Should Britain be driving on the right?

September 7, 2009

SAMOA/Much to their annoyance, Samoans are having to get used to driving on the left from this week.

The switch is the idea of Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who says it will be more economical for Samoans to buy new and used cars from Pacific neighbours Australia and New Zealand.

It is the first time for some 40 years since a country has switched driving sides — Sweden made the change in the late 1960s.

The (possibly untrue) story was told at the time of the transport minister of an African country that was also thinking of switching, who was asked how he planned to make the change from left to right. He answered: “gradually.”

Britain looked at the idea of conforming with Europe after Sweden’s move but the logistics were so forbidding that nothing ever came of it. Apart from changing all the road signs, there were huge problems with motorway junctions, changing the side of bus doors, switching traffic lights and so on. It would have cost billions.

But the idea of Britons being able to take their cars through the Channel tunnel and seamlessly join the continental road system without having to have the front-seat passenger as a white-knuckle advisor on potentially fatal overtaking decisions remains attractive to many.

Do you think Britain missed the boat? Should we have made the switch to driving on the right? Could we still?

9 comments

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Hmm. The continent is a long way away. I can’t see the point in going there at all, never mind driving my own car. I always found it more economic to fly, then hire a car.

Posted by Richard Downing | Report as abusive

No we shouldn’t – my steering wheel is on teh right for a start and that would make overtaking at speed and the associated accelerated burning of fossil fuels extremely dangerous!!!

Posted by Ian J | Report as abusive

Having driven in most countries in the world,I found that driving in the shade was the most comfortable.

Posted by John McQuiggin | Report as abusive

Didn’t studies in the 60s show driving on the left had considerably lower accident rates? Forget the details but it might have been because most people are right handed and can get to keep that hand on the steering wheel continuously.

Posted by Roger | Report as abusive

Anyone who can’t drive safely on either side of the road in any vehicle depending on the country they’re in shouldn’t be driving in the first place.

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive

Britain must keep driving on the left as long as Japan does (in order to keep the costs of well-engineered right-hand-drive cars down). It is also a great way of avoiding the influx of some of the battier continental idiosyncracies – priorité a droite, for one.

Posted by Andrew Muir | Report as abusive

Surely the answer is to develop cars that have controls that can be interchangeable allowing the current infrastructure to remain intact at no cost to those who don’t travel abroad.
Those who want to travel abroad may simply adapt their vehicles if and when they need to.
Martin P

I would imagine that as most countries drive on the left it might as well stay there. ANd the other letter about using the right hand to hold the steering wheel is sensible too.
You thought everyone drove on the right!!!!!????? Come to ASIA.

Posted by tim | Report as abusive

Re tim – most countries don’t drive on the left, about 75 countries drive on the left & about 165 drive on the left. The two big continents making the bulk of the roads US & Europe drive on the right. But as for Britain, its best to stay left as the cost of switching & our taxes going up is unthinkable!

Posted by Dilip | Report as abusive