Do you know when to drive on the right in London?

Many people become anxious when they have to switch from left-hand driving to right-hand driving. I’ve had people tell me they won’t drive in England because they’re so used to driving on the right. In London, you may need to switch from driving on the left to driving on the right depending on which road you’re in!

It’s not immediately obvious that driving patterns are historical habits that we never shook off.

In the past, pilgrims and crusaders always rode or walked on the left of a path. This allowed right-handed people to draw swords in case of an attack by anyone coming towards them. [2] This is how the habit formed. Horse riders did the same thing and, later, cars respected the “rule of the road” even if sword fighting is no longer that common. 😃

A photo of the Savoy hotel - London, United Kingdom

The Savoy hotel – London, United Kingdom

In Europe, and in the United States, things started to change in the eighteenth century. British carriages always had a seat for the driver designed with the “drive on the left” rule in mind. Carriages and wagons in Europe and the USA did not have a seat for the driver. Instead drivers sat on one of the horses. In cases where two or more horses pulled carriages, the driver would sit on the left-most horse to be able to use his whip in his right hand. Drivers also preferred having oncoming traffic pass on their left to see the wheels of the wagon would be clear of traffic. [2]

And so the only reason we drive on the left or the right is because carriages didn’t have a seat for the driver.

Back to London.

A photo of the Strand where they drive on the right - London, United Kingdom

The Strand where they drive on the right – London, United Kingdom

The whole United Kingdom drives on the left and British influence can be found in all countries that still drive on the left. In London, rather uniquely, there is one street where should drive on the right. This is the Savoy Court which is the short road leading to the Savoy Hotel in London, just off the Strand. The reason is simple: the Savoy Theatre is on the right-hand side of the road. Taxis dropping off passengers there won’t block the entrance to the hotel. [1]

 

Have you seen any unusual driving habits? Tell us about it below!

References

[1] “Why do cars drive on the right at the Savoy hotel?”, Timeout.com, 2012-04-28
[2] Why we drive on the right of the road, Popular Science Monthly, 1935-01

 

 

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