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Driving on the Left/Right

Universal Left / Right-hand driving
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(+2, -5)
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Like it or not, driving on the left in Britain and Ireland appears to be a doomed anachronism from the past. Mainland Europe migrated to an emerging standard of driving on the right, country by country, and numerous nations followed for compatibility with their neighbours in Asia, South America. Surely, some day, the cost of retaining left-hand driving in an increasingly-integrated Europe will be lower than the (admittedly huge) cost of implementing the switch.

Surely it's best to develop a migration path that mitigates the cost of the transition. I propose that, as interim step, Britain and Ireland migrate to driving on the right on weekends, but stay with the left for weekdays, for an interim period yet to be determined. Of course, there would be a great deal of planning involved, training material preparation, etc., but it doesn't look like there's going to be any shortage of available people for that anytime soon. As an example, we could put out-of-work stockbrokers to task making video presentations (preferably using an army of former mortgage representatives as pedestrian extras) of how to negotiate a magic roundabout from the other side of the road.

I know some of you are already crying fowl over public-transport safety and convenience concerns, but British buses already drive in the middle of the road and weave from side to side with a jolly disregard for other vehicles. It would only be a minor change to existing legislation to allow them right-of-way to cross oncoming traffic (so long as they signal) to stop and start at passenger stops on the "old" side of the road, allowing the half-dozen passengers who ever ride a bus on the weekend to continue their pedestrian lives without interruption. I can see some liability concerns on this one, but that's one for the unemployed lawyers to deal with - probably the same ones who developed the "securitisation" model of finance for the City that did so well for so long. They did a good job of ducking that one.

None of this would be cheap, but think of the boost to the economy from the reduced cost of imported cars (the makers could drop RHD production, beneficial even to the Japanese manufacturers) and the expenditure of foreign television crews substituting for the tourists who can't afford to travel anymore. The whole project could even lead a rebirth of tourism from overseas. Local authorities could defray their expenditures by selling off/leasing their remaining tower blocks - the market value of a high-rise appartment is obviously going to rise, for a number of reasons. And there would be spin-off economic benefits in the tourism, mental health, brewing, winery, and stand-up comedy segments of the economy. There would be unexpected savings too. Defence expenditures could surely be cut - who would dare mess with nations capable of such logistics and commitment. And the horses and dogs would have time to adjust, too.

It would probably take a few years to develop the plans to their logical conclusion, at which point the declining birth rate will have kicked in and we'll be less in need of bureaucratic occupations for displaced workers. If there was still a need of things for people to do, we could task them with other worthy tasks... crafting a survival plan for Morris Dancing, as an example. There's an army of potential regulators and implementors available for this kind of work, and they would surely be more gainfully employed in these tasks I propose than they have been in the service and finance industries.

You know it makes sense.

sstvp, Feb 16 2009

Dagen H http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dagen_H
which, if is was scheduled to happen in the morning, could be said to have happened in somewhere east of Barking. [calum, Feb 16 2009]

Wikipedia on RHD and LHD http://en.wikipedia...d_left-hand_traffic
The 'History' part is interesting... [neutrinos_shadow, Jul 23 2009]


       Driving on the other side of the road only on certain days of the week during the transition?? Sounds very dangerous.
paix120, Feb 16 2009

       The reason civilized countries drive on the left is so you can keep your dominant hand on the wheel while changing gears
simonj, Feb 16 2009

       start with the buses and taxis driving on the right and see how it goes...
po, Feb 16 2009

       //the cost of retaining left-hand driving in an increasingly- integrated Europe will be lower than the (admittedly huge) cost of implementing the switch.// So.....
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 16 2009

       //Sounds very dangerous//
coprocephalous, Feb 16 2009

       <apologies to the Irish> [po] - reminds me of the old joke - since the new kph speed limits have been successful, they are now going to get cars to drive on the right. And if that works well, then all the busses and lorries can too. <attI>
MadnessInMyMethod, Feb 16 2009

       Or for even more carnage , drive on the left on odd numbered hours, and on the right on even numbered hours. Synchronise clocks everyone!!
MadnessInMyMethod, Feb 16 2009

       If there were to be an intermediate step, I think that converting the motorways first would be logical ,as you don't have a choice of which side to drive and it doesn't make as much difference which side of the car you are sitting on.   

       When the final change is implemented, you'd have to dram big arrows on the road all over the place to stop people forgetting.   

       Not only do I forget sometimes when I go back home, when I remember driving my first car, my memory has moved me to the other side of the car.
marklar, Feb 16 2009

       It is not worth the fuss. In just fifty years time not only will be not be driving personal vehicles, but the very concept of driving a car to work will be viewed with a certain amount of incredulity and barely-masked disgust.
vincevincevince, Feb 16 2009

       The Japanese drive on the left - a good thing as they make lots of our cars. Just think what a stimulus to the US economy and to US carmakers it would be if the US switched to driving on the left too.
hippo, Feb 16 2009

       They drive on the left i n l e f t h a n d d r i v e cars, for some reason.
By the time the transition occurred, i would think vehicles would be completely automatic or that they would all be bikes and rickshaws.
nineteenthly, Feb 16 2009

       Look, if you want a gradual change from driving on the left to driving on the right, the obvious solution would be to drive in the middle. Am I missing something here?
colorclocks, Feb 16 2009

       //Like it or not, driving on the left in Britain and Ireland appears to be a doomed anachronism from the past// - do some research! how many countries drive on the left? Try these for a start: India, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Australia, Indonesia, Kenya. Maybe it's t'other lot wot should change?
xenzag, Feb 16 2009

       /They [Japan] drive on the left i n l e f t h a n d d r i v e cars, for some reason/   

Texticle, Feb 16 2009

       Well, unsurprisingly i have never been to Japan but in the Japanese TV and films i've seen, people drive left-hand drive vehicles, so please feel free to enlighten me, [texticle].
nineteenthly, Feb 16 2009

       Well, there is a worldwide convention for which side of the sky planes should fly in, so as soon as we all get the flying cars we've been promised, it will be sorted.   

       Edit: it's the right side.
marklar, Feb 17 2009

       I've got a friend who lives in Okinawa. There are a lot of Americans there.
Thanks for the info. There's a scene at the beginning of 'Spirited Away', which admittedly is animation, where Chihiro no father is clearly driving on the left hand side of the road in a left-hand drive car. I could probably think of others but that one stands out.
Road-sweeping vehicles are the other way round from normal here in the UK, France, Spain and Italy. I haven't noticed them elsewhere, but that would seem to be the rule, so they can spot stuff jamming the brushes i suppose.
Your mention of bringing cars over from the US makes me wonder how easy it would be and how much it would cost to drive from the Lower Forty-Eight (as i call it, is that normal?) to Kyushu. You'd have to cross the Bering Straits and the water between South Korea and Japan, but apart from that, would it work out cheaper?
nineteenthly, Feb 17 2009

       [marklar] And boats.   

       Perhaps what we could do is alternate car driving, with boat and plane flying. Every other day, you switch to another form of transportation. This way the routes themselves wouldn't have to change, whilst the citizens grow used to change.
mylodon, Feb 17 2009

       On a British road, the left side is the right side, and the right side is the wrong side.   

       I can't think why people find this so confusing.
Wrongfellow, Feb 17 2009

       Concerning hovercraft, when they crossed the Channel, did that ever become an issue? Are hovercraft left- or right-hand drive, or neither?
nineteenthly, Feb 17 2009

       Since car steering wheels are on the left in countries where people drive on the right, and vice versa, a transition from driving on one side to driving on the other side would involve first making ambidexterous cars.   

       That is, cars whose steering wheels either can be switched between left and right with ease. Alternatively, one could make ambisinister cars, whose steering wheels are smack in the middle of the car.
goldbb, Feb 17 2009

       bigsleep, you would also have to artificially stimulate the sense of balance of the driver, both in the inner ear and in proprioception, or else he or she is going to become motion sick.
goldbb, Feb 17 2009

       The simplest solution is to everyone drive backward for a full year, then, on a given day, turn their cars around and drive forward in the same lane.
ldischler, Feb 17 2009

       19thly - hovercraft drive on the right as they are vessels within the meaning of the International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea. Technically on the ramps they might become land vehicles, but those are operated much like car parking spaces on the land.   

       On most boats and ships the person with the con (The driver) sits / stands on the right hand side, even though ships 'drive' on the right. This gives a clearer view of other vessels crossing from the right, who have right of way.
MadnessInMyMethod, Feb 18 2009

       Town planners in the UK easily solved this particular issue a long time ago, although take-up has been somewhat slower than expected. British urban one-way systems are frequently praised to the skies by local news programmes, newspapers and motoring interest groups and provide an inspiring model for other, less civilised nations.
DrBob, Feb 18 2009

       Wow, [MadnessInMyMethod], you learn something new about hovercraft every day here. So, what about the small ones? If they go across an international boundary, say, between England and France - oh forget it, i'll just look it up.
What about amphibious landing craft?
nineteenthly, Feb 18 2009

       The Japanese buy right-hand drive cars to drive in Japan as a status thing, imported cars have a big import fee and right-hand drive is supposed to show more firmly "I'm rich enough to buy an import and you're not" I asked my Japanese mate so that's straight from the horse's mouth.   

       The more interesting question about Japanese driving is why are there so much low -speed tail-enders, saw two in an hour in picturesque Tsukuba.   

       //The Japanese buy right-hand drive cars to drive in Japan as a status thing//
It's a sheer practicality thing, surely?
coprocephalous, Jul 23 2009

       I'm just wondering if practicality is much of a priority for them, though that's a sweeping generalisation of course.
Low-speed tailenders? Um, cricket? Anagrams? Crunchy vehicles?
nineteenthly, Jul 23 2009

       I know Wikipedia isn't the most reliable source (sometimes), but the article on Right and Left Traffic is linked.
Thinking about it logically, (and as [simonj] mentioned) a RHD car on the left of the road makes more sense, so you can keep your right hand on the wheel while changing gears, fiddling with the radio or aircon, etc (sorry about the 5% left handers out there).
There's also the medieval point of view (which I'd thought of myself before reading the Wiki article): Sitting on a horse, you'd want your sword to be in the open; holding it in your right hand, riding on the left of a trail.
That's my ten cents; if anyone has an equivalently logical reason for driving on the right, I'm all ears.
neutrinos_shadow, Jul 23 2009

       Where there is no pavement and pedestrians walk at the edge of the road, best practice is to walk on the opposite side to the vehicles. So people are supposed to walk on the right in the UK, for example.
The logic is that the pedestrian can see on-coming traffic and try to avoid being run over be reckless vehicles.

       This explains why planes travel on the right - so that cars behave in the same way.
Loris, Sep 20 2010

       According to Wikipedia, 34% of people drive on the left (legally, one assumes).   

       Given that a "majority" would be 51%, and given that 34% is closer to 51% than it is to 0%, it is fair to say that, to a first approximation, the majority of people drive on the left.
MaxwellBuchanan, Sep 20 2010


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