The more you know

Why do you drive on the left in England?

In England, Australia, Japan and some southern African nations, driving on the left, with the steering wheel positioned on the right: being a clear minority (about 30% of the world’s motorists) it is common thought that these countries have deliberately changed the running direction to stand out from the crowd.

In reality, however, it was not England that changed the driving side, but the remaining 70% of the world!

The choice of the guide on the left has its origins in two explanations, one historical and one scientific / mechanical: already in the Middle Ages the military were forced to keep left, so that they could draw the sword (which they kept on the left side) easily the strongest hand, that is the right hand.

A military custom therefore becomes an obligation after the insistent requests of Pope Boniface VIII: centuries later it will be the revolutionary Robespierre to break this norm, revolutionizing the direction of march as a sign of protest against the Church.

Napoleon himself maintains the custom of the direction of travel on the right: being also left-handed, the military advantages were clearly evident.

The more technical explanation instead concerns the assembly of the first cars: the handbrake is initially installed outside the right side of the cars, which made it necessary to position the steering wheel and driver on the same side. With technological progress, the handbrake moves to the inside of the car, in a central position: to facilitate the use of the stronger hand (the right), the driving position moves to the left.

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