When Did Americans Start Driving on the Right Side of the Road?

February 27th, 2019 by

Why Americans Drive on the Right Side of the Road

Here in the United States, we drive on the right side of the road and don’t give it a whole lot of thought. But did you know that America was the place of origin for driving on the right side of the road? This is an interesting bit of history that we are excited to share with you!

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Why the Left Side was Originally Used for Driving

Before we explain why Americans chose to use the right side of the road, we need to go across the pond and explore the roads originally built by the Romans in the days when horses were used for transportation and the left side of the road was utilized. Like most folks today, the right hand is dominant, and travelers could easily pull out their weapons while keeping their horse under control if they met danger while on the road. Or if they met a friend, they could easily shake each other’s hands.

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When Did Americans Start Using the Right Side of the Road?

Contrary to popular belief, Americans did not start the practice of right-side driving as another form of rebellion during the Revolutionary War, though it did originate in the same century. The reason behind the switch was the increasing use of the Conestoga wagon. This wagon was large, very heavy (and actually not preferred for the Oregon Trail because of this), and did not have a driving seat. The owner usually walked on the left side of the driving team (oxen or horses) to help guide them. In the case of horses, the driver might ride on the wheel horse (the horse that was at the rear end of the team and on the left side), which also allowed him or her to efficiently manage the animals. Because of this and the fact that the wagon was so big, right-sided driving became official in the 1790s, and would stay in place as American transportation went from wagons to automobiles.

Eventually, most other places in the world followed suit except for Japan, the South Pacific, and Great Britain (and its former colonies in Africa and Asia). If you have never experienced left-side driving, we urge you to travel to one of these countries and try it out. It’s interesting, to say the very least!

Thank you for reading and we hope that you enjoyed this little bit of trivia!

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