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Dagen H: The day Sweden switched to the right hand side of the road (wikipedia.org)
50 points by philwelch on July 19, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 19 comments

It makes sense in retrospect, but I hadn't realized that (non-high-beam) headlights are asymmetric, to direct more light away from the median, so would have to be switched if changing sides. I guess the asymmetry isn't that noticeable when driving, or else I just haven't been looking for it.

An illustration: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Low_beam_light_patter...

When taking a British car onto continental Europe it was (is?) common to stick special black stickers on the headlights to redirect the beams to avoid dazzling European drivers.

e.g. http://www.care4car.com/productdisplay/productid/36/Headligh...

Indeed, it's still required.

I spent a year driving my English Right-Hand-Drive car on the roads in Spain, so I can sympathize with the Swedes and their worries about head-on collisions. Until you get used to it, it's pretty nervewracking passing oncoming traffic at 140kph and trying not to hit them while driving from the wrong side of the car.

Good practice though. At this point I'm pretty much ambidrivestrous .

As a kid I always thought one headlight looked brighter than the other. It wasn't until I grew up, smashed my headlight, and had to have my headlights reinstalled and readjusted that I learned they were actually aligned asymmetrically.

it's more noticeable on hid/xenon headlights that use projectors with distinct cut-off patterns, as opposed to halogen lights that usually use reflectors:


My favorite detail is that on the day of the switch, the accident rate dropped.

People probably were paying extra attention, and that more than made up for the risk of people forgetting that today was the day.

I imagine having most traffic off the road from midnight to 6am also impacted that as well.

It also mentioned they lowered the speed limit 10MPH, which saw a reduce rate of accidents as well for the two years until the raised the limit again.

>> extra attention

"One German community removes lights and signs in a daring experiment and sees accident rates decline." http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2008/0912/p07s03-woeu....

Der Spiegel found seven affirming examples: http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,448747,00...

That seems quite plausible. If so, it'd be related to the fact that fewer pedestrians are injured while jaywalking than crossing at crosswalks.


I always believed that driving on the left-hand side was safer because, a majority of the world's population is right handed. So, you want your good hand on the wheel, when you are changing the radio or using your stick-shift.

Other than for legacy reasons, right hand driving is harder than left hand. The easiest way to illustrate this is to learn to drive the stick-shift: it is easier on a left hand drive car (with your left hand on the stick-shift) rather than a right hand drive car

I don't think so, but I'm European and I've only learned to drive with manual transmission and on the right side of the street.

I even think it's the other way around: Holding the wheel is easier than changing some setting on the radio, because the latter needs "fine motor skills" whilst the first does not. It's preferable to use the hand with better "fine motor skills" - which in case of right-handed people is the right hand - for more complicated tasks.

I drove stick shift for 2 years in US (right hand) and I drive stick shift in India (left hand). I did not notice any major benefits in either style.

There is kind of a leap between being right handed and that being the best hand to drive with.

When I was young, I drove a tremendous amount--pretty much 10-12 hours a day during the summer. We were wheat farmers, and the majority of that time was spent on a tractor. Because of the way that we went around the field, the right end of the plow started out next to the edge of the field. The best view of this was to sit facing the edge of the field (body turned to the right) so you can easily see ahead as well as the right edge of the plow readily. With a 32-foot plow, some degree of skill is involved in not overlapping already-plowed area (or taking out planted crop during the first round), and not leaving a gap between two rounds.

This meant that I did the bulk of the driving with my left hand, even though I am seriously right-handed.

And the result is that to this day, my left hand knows how to drive a straighter line than my right hand does.

Belgians do it differently. Cars switch side first, then trucks switch a week later.

How does that work out? Won't the cars and the trucks run into each other?

Japan has parts that are left side and other parts are right side.

Saint Thomas VI is all left side driving but all the cars have the driver on the left. As someone said at the rental place, it's so "you can talk to people on the sidewalk!"

They switched the other way in Samoa just last year:


I love the logo. Simple and potent.

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