Why Does India Drive On The Left Side Of The Road?

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Have you ever wondered why in India, we drive on the left side of the road, whereas most of the world drives on the other side.

If you answer that the answer is our former rulers from an island just off the coast of Europe, whose inhabitants call it blighty (the United Kingdom to you and me), you will be correct.

However, to find the reason why almost 65 percent of the world travels on the other side of the road, we'll need to take a journey into a time long gone when old dusty roads had armoured knights on horses running about.

The medieval world was a rather violent and cruel world (think Game of Thrones) and with most of the world being right handed, the right hand held the weapon of choice for most knights.

To ensure that delivering the killing blow with Senor Stabby in case a skirmish broke out (which was quite normal for the times), knights steered their steeds with their left hands and did the greetings (to fellow knights) and beatings (to any idiotic bandit that tried his luck) with their right hands.

The world carried on riding and walking in the left side of the road till the madness that was the French Revolution (1789-99) broke out and the French executed their own king.

To get rid of any link to the hated old Monarchy, the French did away with the old imperial measuring systems and went metric.

The country also decided to switch to the right side of the road, which they then spread to many areas in Europe when Napoleon came to power and decided that waging war and conquering other countries was perfectly normal.

With the spread of colonialism, the European powers spread their customs to most of the world which thanks to the British and their empire still mostly rode around on the left side of the road.

However, that all changed due to the good old USA, when a form of carriage transport that used four horses in a square formation became rather popular.

The carriage ‘driver' rode on the horse that was at the bottom left of the square and whipped the horses into motion with his right hand.

The riding position forced the rider to stick closer to the centre of the road by riding on the right side of the road (the fact that it meant you didn't end up whipping the driver of the other carriage and starting a fight was an added bonus).

The popularity of this form of transport soon spread across the world, furthering the cause favouring driving or riding on the right side of the road.

With the advent of motorised transport ie: the car and America's role in pushing it across the world, vehicles with steering wheels on the left side of the car soon became the norm across the world.

The Brits and the their colonies though stuck to the old ways and that's why in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and of course us in India, we drive on the left side of the road.

Japan, despite never being under the control of the British empire also drives on the left hand side of the road.

This is because, when the country decided to build their national railway system, they used the expertise of British railway engineers, who decided to stick to driving on left-handed tracks just like they did back home.

This was transferred to the roads as well later on.

Read more on: #off beat
Story first published: Tuesday, November 15, 2016, 17:03 [IST]
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