Why do Europeans drive on the right? (All Questions Answered)

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If you’re someone from outside of Europe, you may have wondered why Europeans drive on the right side of the road.

This is one of the most often asked questions among travelers, especially those considering renting a car during their trip.

Being Turkish, I was always used to driving in Turkey on the right side like Europeans, but ever since I moved to Turkish Cyprus (aka Northern Cyprus), it’s now the exact opposite.

Quite strange at first, it has now become a norm for me to drive on the left side with the steering wheel on the right side.

Most of the world drives on the right side of the road, and yet, 76 countries and territories use left-hand traffic.

Romans also used to drive on the left side of the road, like UK

1. Why do most European countries drive on the right, and the UK and most of its old colonies drive on the left?

The practice of driving on the left is believed to date back to ancient Rome.

Romans drove their carts and chariots with the left hand to free up the right so they could use weapons to defend against enemy attacks.

This practice was the norm in medieval Europe, and in 1773, yet, most Europeans now changed right-side driving rules because of Napoleon.

Now only the British and a few other European countries are using left-side driving rules, which is a legacy of the Roman Empire.

History suggests that Napoleon’s conquests are the main reason why Europeans drive on the right side of the road.

French Empire European conquests spread the right-sided driving culture to many parts of Europe. 

It is speculated that Napoleon was left-handed, so he found it easier to attack enemies with the sword with his left hand while riding his horse on the right side. 

For this reason, Napoleon ordered his armies to use the right-hand side of the road in order to avoid congestion during military maneuvers.

In the UK, cars drive on the left side of the road.

The British Empire fought against the French Empire, unlike conquered states of Europe, and did not change their driving rules.

The United Kingdom and its old colonial countries that were once part of the British Empire remained left-side drivers.

Since then, the trend among European nations has been towards driving on the right side of the road.

Most European Countries drive on the right side of the road.

2. Why did Europeans choose to drive on the right side of the road?

As a conqueror of most of Europe, Napoleon’s preference spread throughout the region, including Germany, Switzerland, Poland, and Belgium making the “rightism” standard.

After the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, the resulting countries like Austria, Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and Ukraine switched from left to right.

Over the course of time, more and more European countries switched from left to right. Many of them, like Turkey, adopted the right driving side because all their neighbors drive on the right of the road.

3. Why do Americans drive on the right side of the road?

Researchers also believe that over the course of the 18th century, right-side driving may have become more common due to the introduction of four-horse carriages. 

Instead of sitting on the coach box, the coachmen would sit on the left rear horse to spur his team of horses to the right using a whip in his right hand.

That way, it was more beneficial for carriages to pass on the left, ultimately giving rise to right-side driving.

Besides these major influences, especially after World War 1, more and more countries started to drive on the right side.

Henry Ford’s Model T (1925) has its steering wheel on the left and is suited for driving on the right side of the road.

Yet, America’s driving custom was heavily shaped by Henry Ford’s Model T, which featured the steering wheel on the left, indicating the driver will have to drive on the right side of the road.

After the USA adopted driving on the right side, numerous countries like Canada, Spain, Italy, Scandinavia, and Eastern Europe followed America’s lead.

4. European countries that do not drive on the right

Even though most of the world and nearly all of Europe drive on the right, there were a few countries that didn’t want to join the club.

The United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus, and Malta are the only European countries that do not drive on the right.

All of these island nations are left-side drivers. Furthermore, Ireland, Cyprus, and Malta were former parts of Britain. So it is pretty much self-explanatory why they have the same driving side rule as the UK.

Looking beyond Europe, you will find people driving on the left in countries like Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Japan, India, Thailand, and more. 

Make sure to check the detailed list down below featuring each country of the world and its driving side.

5. Is it better to drive on the left or right?

165 countries and territories drive on the right, while 75 countries and territories drive on the left side of the road. With the vast majority favoring the right side, does it make a difference?

In general, there are no major advantages or disadvantages to either driving on the left or right side of the road. It all depends on what driving style you are used to and what is legally accepted in your country. 

Yet, as a right-handed person, I find it hard to drive on the left side with manual cars. Changing gears with your left hand can be hard and confusing. This was my biggest obstacle.

6. List of all countries of the world and their respective driving side

On this world map, you can see what countries of the world drive on which side. Red-colored countries drive on the right, whereas blue-colored countries drive on the left. Source

You may notice that most left-driving countries are former British colonies, as Britain itself drives on the left side. 

Below, you will find a list of every country and its respective driving sides.

CountryDriving side
AfghanistanRight
AlbaniaRight
AlgeriaRight
AndorraRight
AngolaRight
Antigua and BarbudaLeft
ArgentinaRight
ArmeniaRight
AustraliaLeft
AustriaRight
AzerbaijanRight
BahamasLeft
BahrainRight
BangladeshLeft
BarbadosLeft
BelarusRight
BelgiumRight
BelizeRight
BeninRight
BhutanLeft
BoliviaRight
Bosnia and HerzegovinaRight
BotswanaLeft
BrazilRight
BruneiLeft
BulgariaRight
Burkina FasoRight
BurundiRight
CambodiaRight
CameroonRight
CanadaRight
Cape VerdeRight
Central African RepublicRight
ChadRight
ChileRight
ChinaRight
Hong KongLeft
MacauLeft
ColombiaRight
ComerosRight
CongoRight
DR CongoRight
Costa RicaRight
Ivory CoastRight
CroatiaRight
CubaRight
CyprusLeft
Czech RepublicRight
DenmarkRight
DjiboutiRight
DominicaLeft
Dominican RepublicRight
East TimorLeft
EcuadorRight
EgyptRight
El SalvadorRight
Equatorial GuineaRight
EritreaRight
EstoniaRight
EswatiniLeft
EthiopiaRight
FijiLeft
FinlandRight
FranceRight
GabonRight
GambiaRight
GeorgiaRight
GermanyRight
GhanaRight
GreeceRight
GrenadaLeft
GuatemalaRight
GuineaRight
Guinea-BissauRight
GuyanaLeft
HaitiRight
HondurasRight
HungaryRight
IcelandRight
IndiaLeft
IndonesiaLeft
IranRight
IraqRight
IrelandLeft
IsraelRight
ItalyRight
JamaicaLeft
JapanLeft
JordanRight
KazakhstanRight
KenyaLeft
KiribatiLeft
KosovoRight
KuwaitRight
KyrgyzstanRight
LaosRight
LatviaRight
LebanonRight
LesothoLeft
LiberiaRight
LibyaRight
LiechtensteinRight
LithuaniaRight
LuxembourgRight
MadagascarRight
MalawiLeft
MalaysiaLeft
MaldivesLeft
MaliRight
MaltaLeft
Marshall IslandsRight
MauritaniaRight
MauritiusLeft
MexicoRight
MicronesiaRight
MoldovaRight
MonacoRight
MongoliaRight
MontenegroRight
MoroccoRight
MozambiqueLeft
MyanmarRight
NamibiaLeft
NauruLeft
NepalLeft
NetherlandsRight
New ZealandLeft
NicaraguaRight
NigerRight
NigeriaRight
North KoreaRight
North MacedoniaRight
NorwayRight
OmanRight
PakistanLeft
PalauRight
PalestineRight
PanamaRight
Papua New GuineaLeft
ParaguayRight
PeruRight
PhilippinesRight
PolandRight
PortugalRight
QatarRight
RomaniaRight
RussiaRight
RwandaRight
Saint Kitts and NevisLeft
Saint LuciaLeft
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesLeft
SamoaLeft
San MarinoRight
São Tomé and PríncipeRight
Saudi ArabiaRight
SenegalRight
SerbiaRight
SeychellesLeft
Sierra LeoneRight
SingaporeLeft
SlovakiaRight
SloveniaRight
Solomon IslandsLeft
SomaliaRight
South AfricaLeft
South KoreaRight
South SudanRight
SpainRight
Sri LankaLeft
SudanRight
SurinameLeft
SwedenRight
SwitzerlandRight
SyriaRight
TaiwanRight
TajikistanRight
TanzaniaLeft
ThailandLeft
TogoRight
TongaLeft
Trinidad and TobagoLeft
TunisiaRight
TurkeyRight
TurkmenistanRight
TuvaluLeft
UgandaLeft
UkraineRight
United Arab EmiratesRight
United KingdomLeft (with some exceptions)
United StatesRight (with one exception)
UruguayRight
UzbekistanRight
VanuatuRight
Vatican CityRight
VenezuelaRight
VietnamRight
Western SaharaRight
YemenRight
ZambiaLeft
ZimbabweLeft
A list of every country, which side of the road drivers drive.

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