The map above shows which countries drive on the wrong side of the road. Those marked in red drive on the right and those in blue drive on the left. Your opinion about which is the correct side to drive on, likely depends on where you live.
Looking at the map, it’s clear that driving on the right is far and away the most common choice. 65% of the world’d people live in countries that drive on the right. Combined theses countries account for 90% of global miles driven.
Here are just a more observations:
- The world’s most populous country (China) drives on the right.
- The world’s two largest economies (United States and China) both drive on the right.
- The world’s five largest countries by area (Russia, Canada, China, United States and Brazil) all drive on the right.
As for those who drive on the left:
- The most populous is India, which is set overtake China as the world’s largest from 2028.
- The largest economy is Japan, the 3rd largest in the world.
- The largest by area is Australia, which while only the 6th largest, is also a continent.
- A majority of island nations drive on the left.
For the most part, those that drive on the left are either former British colonies or countries with strong economic ties with former British colonies. The major exception being Japan.
Three major regions stand out:
- Oceania including Indonesia where Australia remains the largest economy.
- The southern part of Africa where South Africa is the dominant economic power.
- The Indian subcontinent which of course was a British colony.
Guyana (former British colony) and Suriname (former Dutch colony) are the two countries in South America that still drive on the left.
Interestingly, in Europe only Cyprus, Ireland, Malta and the UK still drive on the left. So, while Britain’s former colonies can often shape what side of the road people drive on, Britain itself can’t do the same with most of its closest neighbours.
Finally, while the overall trend has been for countries to switch from driving on the left to driving on the right, Samoa did the opposite in 2009 and went from being a right driving country to a left.
Thus, either switching to driving on the right or wrong side of the road.
For the definitive history of driving on the right vs left you should read:
Have any thoughts about driving on the left vs driving on the right? Please leave them in the comment section below:
Not right, not wrong, just different 🙂
David Holland White IV says
Which countries do not drive to the right or to the left of the street?
David Holland White IV says
What happens if the countries of the European Union drives only on the left?
I am from Belgium. We drive on the right side. I used to live in Zambia for a while, where they drive on the left. Going there wasn’t much of a problem. It takes a little while to adjust, but no big deal. The hard part was coming back to Belgium and having to drive on the right side again. There was like a big conflict between adjusting again and old habits. This included banging my left had against the door in trying to get to the gear shifter to being completely lost in what direction to take on a roundabout. I survived, though had a couple of close shaves…
Phoenix Davenport says
The brits are correct for driving on the left, in the medieval days a knight would be on the left as most where right handed, thus he could pull his sword and swing for the enemy on the opposite side.
Myanmar (formerly Burma) was a British colony until 1948, and drove on the left until 1970, when it changed sides. It is said that in 1970 the ruler of the country at that time, General Ne Win, ordered everyone to start driving on the right side of the road, on the advice of a wizard. However, virtually every vehicle is right-hand-drive, since there are still many old cars and buses driving around and almost all the modern cars are second-hand imports from Japan. You can still even see old traffic lights in downtown Rangoon on the wrong side of the road. http://www.worldstandards.eu/cars/trivia-about-driving-left/
We drive on the correct side. You pass each other on your right – the hand most people hold a sword with.
That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.
Is it? The Romans also rode on the right, and just consider most people are right-handed, not left-handed.
David from McKinnon says
Same reason you train a dog to be on your left, you have your gin in your right supposedly.
David from McKinnon says
Typo, not Gin, GUN. But either I guess.
Why? I thought that horse whips were also held in the right hand. It was supposed to be that you could defend yourself on the highway.
Most people are right-handed so keeping your right hand on the steering wheel whilst changing gear with the left will reduce the likelihood of accidents. The rest follows and I rest my case 🙂
PS. The brake handle on horse-drawn wagons also used to be on the right because most people are right-handed. That really doesn’t apply anymore.
PPS. Don’t even mention automatics.
PPPS.The above is not meant to imply that you should all start driving on the left – please wait until the rest of your country does.
That is not logical. What side of a horse do you mount ? BUSTED. The future all traffic will follow logic not…. You figure it out…
While Australia is the only entire continent driving on the left and North America is the only Continent were every one drives on the right. At least in Australia everyone use the same measure for distance and speed. So driving on the left wins because of simplicity. lol. This article claims that 65% of people live in countries driving on the right, but is the most cars in the world right or left hand drive? just because China is the largest population does not tell me that all of them own cars.
Sara Leiste says
When I have traveled to left-sided driving countries, I usually adapt pretty quickly. The things that get me in trouble:
1. Very light traffic. When EVERYONE is following a particular system, it’s easy to just follow the crowd. But, when there are very few cars on the road, my brain defaults to a right-handed driving system.
2. Dogs in the passenger seat. For a split second, I forget which side the controls are on, and I jump to the conclusion that the dog is driving. It doesn’t bother me to see an empty passenger seat though.
Most of the right handed driving occurred from first & second world wars or earlier wars to break ties with British Rule (eg US) or the result of European dictators invading other European countries that drove on the left and making them switch throughout history (eg Hilter, Napoleon, Russia). Even parts of Canada remained a left driving country until 1949. The move for many countries of the world to drive righthanded is fairly recent (eg in last 100 years, some as recent is in the 1960s swapped from left to right. Sweden voted against it but still did it. The UK considered swapping to the right in the 60s but it was deemed too expensive and for political reasons.
Harry potter says
Stop whining and just follow the world!
Johnny B Good says
Using that logic, tell USA to be METRIC
Kieran Todd says
Couldn’t resist the pathetic dig at the British, could you? The Brits actually drive on the correct side of the road (most people being right-handed). Americans drive on the incorrect side of the road.
I normally drive up the middle. Well it does say tear along the dotted line on my driving licence.
Neil Howard says
The Industrial revolution, which was spawned in the North of England, brought about a huge increase in trade initially across the UK, then across the countries administered by the UK. In the UK the tracks that served as the “roads” between communites had ruts formed in them by carts and horse traffic. This fact split the tracks into a rut used to proceed in one direction and a rut used to proceed in the other direction. The users of these tracks and ruts where mainly right handed. So a driver of a cart had to drive his horses and by drive I mean use a whip to “encourage” his horses to progress as fast as possible. This meant that a whip, of considerable length, had to have free movement alongside the cart to the horse. As the driver was mainly a right handed man the whip was used on the Right hand side of the cart. and as the tracks were through wood lands and hedges a whip had to be kept clear of such obstructions as branches , hedges etc. Hence to achieve this the cart was mainly on the left hand side of the track so leaving the right hand side of the cart to be clear of obstrutions for the whip. This set the pattern for when the design of a car developed to have a driver and passenger. The driver was on the right and the passenger on the left.
What exactly made other countries drive on the right to me is a mystery and there must have been many downsides of initially driving on the right not withstanding the whip and right hand driver which must have been the original default until some bright spark decided to drive always on the right
Barry Chuckle says
The first recorded instance of a side of the road was in Rome, the same as all the areas Marked Blue on the map. Rome invented it, Rome did it correctly, all the red is going against the initial creation of a road side.
Ulf T says
Of course we should drive on the right side. I mean, saying “right is wrong” is like saying “war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength”.
Ed Hitchcock says
Left driving has the longest history. Most right-driving had its origins in revolutions or pressure from dictators or for doing like neighbours. Hence most island nations drive left.
Many countries have default give-way-to-right rules, including right drive countries like France. In left-drive countries, roundabouts work automatically under such rules (right of way to traffic already on roundabout). Right drive countries need give-way-to-left to make roundabouts work, hecn special signs needed.
Right-driving has the advantage that it is less intuitive, so drivers need be more careful. Confusion is a great way to encourage caution. So keep on doing it.
So you also mount a horse on the right ?
Nick Caspar says
When you’re left handed none of this means a damn thing. I have had to deal with all kinds things made for the right handed majority all my life and I can manage. But I guess being left handed and driving on the right is the best of both “worlds”?