left six years later, at 06:00 on 30 July 1978.[118] The conversion operation was known as 730 (Nana-San-Maru, which means Nana(7)-San(3)-Maru(0)). Okinawa is one of few places to have changed from right- to left-hand traffic in the late 20th century.

All railway systems in Japan, including subway systems, run on the left, as do most people mover lines. The Yamaman Yūkarigaoka Line runs on the right due to its counterclockwise balloon loop.


Kenya was a British colony until 1963, and is LHT, with most vehicles being RHD. All vehicles registered must be converted to RHD, except for special vehicles such as ambulances, fire engines, construction vehicles or vehicles to be donated to the government.[119]

Korea (North and South)[edit]

RHD Toyota Landcruiser in front of a Pyongyang hotel. Although it drives on the right, North Korea has imported various used RHD vehicles from Japan, from tourist buses to Toyota Land Cruisers.

Since the end of the Second World War, traffic in both North and South Korea has driven on the right. However, this was not the case for historic Korea. In the 19th century traffic travelled on the left as the country was under nominal influence of China's Qing Dynasty. When Japan annexed Korea in 1910 it also maintained the left-hand rule.

On 8 September 1945, American forces arrived in the southern half of Korea while at the same time Soviet-backed forces were occupying the North. Shortly afterwards the peninsula was divided along the 38th parallel. Driving on the right was implemented in both countries as the vehicles (particularly military) used by the Korean states were either American-made or Russian-built LHD models.


As a former Soviet Republic, Kyrgyzstan drives on the right. However, cheaper used cars from Japan are popular despite Kyrgyzstan drive on the right. In 2012, over 20,000 RHD cars were imported in the country.[120]


Lebanon formerly a part of France, is a right-hand traffic country.


Macau, a former Portuguese colony, historically followed Hong Kong in driving on the left.[2] This was because most of the cars in Macau were imported first to Hong Kong and re-exported and were therefore RHD. Macau did not follow either Portugal in 1928 or China in 1946 in switching to driving on the right.

There are two border crossing points between China and Macau. The newer crossing point is the Lotus Bridge, which crosses a narrow channel of sea between China and the territory, and was opened at the end of 1999.[121] The Lotus Bridge was designed to cater for high traffic volumes and features three lanes in each direction as well as a full changeover system on the Chinese side, comprising bridges that loop around each other by 360 degrees to swap the direction of the traffic. At the older Macau crossing point, there is no changeover system, and the border roads continue with traffic on the left on the Chinese side and simply intersect with a roundabout.


Malaysia drives on the left, a legacy of British influence. Almost all vehicles assembled and sold locally in Malaysia are in RHD.

Although LHD vehicles are not officially banned and can be registered and driven in the country like RHD vehicles; however LHD vehicles cannot be sold commercially by local dealerships, and are only available in grey market or imported personally by Malaysian citizens who returning from RHT-LHD countries (e.g. United States and mainland Europe).LHD vehicles are very rarely seen on Malaysian roads.

A grey import vehicles from Japan and United Kingdom (usually RHD) was imported and sold in Malaysia since 1970's,with Naza become first automotive company in Malaysia to import grey market vehicles.

All trains in Malaysia run on the left, following the British practice, since train services were introduced in Malaya (now Peninsular Malaysia) by Britain during the colonial period.

There are a few exceptions to the rule. In Peninsular Malaysia, right-hand traffic can be found on the Bulatan Batu Caves, Damansara-Puchong Expressway in the short tunnel under the Damansara Perdana flyover,a small road between Brickfields and the KL Sentral, the Sunway bridge at the Federal Highway Route 2 interchange and Wisma Saberkas, Kuching, Sarawak where a whole stretch of parking areas use right-hand traffic. "Keep Right" signboards are prominent at every corner of the road to remind road users of the right-hand driving rule. Right-hand driving was introduced to ease congestion at the Wisma Saberkas exit to Jalan Green (near SK St. Paul).


Malta was a British colony from 1800 to 1964, and continues with left-hand traffic, with local vehicles being right-hand drive. Owing to its proximity to Italy left-hand drive vehicles are commonplace.


Although the national standard in Mauritania is to drive on the right, on the mining roads between Fdérik and Zouérat traffic drives on the left. There are a number of right-left crossover points.[122][123]


Like most former British colonies, Mauritius drives on the left-hand side of the road, although its closest neighbours, Madagascar, the Comoros, and the French overseas departments of Réunion and Mayotte drive on the right.


As a former British colony, cars in what was then called Burma drove on the left until 7 December 1970, when the military administration of Ne Win decreed that traffic would drive on the right-hand side of the road.[124] In spite of the change, most passenger vehicles in the country continue to be RHD, being pre-conversion vehicles and second-hand vehicles imported from Japan, Thailand, and Singapore. In addition, some road signs and traffic lights continue to be mounted on the left side of the road.[125][126][unreliable source?] Buses imported from Japan that were never converted from RHD to LHD have doors on the right side in offset position, unlike their counterparts in the Philippines. However, government limousines, imported from the People's Republic of China, are LHD. Most vehicles are driven with a staff called a "spare" (စပယ်ရာ) in place to watch the oncoming traffic and inform the driver as to whether it is safe to overtake or not, as the driver cannot see this from the RHD position.

A development in 2016 suggests that Myanmar's portion of the upcoming Trilateral Highway between India and the rest of Asia will have traffic flow on the left.[127]


As a former German colony, Namibia originally drove on the right. After South Africa occupied German South West Africa during World War I, drivers were ordered to drive on the left soon afterwards.[2] South West Africa was made a South African mandate by the League of Nations, and the new rule of the road was established in law.[128]


Vehicles in Nepal drive on the left, with steering wheels mounted on the right-hand side of vehicles. The stretch of road between Rani Pokhari and Ratna Park in Kathmandu is right-handed to facilitate one-way traffic on the adjacent roads.


Right-hand driving was legally introduced from 1 January 1906[129] in all rural areas. The last city to change was Rotterdam on 7 May 1917.[130]

New Zealand[edit]

New Zealand drives on the left, owing to its British colonial heritage. The left-hand traffic rule is currently legislated in section 2.1 of the Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004.[131]

At intersections, the general rule for priority in New Zealand is "Give way to the right, and turning traffic give way to traffic not turning", but between 1977 and March 2012 there was an unusual variation compared with other countries: where a right-turning vehicle and a left-turning vehicle approached each other from opposite directions and both had no signs or signals or both had the same sign or signal, the right-turning vehicle had priority over the left-turning vehicle, where in other left-hand traffic countries the rule was the other way around. The aim of the rule was to give priority to vehicles turning right across traffic so they spent minimal time in the road lane exposed to rear-end collisions; many New Zealand intersections lack right-turn bays. It also reduced the chance of a collision with the right (driver's) side of the vehicle. The rule was reversed at non-roundabout intersection on Sunday 25 March 2012 to align the rule with other countries and in an attempt to reduce driver confusion and intersection crashes.[132] Although the rule change went smoothly at most intersections, numerous problems were encountered in the days and weeks following the change regarding intersections with left turn slip lanes controlled by Give Way signs – in these cases, the Give Way sign cancels the left-turning priority over right-turning traffic, keeping with the old rule. However, misunderstandings at these intersections caused right-turning traffic to needlessly give way, and left-turning traffic to run the give way signs.[133][134][135]

In New Zealand, as of 1 April 2010 the rules regarding importation and use of LHD cars on New Zealand roads have changed. Vehicles that are at least 20 years old may be imported and used on New Zealand roads in LHD form. They do though have to have a Gross Vehicle Weight of under 3500 kg. No permit is required.[136] New vehicles (less than 20 years old & coupés and convertibles). You can now register a car in original LHD form as long as it meets the criteria set. The rules were changed to allow late model collectible cars into New Zealand without requiring (sometimes agricultural and always expensive) conversion to RHD. There are several criteria set but if you are a New Zealand citizen or resident and have not imported one of these in the past 2 years you may be granted a LHD permit if your car meets 3 of the 4 following criteria: 1) The car is high performance 2) The car is collectible 3) There were less than 20,000 units produced 4) It is a coupé or convertible. There is a quota of 500 permits per year.[137]


When it was a British colony, Nigeria drove on the left. Following independence, as it was surrounded by former French colonies that drove on the right, its government decided to adopt right-hand traffic. Following the passing of the Right Hand Traffic Act on 19 February 1972, the country changed to driving on the right on 2 April of that year.[138] In Nigeria, the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) warned operators of RHD vehicles that they would face prosecution[139] under Section 71 of the National Road Traffic Regulation (2004), which states that no RHD vehicle shall be registered or driven on public roads.[140]


Warning sign on the border between Sweden and Norway in 1934

Before 1814 Norway was part of Denmark-Norway, which adopted right hand traffic in 1793.[141] In 1814 the country became semi-independent in a union between Sweden and Norway with Sweden, with which it shared a long land border with numerous border crossings. However, Norway retained right hand traffic, in contrast to Sweden, which drove on the left until 1967. Trains go on the right side on double-tracks, opposite to Sweden. This is not a problem, since all railway border crossings are single-track.


Pakistan, like its neighbour India, drives on the left. Pakistan is the westernmost country in Asia which drives on the left. The Khyber Pass border crossing with Afghanistan is one of the most well known places where traffic changes sides of the road. The land borders with Iran are also set up to allow drivers to change sides.


Palau has RHT but most passenger cars are still RHD-equipped (despite driving on the right), being imported from Japan.


Right-hand traffic was introduced in Paraguay from 25 February 1945 by dint of Decreto 6956 ("Decree 6956").[17] In Paraguay, a RHD vehicle cannot be registered, except for fire engines.[142] Second-hand Japanese imports for private use must be converted to LHD, even though the windshield wipers usually keep the RHD sweeping pattern.


The Philippines during the Spanish colonial period and well into the early 20th century during the United States occupation and Commonwealth of the Philippines periods kept to the left. Under Executive Order No. 34, right-hand traffic was introduced in the Philippines on the last day of the Battle of Manila (1945) to facilitate the combined Filipino and American troop movements.[143]

All vehicles registered must be converted to LHD. Although road traffic switched to the right, rail traffic remained on the left until the construction of the Manila Light Rail Transit System and Manila Metro Rail Transit System, where trains ran on the right, in 1984 and 1999 respectively. The Philippine National Railways, where trains historically ran on the left, switched to the right in 2010. In the Philippines, RHD vehicles are banned. Previously, such vehicles were allowed, provided a "CAUTION: RIGHT HAND DRIVE" sign was prominently posted. Public buses and vans imported from Japan are converted to LHD, and passenger doors are created on the right side. This ban was thought to be the result of an increase in accidents involving RHD vehicles, most of which were trucks. Some converted passenger vans keep their doors on the left side, leading to the dangerous situation in which passengers have to exit toward oncoming traffic. Some RHD off-road vehicles and existing industrial cranes remain, and in rare cases, allowed to be registered as is, if it is a mobile crane deemed unsuitable for LHD conversion.

The only places where left-hand traffic is observed are a few number of parking areas in Manila such as Glorietta parking area near Makati Shangri-La and SM Southmall.


Poland drives on the right. When it was re-established as an independent state in 1918, areas formerly belonging to the German and Russian Empires drove on the right. In the former Austrian areas left-hand traffic was in force. This was changed in the 1920s. In Lwów (then in Poland) the change-over took place in 1922 and in Kraków in 1925.[144] The government recently attempted to ban the registration of RHD vehicles, but it was forced by the EC to allow them to be registered. Poland's Galicia switched to the right around 1924.


Portugal changed from left-hand to right-hand road traffic on 1 June 1928. This change was also implemented in most of its overseas territories, except Goa, Macau and Mozambique, which had land borders with countries that drove on the left, although in East Timor, then Portuguese Timor, right-hand traffic was introduced in 1928, but was changed back by Indonesia in 1975.[2]


In Russia, in 1709, the Danish envoy to Peter the Great noted the widespread custom for traffic in Russia to pass on the right. This was formalised in 1752, when the Empress Elizabeth issued an edict for traffic to keep to the right in Russian cities.[24][unreliable source?]

Although Russia drives on the right, Japanese used vehicle exporting causes cheaper RHD to be available. Russia is estimated to have more than 1.5 million RHD vehicles. In the Russian Far East, such as Vladivostok or Khabarovsk, RHD vehicles make up to 60% of the total.[145] This includes not only private cars, but also police cars, ambulances, and many other municipal and governmental vehicles.

In 2005, the rumour that RHD vehicles would be completely banned from the roads drove thousands of Russian protesters to the streets.[146][147] On 19 May 2005 the Russian Minister of Industry and Energy Viktor Khristenko announced that RHD vehicles would be allowed on the roads but would have to conform to all Russian traffic safety requirements.[148] Many automobile owners blocked the roads (in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Vladivostok and many other cities), protesting against such an interdiction.[146][149] Due to technical regulation published on September 2009, import of RHD will be proceeded in September 2010.[150]


Rwanda, a former Belgian colony in central Africa, drives on the right. The government is considering changing to driving on the left, to bring the country in line with other members of the East African Community (EAC).[151]

In 2005, a Presidential Decree was issued banning the import of RHD cars, eventually requiring them to be phased out completely by the end of 2009.[151]

In early August 2009 several African newspapers reported that, following the results of a public survey, Rwanda was considering switching to driving on the left in order to bring the country in line with other members of the East African Community (EAC).[151] Burundi is the only other EAC member to drive on the right.

The survey, carried out by the Ministry of Infrastructure in 2009, indicated that 54% of Rwandans were in favour of the switch, compared to just 32% who were opposed to it.[152] Reasons cited were the perceived lower costs of RHD vehicles as opposed to LHD versions of the same model, easier maintenance and the political benefit of harmonisation of traffic regulations with other EAC countries. The same survey also indicated that right-hand drive cars are 16 to 49 per cent cheaper than their left-hand drive equivalents.[153] Because of this, investment in passenger service vehicles and goods transport is expected to increase should the switch go ahead, due to the high costs of sourcing suitable LHD vehicles and the relative abundance of alternatives from elsewhere in the EAC.[152] Furthermore, in November 2009, Rwanda's application to join the Commonwealth of Nations was approved, another group which is largely dominated by LHT countries.[151]

In September 2010, Infrastructure Minister Vincent Karega said that new traffic guidelines had been submitted to the Prime Minister's office, paving the way for the Cabinet to formally approve the switch.[152][153] At the same time, if the switch does go ahead, it will necessitate repealing the 2005 Presidential Decree banning RHD cars. According to Karenga, the private sector has been a keen supporter of the switch, citing the harmonisation of EAC regulations and the cheaper cost of RHD cars. As of December 2011, the Rwandan government reported that it had received the Ministry of Infrastructure's 2009 survey and was commissioning a comprehensive study of options available.[154] At the 17th East African Standards Committee meeting in July 2013, several African news sources reported that both Rwanda and Burundi will be switching to left-hand traffic in the coming years, though no official plans have been drawn up at this time.[25][155]

In September 2014, the Rwandan government announced its intention to lift the import ban on RHD lorries weighing over 30 tonnes. .[156] At the same time, an internal report from consultants to the Ministry of Infrastructure recommended a switch to LHT.[157] In 2015, the ban on right hand drive vehicles was lifted, allowing Rwandans to import the same vehicles as those sold in neighbouring countries, including trucks; right hand drive trucks available in those countries cost $1000 less than left hand drive models imported from Europe.[158]


Samoa was a German colony until occupied by New Zealand at the beginning of the First World War. During the Second World War, Samoa (then known as Western Samoa) was used by the Allies as a staging area for the invasion of several Pacific islands to the east of Samoa. Most US military vehicles were LHD and reinforced the German practice of driving on the right-hand side of the road until September 2009. This practice had been in place for more than a century.[159] A plan to drive on the left was first announced by the Samoan government in September 2007 and was confirmed on 18 April 2008, when Samoa's parliament passed the Road Transport Reform Act 2008.[160][161] On 24 July 2008 Tuisugaletaua Avea, the Minister of Transport, announced that the change would come into effect at 6:00 am on Monday, 7 September 2009. He also announced that the 7th and 8th would be public holidays, so that residents were able to familiarise themselves with the new rules of the road.[162] Samoa is the first territory in over 30 years to change which side of the road is driven on, the most recent being Nigeria, Ghana, Yemen and Okinawa.[159][163][164]

A new political party, The People's Party, had formed to try to block the change, but it was unsuccessful, as was the People Against Switching Sides protest group which launched a last-minute legal challenge, arguing the decision violated the right to life in the Samoan constitution.[159][165][166] The decision remains controversial, with an estimated 18,000 people attending demonstrations against it in Apia in April 2008 and road signs reminding people of the change having been vandalised.[164][167] The motor industry was also opposed as 14,000 of Samoa's 18,000 vehicles are designed for right-hand traffic and the government has refused to meet the cost of conversion.[164] Bus drivers whose doors are now on the wrong side of the road threatened to strike in protest at the change.[168]

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi said the purpose of adopting left-hand traffic was to allow Samoans to use cheaper right-hand-drive vehicles imported from Australia, New Zealand, or Japan, and also so the large number of Samoans living in Australia and New Zealand could drive on the same side of the road when they visit their home country. To reduce accidents, the government widened roads, added new road markings, erected signs and installed speed humps.[163] The speed limit was also reduced and the sale of alcohol banned for three days.[168] The Congregational Christian Church of Samoa held prayer sessions for an accident-free conversion, and Samoa's Red Cross carried out a blood donation campaign in case of a surge of accidents.[163][168]

The change came into force following a radio announcement at 5.50 local time (16.50 GMT), which halted traffic, and an announcement at 6.00 local time (17.00 GMT) for traffic to switch from the right to the left-hand side of the road.[159] The change coincided with more restrictive enforcement of speeding and seat-belt laws.[169]

Samoa changed to left-hand traffic in September 2009.[170][171][172] The government brought about the change to bring Samoa into line with other South Pacific nations, and also sought to encourage the roughly 170,000 Samoan expatriates in Australia and New Zealand to ship their used cars back to Samoa.


Vojvodina was formerly part of the Austria-Hungarian Empire and drove on the left. However, after the end of World War I in 1918, Vojvodina became a province of Serbia, forming the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later renamed to Kingdom of Yugoslavia) and started driving on the right. The rest of Serbia already had right-hand traffic as it was formerly part of the right-driving Ottoman empire. Right-hand traffic has remained the standard throughout Serbia ever since.

Sierra Leone[edit]

Sierra Leone changed to right-hand traffic on 1 March 1971,[173] following the appointment in 1970 of a National Committee for Right Hand Traffic in the capital, Freetown and Right Hand Traffic Sub-Committees in each of the provincial headquarters.[174] In spite of this, many RHD vehicles have been imported into the country, leading to a ban on their importation by the government in 2013.[175]


In Singapore, all motorised traffic drives on the left, in vehicles with right-hand drive configuration, a legacy of British colonial rule as a crown colony together with Malaysia (formerly Malaya). Some roads, however, due to foreseeable considerations, are designed to prevent traffic flow problems that could result from the standard practice, such as Grange Road between Orchard Road and Somerset Road which is separated by a refuge island, Carver Street by North Bridge Road, parking and compound entrances along the right side of North Bridge Road. In any roads with such a requirement, an entry sign is often displayed at the road divider. Cycling designated lane in parks also practises the keep left rule to correspond with motor traffic roads as a safety consideration. As of this, Singapore prohibited new registrations of LHD vehicles, except with the exemption by Land Transport Authority on registration of Vintage Cars[176] and embassy vehicles in Singapore, subjected to the import requirements for embassy diplomats. There are a few hydrogen and fuel cell powered LHD vehicles currently undergoing trials in Singapore.[citation needed]

South Africa[edit]

The N2 approaching Cape Town

As a legacy of British rule, South Africa drives on the left. This has also influenced neighbouring countries. After South Africa occupied South West Africa (now Namibia) during World War I, it was made a South African mandate by the League of Nations, and as such, drivers were ordered to drive on the left soon afterwards.


A highway close to Madrid (Spain)

There was no uniform national rule until the 1930s. Before then, some parts had driven on the right (e.g., Barcelona), others on the left (e.g., Madrid, which on 1 October 1924 changed to driving on the right).[177] As a result, the Madrid Metro, which dates from 1919,[178] still runs on the left-hand side on all lines.


Further information: § Guyana and Suriname

Suriname and neighbouring Guyana are the only two remaining countries in the mainland Americas that drive on the left. The practice for Guyana has been inherited from the United Kingdom. Surinames drive on the left, due to historically close contacts with British Guyana and other parts of LHD Caribbean.


Traffic moves from left to right in Stockholm on 3 September 1967
Main article: Dagen H

Sweden has right-hand traffic now, but had legal left-hand traffic (vänstertrafik in Swedish) from approximately 1734, when it changed back from a short period of right-hand traffic starting in 1718. With or without legal rule, traditionally the left side was used for carriages. Finland, under Swedish rule until 1809, also drove on the left, and continued to do so as a Russian Grand Duchy until 1858.[179]

This continued well into the 20th century, even though virtually all the cars on the road in Sweden were LHD. One argument for this was that it was necessary to keep an eye on the edge of the road, something that was important on the narrow roads in use at the time. However, Sweden's neighbours Norway and Finland already drove on the right, leading to confusion at border crossings.

In 1955 a referendum was held on the issue, resulting in an 82.9%-to-15.5% vote against a change to driving on the right. Nevertheless, in 1963 the Riksdag passed legislation ordering the switch to right-hand traffic. The conversion took place at 5am on Sunday, 3 September 1967, which was known in Swedish as Dagen H (H-Day), the 'H' being for Högertrafik or right traffic.

Since Swedish cars were LHD, experts had suggested that changing to driving on the right would be safer, because drivers would have a better view of the road ahead. The accident rate dropped sharply after the change,[180] but soon rose back to near its original level.[171] The speed limits were temporarily lowered.

Trains have left-hand traffic, as a change to right traffic is not considered cost-effective. Trains in Malmö and further southwest keep to the right, as in neighbouring Denmark; there is a flyover-type crossover north of Malmö.


Taiwan had left-hand traffic under Japanese rule; after World War II the Chinese government changed Taiwan to right-hand traffic in 1946 along with the rest of China.[181] All vehicles registered must be converted to LHD. Article 39 of the Road Traffic Security Rules requires a steering wheel to be on the left side of a vehicle to pass an inspection when registering the vehicle, so RHD vehicles may not be registered in Taiwan. This rule does not apply retroactively, so an RHD vehicle that was registered before this rule does not lose its registered status and may continue to be legally driven.[citation needed]


Tanzania drives on the left. LHD vehicles can be registered by the general public but must drive on the left as well. All public service vehicles must be RHD although vehicles carrying fewer than 10 passengers can be LHDs.


Thailand is one of the few countries outside the former British Empire to drive on the left, dating back to its diplomatic relations with Britain since 1826, when the British used the country, then called Siam, as a shortcut to India. It is an unusual case of a country which drives on the left being almost totally surrounded by neighbours which drive on the right. Thailand shares long borders with Laos and Cambodia — which both drove on the right under French rule, as well as Burma, which changed to driving on the right in 1970, while it shares only a short border with Malaysia, which drives on the left. Thailand allows both RHD and LHD vehicles on its roads, though RHD vehicles predominate as they are manufactured there.

Trinidad and Tobago[edit]

Trinidad and Tobago drives on the left.[182] On May 1, 1932, a law was passed prohibiting the importation of motor vehicles unless they were right hand drive.[183] However, by the mid-1990s, the import of left hand drive vehicles was permitted.[184] LHD vehicles are banned except for returning nationals who were resident in a foreign country and are importing a vehicle for personal use. LHD vehicles are also allowed to be imported for use as funeral hearses.[citation needed]


Tunisia drives on the right. Indeed, the French protectorate that was established in 1881 enforced it from the French laws.[185] Following the independence of the country in 1956, the infrastructure was already made for right driving and people were used to it. So this way of driving was kept.[186] In addition, its other Maghreb neighbours and its main commercial partners drives as well on the right, favouring economically this way of driving.

However, driving of the right was not always the case in Tunisia, indeed on the ancient roads of the country, people used to drive on the left before the protectorate.[9]


Until 1918 parts of present-day western Ukraine were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which drove on the left. This changed in the 1920s when the territory became part of Poland. In Lviv the change-over took place in 1922.[144] The last part of present-day Ukraine to change was Carpathian Ruthenia, which continued to drive on the left as part of Czechoslovakia during the interwar period, before switching in 1941 as part of Hungary. The rest of Ukraine, having been part of the Russian Empire, already drove on the right.

United Kingdom[edit]

Vehicles driving on the left on the A1(M) motorway near Washington services in County Durham, England, heading towards Scotland

The United Kingdom has left-hand traffic, and its imperial influence has identified LHT with Britain and the Commonwealth throughout most of the world. The left-hand traffic rule first became compulsory in 1722, to combat increasing traffic congestion on the narrow London Bridge. The Lord Mayor of the City of London ordered that bridge traffic should keep to the left.[citation needed]

As a result of European Union legislation ensuring the free movement of goods, British consumers can buy RHT cars from car dealers in other EU countries.[187]

Although the United Kingdom is separated from Continental Europe by the English Channel, the level of cross-Channel traffic is very high; the Channel Tunnel alone carries 3.5 million vehicles per year between the UK and France. Most vehicles crossing the Channel, whether via the Channel Tunnel or on ferries, are UK-registered RHD vehicles. Large numbers of British drivers take their RHD cars to Continental Europe for holidays and day trips.[188] Relatively fewer drivers from Continental Europe take their LHD cars to the UK as for many people the distance to the Channel ports or to the Channel Tunnel is greater, although drivers from France, Belgium and the Netherlands in LHD cars are an increasing sight on roads in the UK, as are LHD freight lorries that may travel to the UK from all over Europe.

As in many countries, rules on service vehicles such as road sweepers require that the driver's view of the kerb is more important than that of the centre-line. In the UK, these vehicles are generally LHD, although some have controls on both sides.

In cities with heavy tourism, LHD coaches travelling to the UK from elsewhere can cause problems as their passengers get off the vehicle into the path of traffic, rather than on a pavement. Some fleet operators who regularly tour from Continental Europe to the UK use coaches with doors on both sides. Conversely, some double-decker buses exported to LHD countries for tourist purposes are converted to have their doors on the other side.

For a variety of reasons, Continental European LHD heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) have become common on the UK's roads, particularly on major routes radiating from ports and the Channel Tunnel. This affects the safety of large LHD vehicles, with blind-spots arising from the LHD and the probable inexperience of drivers with these problems.[189]

In the late 1960s, the Department for Transport considered whether to adopt right-hand traffic. The idea was rejected as unsafe and too costly.[190] Consequently, road building standards, for motorways in particular, allow asymmetrically designed road junctions, where merge and diverge lanes differ in length.[191]

Exceptions to the rule[edit]

Traffic driving on the right in Savoy Court in London.

There are some locations in the UK, such as Savoy Court outside the Savoy Hotel, where road routing and layout causes traffic to approximate or mimic right-hand traffic patterns and practice.

Some of the British overseas territories also drive on the other side of the road. During the 1982 Falklands War the Falklands was briefly under Argentina control, with right-hand rule. During the Lockerbie bombing trial of 2000–02, Camp Zeist in the Netherlands was decreed to be British territory subject to Scots law. Dumfries and Galloway police, who were responsible for policing traffic movements within the compound, required drivers to comply with the Continental European practice of driving on the right.

Trains on multiple-track lines in the United Kingdom run on the left, with a few exceptions, notably the personal rapid transit system at London Heathrow Airport's Terminal 5, which runs on the right; and Gatwick's people mover, which has no driving side but instead operates as 2 independent dirails[clarification needed], similar to a 4-rail funicular.

Military fleets and bases[edit]

On some British Army training locations, where the army once trained for conflict in Eastern Europe during the Cold War, traffic is meant to travel on the right. Most military bases in the UK, though, have the normal rule of driving on the left.

Vehicles within United States visiting forces bases in the United Kingdom drive on the left, even though the United States does not provide right-hand-drive vehicles for its green fleet. However, its white fleet does have some right-hand-drive vehicles for elements such as Non-Appropriated Fund activities and UK-only specialist vehicles. Most white fleet vehicles (known as "GSA" or "TMP" vehicles) are shipped over from the United States and are LHD. This is unlike British practice in Germany, where even UK green fleet vehicles for British Forces Germany have been left-hand drive.

During World War II, American truck makers Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge built 'Canadian Military Pattern truck' [CMP] for use throughout the British Empire and most were right-hand drive to use in left-traffic countries.[citation needed]

On the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, traffic drives on the right due to the large US military presence there, even though it is part of the British Indian Ocean Territory.[citation needed]

United States[edit]

All United States states and territories except the US Virgin Islands drive on the right, even though it was under the British Empire. The first keep-right law in the United States, passed in 1792, applied to the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike.[192] New York in 1804 and New Jersey in 1813 also enacted keep-right rules. Only the formerly British colonies historically drove on the left; the historically French, Spanish, Russian and Hawaiian portions of the United States all drove on the right by the time they were annexed by the United States.

Early American motor vehicles were right-hand drive, following the practice established by horse-drawn buggies. This changed in the early years of the 20th century: Ford changed to LHD production in 1908 with the Model T,[193] and Cadillac did so in 1916.

Today, US motor vehicles are LHD, except postal mail vehicles. The USPS purchased Grumman LLVs from 1987 to 1994.[194] Approximately 140,000 LLVs are in the USPS delivery fleet.[195] It replaced the previous standard letter-carrier vehicle, the Jeep DJ. In some areas LLVs have been replaced with minivans.[196] In 2016, the post office awarded the NGDV Prototype Contract to VT Hackney and Workhorse Group Team as one of the six manufacturers to build and deliver prototype vehicles for the NGDV Program.[197]

American drivers nearly always drive on the right and pass on the left, but state traffic laws generally allow for passing on the right if there is sufficient space to the right of the leading vehicle to pass it safely.[198][199] Since this is not usually the case, right-side passing is rare except on multi-lane roads and divided highways, or when passing other vehicles that are preparing to turn left.

General exceptions[edit]

Traffic on the US Virgin Islands drives on the left; thus, the US Virgin Islands is the only American jurisdiction that still has left-hand traffic, because the islands drove on the left when the United States purchased the former Danish West Indies from Denmark in 1917. However, virtually all passenger vehicles are left-hand drive due to imports of US vehicles.

In California, a segment of Interstate 5 near Castaic Lake, north of the Los Angeles area, switches to left-hand traffic as it climbs up the Tehachapi Mountains north towards the Tejon Pass. Because of the terrain, this design allows the southbound (downhill) lanes to have a better grade than the northbound (uphill) lanes, and thus help reduce runaway trucks.[200] A section of Interstate 8 through the Gila Mountains in Arizona also has left-hand traffic because of the terrain. In both cases, the opposing travelways are so widely separated that there is no interaction between the two directions, and motorists are generally unaware of the unusual arrangement.

In North Carolina, a segment Interstate 85 between Greensboro and Charlotte features left hand traffic because a historic bridge is preserved at the rest area in the middle of the segment. The carriageways switch to the opposite sides so that rest areas for both northbound and southbound traffic could have access to the historic bridge, while maintaining the usual configuration of the rest area being to the right of the direction of travel.


Uruguay adopted left-hand traffic in 1918, but as in some other countries in South America, this was changed to right-hand traffic on 2 September 1945. A speed limit of 30 km/h (19 mph) was observed until 30 September in order to avoid major collisions and help ease the public to the change.


In all of Venezuela, traffic drives on the right. There are exceptions within the heavily congested capital, Caracas. In the neighbourhood of Las Mercedes, Calle Caroní is LHT for one block due to oncoming traffic turning into it from the one-way Av. Río de Janeiro. In Los Chaguaramos neighbourhood, Av. Las Ciencias is a LHT street because it connects two one-way streets, Calle Humboldt and Av. Neverí. Within the campus of Universidad Simón Bolívar, which is surrounded by a one-way street, there is a street aptly named Calle Inglesa (English Street in Spanish) because left-hand traffic allows a better flow of traffic 10°24′37″N 66°52′47″W / 10.410312°N 66.879630°W / 10.410312; -66.879630.


Vietnam adopted right-hand traffic when the country was under French rule, and continued after the country was partitioned into North Vietnam and South Vietnam (from 1954 until 1976).


South Yemen, formerly the British colony of Aden, changed to driving on the right on 1 January 1977.[2] A series of postage stamps commemorating the event was issued.[201] North Yemen already drove on the right.


Like most former British colonies, Zimbabwe drives on the left. In 2010, the government attempted to ban left-hand-drive vehicles from the roads, but this decision was overturned by the High Court in 2012.[202]

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