Left- and right-hand traffic

Left-hand traffic (LHT) and right-hand traffic (RHT) are the practices, in bidirectional traffic, of keeping to the left side or to the right side of the road, respectively. They are fundamental to traffic flow, and are sometimes referred to as the rule of the road.[1] The terms right- and left-hand drive refer to the position of the driver and the steering wheel in the vehicle and are, in automobiles, the reverse of the terms right- and left-hand traffic. The rule also extends to where on the road a vehicle is to be driven, if there is room for more than one vehicle in the one direction, as well as the side on which the vehicle in the rear overtakes the one in the front. For example, a driver in an LHT country would typically overtake on the right of the vehicle being overtaken.

Countries by handedness of road traffic, c. 2020
  ↑↓ Left-hand traffic
  ↓↑ Right-hand traffic

RHT is used in 165 countries and territories, with the remaining 75 countries and territories using LHT.[2]

Countries that use left-hand traffic account for about a sixth of the world's land area, with about a third of its population, and a quarter of its roads.[3] In 1919, 104 of the world's territories were LHT and an equal number were RHT. Between 1919 and 1986, 34 of the LHT territories switched to RHT.[4]

Many of the countries that adopted LHT were formerly part of the British Empire, although some, such as Indonesia, Japan, Mozambique, Nepal, Suriname, Sweden (RHT since 1967), Thailand, and the city Macau were not. Similarly, many of the countries that were a part of the French colonial empire adopted RHT.

In LHT, traffic keeps left and cars usually have the steering wheel on the right (RHD – right hand drive). Roundabouts circulate clockwise. RHT is the opposite of this: traffic keeps right, the driver usually sits on the left side of the car (LHD – left hand drive), and roundabouts circulate counterclockwise.

In most countries, rail traffic follows the handedness of the roads, although many of the countries that switched road traffic from LHT to RHT did not switch their trains. Boat traffic on rivers is always RHT, regardless of location. Boats are traditionally piloted from the starboard side to facilitate priority to the right.


Countries with left- and right-hand traffic, currently and formerly. Changes since 1858 when Finland changed to the right are taken into account.
  Drives on the right
  Formerly drove on the left, now drives on the right
  Drives on the left
  Formerly drove on the right, now drives on the left
  Formerly a mix of left and right in various parts of the country, now drives on the right

Historically, many places kept left, while many others kept right, often within the same country. There are many myths that attempt to explain why one or the other is preferred.[5] About 90 percent of people are right-handed,[6] and many explanations reference this. Horses are traditionally mounted from the left, and led from the left, with the reins in the right hand. So people walking horses might use RHT, to keep the animals separated. Also referenced is the need for pedestrians to keep their swords in the right hand and pass on the left as in LHT, for self-defence. It has been suggested that wagon-drivers whipped their horses with their right hand, and thus sat on the left-hand side of the wagon, as in RHT. Academic Chris McManus notes that writers have stated that in the year 1300, Pope Boniface VIII directed pilgrims to keep left; however, others suggest that he directed them to keep to the right, and there is no documented evidence to back either claim.[5]


In a study of the ancient traffic system of Pompeii, Eric Poehler was able to show that drivers of carts drove in the middle of the road whenever possible. This was the case even on roads wide enough for two lanes.[7]:136 The wear marks on the kerbstones, however, prove that when there were two lanes of traffic, and the volume of traffic made it necessary to divide the lanes, the drivers always drove on the right-hand side.[7]:150–155 These considerations can also be demonstrated in the archaeological findings of other cities in the Roman Empire.[7]:218–219

One of the first references in England to requiring traffic direction was an order by the London Court of Aldermen in 1669, requiring a man to be posted on London Bridge to ensure that "all cartes going to keep on the one side and all cartes coming to keep on the other side".[8] It was later legislated as the London Bridge Act 1765 (29 Geo. II c. 40), which required that "all carriages passing over the said bridge from London shall go on the east side thereof" – those going south to remain on the east, i.e. the left-hand side by direction of travel.[9] This may represent the first statutory requirement for LHT.[10]

In the Kingdom of Ireland, a law of 1793 (1793 [33 Geo. 3] c. 56) provided a ten-shilling fine to anyone not driving or riding on the left side of the road within the county of the city of Dublin, and required the local road overseers to erect written or printed notices informing road users of the law.[11] The Road in Down and Antrim Act of 1798 (1798 [38 Geo. 3] c. 28) required drivers on the road from Dublin to Donadea to keep to the left. This time, the punishment was ten shillings if the offender was not the owner of the vehicle, or one Irish pound (twenty shillings) if he/she was.[12] The Grand Juries (Ireland) Act 1836 mandated LHT for the whole country, violators to be fined up to five shillings and imprisoned in default for up to one month.[13]

An oft-repeated story is that Napoleon changed the custom from LHT to RHT in France and the countries he conquered after the French Revolution. Scholars who have looked for documentary evidence of this story have found none, and contemporary sources have not surfaced, as of 1999.[4] In 1827, long after Napoleon's reign, Edward Planta wrote that, in Paris, "The coachmen have no established rule by which they drive on the right or left of the road, but they cross and jostle one another without ceremony."[14]

Rotterdam was LHT until 1917,[15] although the rest of the Netherlands was RHT.

In Russia, in 1709, the Danish envoy under Tsar Peter the Great noted the widespread custom for traffic in Russia to pass on the right, but it was only in 1752 that Empress Elizabeth officially issued an edict for traffic to keep to the right.[16]

After the Austro-Hungarian Empire broke up, the resulting countries gradually changed to RHT. In Austria, Vorarlberg switched in 1921,[17] North Tyrol in 1930, Carinthia and East Tyrol in 1935, and the rest of the country in 1938.[18] In Romania, Transylvania, the Banat and Bukovina were LHT until 1919, while Wallachia and Moldavia were already RHT. Partitions of Poland belonging to the German Empire and the Russian Empire were RHT, while the former Austrian Partition changed in the 1920s.[19] Croatia-Slavonia switched on joining the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1918, although Istria and Dalmatia were already RHT.[20] The switch in Czechoslovakia from LHT to RHT had been planned for 1939, but was accelerated by the start of the German occupation of Czechoslovakia that year.[21] Similarly, Hungary switched in 1941. West Ukraine was LHT, but the rest of Ukraine, having been part of the Russian Empire, was RHT.

In Italy, it had been decreed in 1901 that each province define its own traffic code, including the handedness of traffic,[22] and the 1903 Baedeker guide reported that the rule of the road varied by region.[5] For example, in Northern Italy, the provinces of Brescia, Como, Vicenza, and Ravenna were RHT while nearby provinces of Lecco, Verona, and Varese were LHT,[22] as were the cities Milan, Turin, and Florence.[5] In 1915, allied forces of World War I imposed LHT in areas of military operation, but this was revoked in 1918. Rome was reported by Goethe as LHT in the 1780s. Naples was also LHT although surrounding areas were often RHT. In cities, LHT was considered safer since pedestrians, accustomed to keeping right, could better see oncoming vehicular traffic.[22] Finally, in 1923 Italian Duce Benito Mussolini decreed that all LHT areas would gradually transition to RHT.[22] In spite of this, some Italian heavy commercial vehicles were right-hand drive until the traffic code was changed in 1959.

Portugal switched to RHT in 1928.[1]

Finland, formerly part of LHT Sweden, switched to RHT in 1858 as the Grand Duchy of Finland by Russian decree.[23]

Border sign showing change of traffic direction between Sweden and Norway in 1934
Traffic converts from left to right in Stockholm, Sweden, on 3 September 1967

Sweden switched to RHT in 1967, having been LHT from about 1734[24] despite having land borders with RHT countries, and approximately 90% of cars being left-hand drive (LHD).[25] A referendum in 1955 overwhelmingly rejected a change to RHT, but, a few years later, the government ordered it and it occurred on Sunday, 3 September 1967[26] at 5 am. The accident rate then dropped sharply,[27] but soon rose to near its original level.[28] The day was known as Högertrafikomläggningen, or Dagen H for short.

When Iceland switched to RHT the following year, it was known as Hægri dagurinn or H-dagurinn ("The H-Day").[29] Most passenger cars in Iceland were already LHD.

The United Kingdom is LHT, but two of its overseas territories, Gibraltar and the British Indian Ocean Territory, are RHT. In the late 1960s, the British Department for Transport considered switching to RHT, but declared it unsafe and too costly for such a built-up nation.[30] Road building standards, for motorways in particular, allow asymmetrically designed road junctions, where merge and diverge lanes differ in length.[31]

Today, four countries in Europe continue to use LHT; they are all island nations: the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland (formerly part of the United Kingdom), Cyprus and Malta (both former British colonies).


LHT roundabout
RHT roundabout

LHT was introduced in British West Africa. All of the countries formerly part of this colony border with former French RHT jurisdictions and have switched to RHT since decolonization. These include Ghana, Gambia,[32] Sierra Leone, and Nigeria. Britain introduced LHT to the East Africa Protectorate (now Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda), Rhodesia, and the Cape Colony (now Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa). All of these have remained LHT. Sudan, formerly part of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan switched to RHT in 1973, as most of its neighbours were RHT countries, with the exception of Uganda and Kenya, but since the independence of South Sudan in 2011, all of its neighbours drive on the right. Despite it sharing land borders with two LHT countries, South Sudan has retained RHT.[33] The Portuguese Empire, then LHT, introduced LHT to Portuguese Mozambique and Portuguese Angola. Although Portugal itself switched to RHT in 1928, Mozambique remained LHT as they have land borders with former British colonies. Other former Portuguese colonies in Africa including Portuguese Angola, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Cape Verde switched to RHT in 1928.

France introduced RHT in French West Africa and the Maghreb, where it is still used. Countries in these areas include Mali, Mauritania, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Benin, Niger, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. Other French former colonies that are RHT include Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti, Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo.

Rwanda and Burundi are RHT but are considering switching to LHT (see "Potential future shifts" section below).

North America

In the late 1700s, traffic in the United States was RHT based on teamsters' use of large freight wagons pulled by several pairs of horses. The wagons had no driver's seat, so the (typically right-handed) postilion held his whip in his right hand and thus sat on the left rear horse. Seated on the left, the driver preferred that other wagons pass him on the left so that he would have a clear view of other vehicles.[34] The first keep-right law for driving in the United States was passed in 1792 and applied to the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike.[35] Massachusetts formalized RHT in 1821.[36] However, the National Road was LHT until 1850, "long after the rest of the country had settled on the keep-right convention".[37] Today the United States is RHT except the United States Virgin Islands,[38] which is LHT like many neighbouring islands.

Some special-purpose vehicles in the United States, including certain postal service trucks, garbage trucks, and parking-enforcement vehicles, are built with the driver's seat on the right for safer and easier access to the curb. A common example is the Grumman LLV, which is used nationwide by the US Postal Service.

Parts of Canada were LHT until the 1920s, shown here in Saint John, New Brunswick, 1898

As former French colonies, the provinces of Quebec and Ontario were always RHT.[39] The province of British Columbia changed to RHT in stages from 1920 to 1923.[40][41] New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, changed to RHT in 1922, 1923, and 1924 respectively.[42] Newfoundland, then a British colony,[43] changed to RHT in 1947, two years before joining Canada.[44]

In the West Indies, colonies and territories drive on the same side as their parent countries, except for the United States Virgin Islands. Many of the island nations are former British colonies and drive on the left, including Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and The Bahamas. However, most vehicles in The Bahamas,[45] Cayman Islands,[46] Turks and Caicos Islands[47] and both the British Virgin Islands,[48] and the United States Virgin Islands are LHD due to them being imported from the United States.[48]


The Lotus Bridge exchanges between LHT in Macau with RHT in mainland China.

LHT was introduced by the British in British India (now India, Pakistan, Myanmar, and Bangladesh), British Malaya and British Borneo (now Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore), and British Hong Kong. All are still LHT except Myanmar, which switched to RHT in 1970,[49] although much of its infrastructure is still geared to LHT. Most cars are used RHD vehicles imported from Japan.[50] Afghanistan was LHT until the 1950s, in line with neighbouring British India and later Pakistan.[51]

LHT was introduced by the Portuguese Empire in Portuguese Macau (now Macau) and Portuguese Timor (now East Timor). Both places are still LHT, despite Macau now being part of RHT China, requiring a right-to-left switching interchange at the Lotus Bridge that connects the two. East Timor shares the island of Timor with Indonesia, which is also LHT, although the former (then Portuguese Timor) switched to RHT along with Portugal in 1928[1] before changing back to LHT in 1976 during the Indonesian occupation of East Timor.

China is RHT except the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau. In the 1930s parts of China, like the British Concession of Shanghai, used LHT, as well as northeast China under the Japanese occupation. Nationalist China adopted RHT in 1946, which was preserved when the CCP took the mainland and the KMT refuged to Taiwan.

Taiwan uses RHT since 1946, after the Japanese occupation during which LHT was used.

Both North Korea and South Korea uses RHT since 1946, after liberation from Japanese colonial power.[52]

The Philippines was mostly LHT during its Spanish[53] and American colonial periods,[54][55] as well as during the Commonwealth era.[56] During the Japanese occupation, the Philippines remained LHT,[57] also because LHT had been required by the Japanese;[58] but during the Battle of Manila, the liberating American forces drove their tanks to the right for easier facilitation of movement. RHT was formalized in 1945 through a decree by then-president Sergio Osmeña.[59] Even though RHT was formalized, RHD vehicles such as public buses were still imported in the Philippines until a law was passed that banned the importation of RHD vehicles except for special cases. These RHD vehicles are required to be converted to LHD[60]

Japan was never part of the British Empire, but its traffic also drives on the left. Although the origin of this habit goes back to the Edo period (1603–1868), it was not until 1872 that this unwritten rule became more or less official: the year when Japan’s first railway was introduced, built with technical aid from the British. Gradually, a massive network of railways and tram tracks was built, with all trains and trams being driven on the left-hand side. However, it took another half century, until 1924, that left-hand traffic was clearly written in law. Post-World War II Okinawa was ruled by the United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands and was RHT. It was returned to Japan in 1972 and converted back to LHT first on 30 July 1978.[61] The conversion operation was known as 730 (Nana-San-Maru, which refers to the date of the changeover). Okinawa is one of few places to have changed from RHT to LHT in the late 20th century.

Vietnam became RHT as part of French Indochina, as did Laos and Cambodia. In Cambodia, RHD cars, many of which were smuggled from Thailand, were banned from 2001, even though they accounted for 80% of vehicles in the country.[62]


A sign on the Great Ocean Road, heavily visited by international tourists, reminding motorists to keep left in Australia

Many former British colonies in the region have always been LHT, including Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Tuvalu; and nations that were previously administered by Australia: Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

New Zealand

Initially traffic was slow and very sparse, but, as early as 1856, a newspaper said, “The cart was near to the right hand kerb. According to the rules of the road it should have been on the left side. In turning sharp round a right-hand corner, a driver should keep away to the opposite side." That rule was codified when the first Highway Code was written in 1936.[63]


Samoa, a former German colony, had been RHT for more than a century, but switched to LHT in 2009,[64] making it the first territory in almost 30 years to change sides.[65] The move was legislated in 2008 to allow Samoans to use cheaper vehicles imported from Australia, New Zealand, or Japan, and to harmonise with other South Pacific nations. A political party, The People's Party, was formed by the group People Against Switching Sides (PASS) to protest against the change, with PASS launching a legal challenge;[66] in April 2008 an estimated 18,000 people attended demonstrations against switching.[67] The motor industry was also opposed, as 14,000 of Samoa's 18,000 vehicles were designed for RHT and the government refused to meet the cost of conversion.[65] After months of preparation, the switch from right to left happened in an atmosphere of national celebration. There were no reported incidents.[3] At 05:50 local time, Monday 7 September, a radio announcement halted traffic, and an announcement at 6:00 ordered traffic to switch to LHT.[64] The change coincided with more restrictive enforcement of speeding and seat-belt laws.[68] That day and the following were declared public holidays, to reduce traffic.[69] The change included a three-day ban on alcohol sales, while police mounted dozens of checkpoints, warning drivers to drive slowly.[3]

South America

Crossover bridge near the Takutu River Bridge between Guyana (LHT) and Brazil (RHT)

Brazil was a colony of Portugal until the early 19th century and during this century and the early 20th century had mixed rules, with some regions still on LHT, switching these remaining regions to RHT in 1928, the same year Portugal switched sides.[70] Other Central and South American countries that later switched from LHT to RHT include Argentina, Chile, Panama,[71] Paraguay,[72] and Uruguay.

Suriname, along with neighbouring Guyana, are the only two remaining LHT countries in South America.[73]

Potential future shifts

Rwanda and Burundi, former Belgian colonies in Central Africa, are RHT but are considering switching to LHT[74][75] like neighbouring members of the East African Community (EAC).[76] A survey in 2009 found that 54% of Rwandans favoured the switch. Reasons cited were the perceived lower costs of RHD vehicles, easier maintenance and the political benefit of harmonising traffic regulations with other EAC countries. The survey indicated that RHD cars were 16% to 49% cheaper than their LHD counterparts.[77] In 2014, an internal report by consultants to the Ministry of Infrastructure recommended a switch to LHT.[78] In 2015, the ban on RHD vehicles was lifted; RHD trucks from neighbouring countries cost $1000 less than LHD models imported from Europe.[79][80]

Changing sides at borders

Traffic Switchover sign at the Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge

Although many LHT jurisdictions are on islands, there are cases where vehicles may be driven from LHT across a border into a RHT area. Such borders are mostly located in Africa and southern Asia. The Vienna Convention on Road Traffic regulates the use of foreign registered vehicles in the 78 countries that have ratified it.

LHT Thailand has three RHT neighbours: Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. Most of its borders use a simple traffic light to do the switch, but there are also interchanges that enable the switch while keeping up a continuous flow of traffic.[81]

There are four road border crossing points between Hong Kong and mainland China. In 2006, the daily average number of vehicle trips recorded at Lok Ma Chau was 31,100.[82] The next largest is Man Kam To, where there is no changeover system and the border roads on the mainland side Wenjindu intersect as one-way streets with a main road.

The Takutu River Bridge (which links LHT Guyana and RHT Brazil[83]) is the only border in the Americas where traffic changes sides.

Although the United Kingdom is separated from Continental Europe by the English Channel, the level of cross-Channel traffic is very high; the Channel Tunnel alone carries 3.5 million vehicles per year by the Eurotunnel Shuttle between the UK and France.

Road vehicle configurations

Legality of wrong-hand-drive vehicles by country
  Usage illegal
  Usage legal, but registration illegal or unknown; registration illegal, but usage legal or unknown
  Registration illegal for normal vehicles, with exceptions for special (e.g. diplomatic) vehicles
  Registration and usage legal
  No data

Steering wheel position

In RHT jurisdictions, vehicles are typically configured as left hand drive (LHD), with the steering wheel on the left side of the passenger compartment. In LHT jurisdictions, the reverse is true as the right hand drive (RHD) configuration. In most jurisdictions, the position of the steering wheel is not regulated, or explicitly permitted to be anywhere.[84] The driver's side, the side closer to the centre of the road, is sometimes called the offside, while the passenger side, the side closer to the side of the road, is sometimes called the nearside.[85]

Most windscreen wipers are preferentially designed to better clean the driver's side of the windscreen and thus have a longer wiper blade on the driver's side[86] and wipe up from the passenger side to the driver's side. Thus on LHD configurations, they wipe up from right to left, viewed from inside the vehicle, and do the opposite on RHD vehicles.

Historically there was less consistency in the relationship of the position of the driver to the handedness of traffic. Most American cars produced before 1910 were RHD.[35] In 1908 Henry Ford standardised the Model T as LHD in RHT America,[35] arguing that with RHD and RHT, the passenger was obliged to "get out on the street side and walk around the car" and that with steering from the left, the driver "is able to see even the wheels of the other car and easily avoids danger."[87] By 1915 other manufacturers followed Ford's lead, due to the popularity of the Model T.[35]

In specialised cases, the driver will sit on the nearside, or curbside. Examples include:

  • Where the driver needs a good view of the nearside, e.g. street sweepers, or vehicles driven along unstable road edges.[88] Similarly in mountainous areas the driver may be seated opposite side so that they have a better view of the road edge which may fall away for very many metres into the valley below. Swiss Postbuses in mountainous areas are a well known example.
  • Where it is more convenient for the driver to be on the nearside, e.g. delivery vehicles. The Grumman LLV postal delivery truck is widely used with RHD configurations in RHT North America. Some Unimogs are designed to switch between LHD and RHD to permit operators to work on the more convenient side of the truck.

Generally, the convention is to mount a motorcycle on the left,[89] and kickstands are usually on the left[90] which makes it more convenient to mount on the safer kerbside[90] as is the case in LHT. Some jurisdictions prohibit fitting a sidecar to a motorcycle's offside.[91][92]

In 2020, there were 160 LHD heavy goods vehicles in the UK involved in accidents (5%) for a total of 3175 accidents, killing 215 people (5%) for a total of 4271.[93]

It has been suggested that right-hand drive vehicles, and hence the left-hand traffic direction, are associated with greater safety. As most drivers are right-handed, the dominant right hand remains controlled on the steering wheel while the non-dominant left hand can manipulate gears.[94] The right field of vision may also be more dominant, thereby permitting a superior view of oncoming traffic.

Headlamps and other lighting equipment

Bird's-eye view of low beam light pattern for RH traffic, with long seeing range on the right and short cutoff on the left so oncoming drivers are not dazzled

Most low-beam headlamps produce an asymmetrical light suitable for use on only one side of the road. Low beam headlamps in LHT jurisdictions throw most of their light forward-leftward; those for RHT throw most of their light forward-rightward, thus illuminating obstacles and road signs while minimising glare for oncoming traffic.

In Europe, headlamps approved for use on one side of the road must be adaptable to produce adequate illumination with controlled glare for temporarily driving on the other side of the road,[95]:p.13 ¶5.8. This may be achieved by affixing masking strips or prismatic lenses to a part of the lens or by moving all or part of the headlamp optic so all or part of the beam is shifted or the asymmetrical portion is occluded.[95]:p.13 ¶5.8.1 Some varieties of the projector-type headlamp can be fully adjusted to produce a proper LHT or RHT beam by shifting a lever or other movable element in or on the lamp assembly.[95]:p.12 ¶5.4 Some vehicles adjust the headlamps automatically when the car's GPS detects that the vehicle has moved from LHT to RHT and vice versa.

Rear fog lamps

In Europe since early 1980s,[96] cars must be equipped with one or two red rear fog lamps. A single rear fog lamp must be located between the vehicle's longitudinal centreline and the outer extent of the driver's side of the vehicle.[97]

Crash testing differences

ANCAP reports that some RHD cars imported to Australia did not perform as well on crash tests as the LHD versions, although the cause is unknown, and may be due to differences in testing methodology.[98]

Rail traffic

Handedness of rail traffic worldwide

In most countries rail traffic travels on the same side as road traffic. However, there are many instances of railways built using LHT British technology which remained LHT despite their nations' road traffic becoming RHT. Examples include: Argentina, Belgium, Bolivia, Cambodia, Chile, Egypt, France, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Laos, Monaco, Morocco, Myanmar, Nigeria, Peru, Portugal, Senegal, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tunisia, Uruguay and Venezuela. In Indonesia it is the reverse (RHT for rails (even for newer rail systems such as the LRT and the MRT systems) and LHT for roads). France is mainly LHT for trains except for the classic lines in Alsace–Lorraine,[99] which belonged to Germany from 1870 to 1918 when the railways were built, along with most metro systems. China is primarily LHT for long-distance trains and RHT for metro systems. Spain has RHT for railways but the metros uses LHT (in Madrid and Bilbao trains run completely on the left, while Barcelona metro is mostly RHT, but some LHT). In North America, multi-track rail lines with centralized traffic control are typically signaled to allow operation on any track in both directions, and the side of operation will vary based on the railroad's specific operational requirements.[100]

Metro and light rail sides of operation vary and might not match railways or roads in their country. Apart from the aforementioned Madrid and Bilbao, such systems include those in Buenos Aires, Cairo, Catania, Jakarta, Lima, Lisbon, Lyon, Naples, Rome and Stockholm. In some metro systems (Hong Kong, Seoul, Nizhniy Novgorod) certain lines differ from the majority. Because trams frequently operate on roads, they generally operate on the same side as other road traffic.

Boat traffic

Helmsman's station on a Philippine Marine Corps patrol boat

Boats are traditionally piloted from starboard (the right-hand side) to facilitate priority to the right. According to the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, water traffic is effectively RHT: a vessel proceeding along a narrow channel must keep to starboard, and when two power-driven vessels are meeting head-on both must alter course to starboard also.

Aircraft traffic

For aircraft the US Federal Aviation Regulations suggest RHT principles, both in the air and on water, and in aircraft with side-by-side cockpit seating, the pilot-in-command (or more senior flight officer) traditionally occupies the left seat.[101] However, helicopter practice tends to favour the right hand seat for the pilot-in-command, particularly when flying solo.[102]

Worldwide distribution by country

Of the 195 countries currently recognised by the United Nations, 141 use RHT and 54 use LHT on roads in general. A country and its territories and dependencies are counted as one. Whichever directionality is listed first is the type that is used in general in the traffic category.

Country Road traffic Date of
Notes, exceptions
 Afghanistan RHT Kabul adopted RHT 1955.
 Albania RHT[103]
 Algeria RHT[104] French Algeria until 1962.
 Andorra RHT[105] Landlocked between France and Spain.
 Angola RHT[106] 1928 Portuguese colony until 1975.
 Antigua and Barbuda LHT[107] These Caribbean islands were a British colony until 1958.
 Argentina RHT 10 June 1945 The anniversary on 10 June is still observed each year as Día de la Seguridad Vial (road safety day).[108]
 Armenia RHT[109]
 Australia LHT British colonies before 1901. Includes Australian external territories.
 Austria RHT 1921–38 Originally LHT, like most of Austria-Hungary, but switched sides after the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany.
 Azerbaijan RHT
 Bahamas LHT[73] British colony before 1973. Caribbean island. Most passenger vehicles are LHD due to them being imported from the United States.[45]
 Bahrain RHT November 1967 Former British protectorate. Switched to the same side as its neighbours.[110] An island nation, linked by road to the Arabian mainland since 1986.
 Bangladesh LHT Part of Pakistan before 1971, which was part of British India before 1947.
 Barbados LHT This Atlantic island state was a British colony before 1966.
 Belarus RHT[111]
 Belgium RHT 1899[112]
 Belize RHT 1961[1] British colony before 1981. Switched to same side as neighbours.
 Benin RHT Part of French West Africa before 1960.
 Bhutan LHT Under British protection before 1949.
 Bolivia RHT
 Bosnia and Herzegovina RHT 1918 Switched sides after the collapse of Austria-Hungary.
 Botswana LHT British colony before 1966.
 Brazil RHT 1928 Portuguese colony before 1822.
 Brunei LHT British protection until 1984.
 Bulgaria RHT
 Burkina Faso RHT Part of French West Africa before 1958.
 Burundi RHT Belgian colony before 1962. Considering switching to LHT.[74]
 Cambodia RHT French protectorate before 1953.
 Cameroon RHT 1961
 Canada  Alberta RHT
 British Columbia 1920–1922 Interior changed 15 July 1920, Vancouver and the coastal area 1 January 1922
 New Brunswick 1 December 1922
 Newfoundland and Labrador 2 January 1947 Was a British Dominion until 1949.
 Northwest Territories
 Nova Scotia 15 April 1923
 Prince Edward Island 1 May 1924
 Cape Verde RHT 1928 Portuguese colony before 1975.
 Central African Republic RHT French colonies before 1960.
 Chad RHT
 Chile RHT 1920s
 China Mainland RHT 1946
 Hong Kong LHT Hong Kong was a British colony from 1841 to 1941 and from 1945 to 1997, when the dependent territory was transferred to China.
 Macau LHT Macau was under Portuguese rule until 1999, when the dependent territory was transferred to China.
 Colombia RHT
 Comoros RHT French colony before 1975.
 Congo RHT French colony before 1960.
 DR Congo RHT Belgian colony before 1960. RHD vehicles are common, especially in the southeast.
 Costa Rica RHT
 Ivory Coast
(Côte d'Ivoire)
RHT Part of French West Africa before 1960.
 Croatia RHT 1926 Was then part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.
 Cuba RHT
 Cyprus LHT Under UK administration before 1960. Island nation. De facto divided between the Republic of Cyprus, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, the UN buffer zone and the British base areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia. All are LHT.
 Czech Republic RHT 1939 Switched during the German occupation of Czechoslovakia.
 Denmark RHT Includes the Faroe Islands and Greenland.
 Djibouti RHT French colony before 1977.
 Dominica LHT British colony before 1978. Caribbean island.
 Dominican Republic RHT
 East Timor LHT 19 July 1976 Portuguese colony until 1975. Switched to RHT with Portugal in 1928; under the Indonesian annexation, it was switched back to LHT in 1976. Its LHT status remains to this day.
 Ecuador RHT
 Egypt RHT
 El Salvador RHT
 Equatorial Guinea RHT Spanish colony before 1968.
 Eritrea RHT 8 June 1964 Italian colony before 1942.
 Estonia RHT
 Eswatini LHT British protectorate until 1968. Continues to drive on the same side as neighbouring countries.
 Ethiopia RHT 8 June 1964
 Fiji LHT The island nation was a British colony before 1970.
 Finland RHT 8 June 1858
 France RHT 1792 Includes French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Wallis and Futuna, French Guiana, Réunion, Saint Barthélemy, the Collectivity of Saint Martin, Guadeloupe, and Mayotte.
 Gabon RHT French colony before 1960.
 Gambia RHT 1 October 1965 British colony until 1965. Switched to RHT on 1 October 1965 being surrounded by the former French colony of Senegal.[113]
 Georgia RHT About 40% of vehicles in Georgia are RHD due to the low cost of used cars imported from Japan.
 Germany RHT[114]
 Ghana RHT 4 August 1974 British colony until 1957. Ghana switched to RHT in 1974,[115][116] a Twi language slogan was "Nifa, Nifa Enan" or "Right, Right, Fourth".[117] Ghana has also banned RHD vehicles - it prohibited new registrations of RHD vehicles after 1 August 1974, three days before the traffic change.
 Greece RHT 1926 Originally LHT (albeit unofficially) since independence. The establishment of the traffic code switched traffic officially to RHT traffic in 1926.
 Grenada LHT British colony before 1974. Caribbean island.
 Guatemala RHT
 Guinea RHT
 Guinea-Bissau RHT 1928 Portuguese colony until 1974. Drives on the same side as its neighbours.
 Guyana LHT British colony until 1966. One of the only two countries in continental America which are in LHT, the other being Suriname.
 Haiti RHT French colony until 1804.
 Honduras RHT
 Hungary RHT 1941 Originally LHT, like most of Austria-Hungary, but switched sides during the Second World War.
 Iceland RHT 26 May 1968 This Atlantic island nation changed to RHT on H-dagurinn. Most passenger cars were already LHD.
 India LHT Part of British India before 1947.
 Indonesia LHT[118] Roads and railways were built by the Dutch, with LHT for roads to conform to British and Japanese standards and RHT for railways to conform with Dutch standards. Urban railways also use RHT. Did not change sides, unlike the Netherlands, in 1906.
 Iran RHT
 Iraq RHT
 Ireland LHT Part of the United Kingdom before 1922. An island nation with a land border with the United Kingdom, which is also LHT.
 Israel RHT
 Italy RHT 1924–26
 Jamaica LHT British colony before 1962. Caribbean island. Most passenger vehicles are RHD, tractor-trailers and other heavy-duty trucks are mostly LHD due to being imported from the United States.[119][120]
 Japan LHT[121] LHT enacted in law in 1924. One of the few non-British-colony countries to use LHT. Okinawa was RHT from 24 June 1945 to 30 July 1978.
 Jordan RHT
 Kazakhstan RHT
 Kenya LHT[122] Part of the British East Africa Protectorate before 1963.
 Kiribati LHT This Pacific island nation was a British colony before 1979.
 Kosovo RHT
 Kuwait RHT British Protectorate until 1961.
 Kyrgyzstan RHT In 2012, over 20,000 cheap used RHD cars were imported from Japan.[123]
 Laos RHT French protectorate until 1953. The Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge is LHT in connection to Thailand.
 Latvia RHT
 Lebanon RHT French Mandate of Lebanon before 1946.
 Lesotho LHT British protectorate from 1885 to 1966. Enclave of LHT South Africa.
 Liberia RHT Was under American control.
 Libya RHT Italian Libya colony from 1911 to 1947.
 Liechtenstein RHT Landlocked between Switzerland and Austria.
 Lithuania RHT
 Luxembourg RHT
 Madagascar RHT This island nation was a French colony until 1958.
 Malawi LHT British colony before 1964.
 Malaysia LHT British colony before 1957.
 Maldives LHT This island nation was a British colony before 1965.
 Mali RHT Part of French West Africa before 1960.
 Malta LHT British colony before 1964. Island nation.
 Marshall Islands RHT Was under American control.
 Mauritania RHT Part of French West Africa before 1960. Mining roads between Fderîck and Zouérat are LHT.[124]
 Mauritius LHT This island nation was a British colony before 1968.
 Mexico RHT
 Micronesia RHT Was under American control.
 Moldova RHT
 Monaco RHT Was under French control.
 Mongolia RHT
 Montenegro RHT
 Morocco RHT Under French and Spanish protection until 1956.
 Mozambique LHT Portuguese colony until 1975. Drives on the same side as its neighbours.
 Myanmar RHT 6 December 1970[125] British colony until 1948. Switched to RHT under the orders of Ne Win. Theories emerge on the reasoning behind this switch; one claimed that he met an astrologer that recommended him to switch the country's traffic to the right in order to make the nation prosper, while another claimed that international visits caused him to notice that most countries are RHT and so decided to convert the country's handedness of traffic in order to connect Myanmar's roads with other countries' roads in the future.
 Namibia LHT 1920 When South Africa occupied German South West Africa in the First World War, it switched to LHT. South West Africa was administered by South Africa 1920–1990.
 Nauru LHT 1918 This island nation was administered by Australia until 1968.
   Nepal LHT Shares open land border with LHT India.
 Netherlands RHT 1 January 1906[126] Includes Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten.
 New Zealand LHT[127] These Pacific islands, including territories Niue and Cook Islands, were former British colonies.
 Nicaragua RHT
 Niger RHT Part of French West Africa before 1958.
 Nigeria RHT 2 April 1972 British colony until 1960. Under the military government, it switched to RHT due to being surrounded by RHT former French colonies.
 North Korea RHT 1946 Was LHT during the period of Japanese rule. Switched to RHT after the Surrender of Japan.
 North Macedonia RHT
 Norway RHT
 Oman RHT[128]
 Pakistan LHT Part of British India before 1947.
 Palau RHT Most passenger vehicles are RHD due to them being imported from Australia and Japan. Palau was under American control.
 Palestine RHT
 Panama RHT 1943
 Papua New Guinea LHT After Australia occupied German New Guinea during World War I, it switched to LHT.
 Paraguay RHT 1945
 Peru RHT
 Philippines RHT 1946 Was LHT during the Spanish and American colonial periods. Switched to RHT after the Battle of Manila in 1945.[59] RHD vehicles such as imported buses were still used up until the late 1980s.[129] Philippine National Railways switched to RHT in 2010. Nowadays RHD vehicles are illegal to register and operate for ordinary use under Republic Act 8506 of 1998 however RHD vintage vehicles made before 1960 in "showroom" condition or off-road specialized vehicles are allowed to be used only for motorsports events.[60]
 Poland RHT South-eastern Poland (former Austrian Partition) was LHT until the 1920s.[19]
 Portugal RHT[118] 1928 Colonies Goa, Macau and Mozambique, which had land borders with LHT countries, did not switch and continue to drive on the left.[130] The Porto Metro uses RHT.
 Qatar RHT Former British protectorate. Switched to same side as neighbours.
 Romania RHT 1919 Regions of Romania (Transylvania, Bukovina, parts of the Banat, Crișana and Maramureș) that were part of Austria-Hungary were LHT until 1919.
 Russia RHT In the Russian Far East, RHD vehicles are common due to the import of used cars from nearby Japan.[131] The railway between Moscow and Ryazan, the Sormovskaya line in Nizhny Novgorod Metro and the Moskva River cable car use LHT.
 Rwanda RHT[74] Belgian colony before 1962. Considering switching to LHT.[74]
 Saint Kitts and Nevis LHT This Caribbean island nation was a British colony before 1983.
 Saint Lucia LHT This Caribbean island nation was a British colony before 1979.
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines LHT
 Samoa LHT 7 September 2009 When New Zealand occupied German Samoa during the first World War, switched to LHT for economic reasons: to allow cheaper importation of cars from Australia, New Zealand and Japan.[118]
 San Marino RHT Enclaved state surrounded by Italy.
 São Tomé and Príncipe RHT 1928 Portuguese colony until 1975.
 Saudi Arabia RHT 1942
 Senegal RHT Part of French West Africa before 1960.
 Serbia RHT 1926 (As part of Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes). Vojvodina was LHT while part of Austria-Hungary.
 Seychelles LHT This island nation was a British colony until 1976.
 Sierra Leone RHT 1 March 1971[132] British colony until 1961. Switched to RHT being surrounded by neighbouring former French colonies. Furthermore, it banned the importation of RHD vehicles in 2013.[133]
 Singapore LHT This island nation was a British colony until 1963. It was also part of Malaysia until 1965.
 Slovakia RHT 1939–41 Switched during the German occupation of Czechoslovakia.
 Slovenia RHT 1926 (As part of Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.) Officially LHT from 1915 as part of Austria-Hungary.
 Solomon Islands LHT This island nation was a British protectorate before 1975.
 Somalia RHT The former British Somaliland had LHT until it formed a union with the former Italian Somaliland which had RHT.
 South Africa LHT[134][135] British colony before 1910.
 South Korea RHT 1946 Was LHT during the period of Japanese rule. Switched to RHT after the Surrender of Japan.
 South Sudan RHT 1973 Part of Sudan until 2011.
 Spain RHT 1924 Up to the 1920s Barcelona was RHT, and Madrid was LHT until 1924. The Madrid Metro still uses LHT.
 Sri Lanka LHT Part of British Ceylon from 1815 to 1948.
 Sudan RHT 1973 Formerly Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, it switched sides 17 years later to match neighbours.
 Suriname LHT 1920s Dutch colony until 1975. One of the only two countries in continental America which are in LHT, the other being Guyana. Did not switch sides, unlike the Netherlands itself.
 Sweden RHT 3 September 1967 The day of the switch was known as Dagen H. Most passenger vehicles were already LHD.
 Switzerland RHT
 Syria RHT Was under French control.
 Taiwan RHT 1946 Was LHT during the period of Japanese rule. The government of the Republic of China changed Taiwan to RHT in 1946 along with the rest of China.[136]
 Tajikistan RHT
 Tanzania LHT Was British colony until 1961.
 Thailand LHT[118] One of the few non-British-colony LHT countries. Shares a long land border with RHT Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.
 Togo RHT Part of French West Africa until 1960.
 Tonga LHT British protectorate before 1970. Polynesian island nation.
 Trinidad and Tobago LHT[137] British colony before 1962. Caribbean island.
 Tunisia RHT RHT was enforced in the French protectorate of Tunisia from 1881 to 1956.
 Turkey RHT Except Metrobus, which is usually LHT.
 Turkmenistan RHT
 Tuvalu LHT Formerly a British colony. Became independent in 1978.
 Uganda LHT Part of British Uganda Protectorate from 1894 until 1962.
 Ukraine RHT 1922[19] Western parts of the country had LHT under Austro-Hungarian Empire
 United Arab Emirates RHT 1 September 1966[138] Former British protectorate.
 United Kingdom and territories United Kingdom proper[lower-alpha 1] LHT An island nation with a land border with the Republic of Ireland, which is also LHT. Also LHT are the British Overseas Territories of Anguilla, Ascension Island, Bermuda, Montserrat, Saint Helena, and Tristan da Cunha.
 British Indian Ocean Territory RHT The largest island, Diego Garcia, was leased to the US Navy as a military base; the United States is RHT.
 British Virgin Islands LHT Most passenger vehicles are LHD due to imports from the United States, which is RHT.[48]
 Cayman Islands LHT Most passenger vehicles are LHD due to imports from the United States, which has RHT.[46]
 Falkland Islands LHT Briefly switched to RHT during the Falklands War.
 Gibraltar RHT 1929 Gibraltar is RHT because of its land border with Spain.[139]
 Guernsey LHT Was RHT from 1940 to 1945 due to the German occupation.[140]
 Isle of Man LHT
 Jersey LHT Was RHT from 1940 to 1945 due to the German occupation.[140]
 Pitcairn Islands LHT There is no official vehicle registration system.
 Turks and Caicos Islands LHT Most passenger vehicles are LHD due to imports from the United States, which has RHT.[47]
 United States Contiguous U.S. RHT
 Alaska RHT
 Hawaii RHT
 U.S. Virgin Islands LHT U.S. Virgin Islands, like much of the Caribbean, is LHT and is the only American jurisdiction that still has LHT, because the islands drove on the left when the US purchased the former Danish West Indies in the 1917 Treaty of the Danish West Indies. Most passenger vehicles are LHD due to them being imported from the American mainland.[48]
 Northern Mariana Islands RHT
 Guam RHT
 Puerto Rico RHT
 American Samoa RHT
 Uruguay RHT 9 September 1945 Became LHT in 1918, but as in some other countries in South America, changed to RHT in 1945.[141] A speed limit of 30 km/h (19 mph) was observed until 30 September for safety.
 Uzbekistan RHT
 Vanuatu RHT[142] Co-administered under France and the United Kingdom until 1980.
  Vatican City RHT Enclave of Rome.
 Venezuela RHT
 Vietnam RHT French colony until 1954. The Long Bien Bridge uses LHT.
 Western Sahara RHT Spanish colony until 1976.
 Yemen RHT 1977[1] South Yemen, formerly the British colony of Aden, changed to RHT in 1977. A series of postage stamps commemorating the event was issued.[143] At that time, North Yemen was already RHT.
 Zambia LHT British colony before 1964.
 Zimbabwe LHT British colony before 1965 (de facto) or 1980 (de jure).

Legality of wrong-hand-drive vehicles by country

Legality of wrong-hand-drive vehicles
Country Usage Registration (diplomatic vehicles) Registration (normal vehicles) Ref
 Afghanistan No No No
 Armenia No No No
 Australia Yes Yes Yes
 Bahamas Yes Yes Yes [45]
 Bangladesh Yes Yes Yes
 Belgium Yes Yes Yes
 Bolivia Yes Yes Yes
 Brazil Yes Un­known Un­known
 British Virgin Islands Yes Yes Yes [48]
 Brunei Yes Yes No [144]
 Bulgaria Yes Yes Yes
 Burundi Yes Yes Yes
 Cambodia Yes Un­known No
 Canada Yes Yes Yes [145]
 Cayman Islands Yes Yes Yes [46]
 Chile Yes Yes Yes
 China Yes Yes No [146]
 Cyprus Yes Un­known Un­known
 Dominican Republic Yes Yes Yes
 DR Congo Yes Yes Yes
 Ethiopia Yes Un­known Un­known
 Finland Yes Yes Yes
 France Yes Yes Yes
 Georgia Yes Yes Yes [147]
 Germany Yes Yes Yes [148]
 Ghana Un­known Un­known No
 Gibraltar Yes Yes Yes
 Greece Yes No No
 Guernsey Yes Un­known Un­known
 Guyana Yes Un­known Un­known
 Hong Kong Yes Yes No [149]
 Hungary Yes Yes Yes
 India Yes Yes No
 Iran Yes Un­known Un­known
 Ireland Yes Un­known Un­known
 Israel Yes Un­known Un­known
 Italy Yes Un­known Un­known
 Japan Yes Yes Yes
 Jersey Yes Un­known Un­known
 Kazakhstan Yes Yes Yes
 Kenya Yes Un­known Un­known
 Kyrgyzstan Yes Yes Yes [123]
 Laos Yes Un­known Un­known
 Lithuania Yes Yes Yes [150]
 Macau Yes Yes Yes
 Malaysia Yes Yes No
 Malta Yes Un­known Un­known
 Micronesia Yes Yes Yes
 Mongolia Yes Yes Yes
 Myanmar Yes Un­known Un­known
   Nepal Yes Un­known Un­known
 Netherlands Yes Yes Yes
 New Zealand Yes Yes Yes
 Nigeria Yes Yes No
 North Korea Yes Yes Yes
 Northern Cyprus Yes Un­known Un­known
 Norway Yes Yes Yes
 Pakistan Yes Un­known Un­known
 Palau Yes Yes Yes
 Paraguay Yes Yes Yes
 Peru Yes Yes Yes
 Philippines Yes Yes No [60]
 Poland Yes Yes Yes [150]
 Romania Yes No No [151]
 Russia Yes Yes Yes [131]
 Rwanda Yes Yes Yes
 Saudi Arabia No No No
 Sierra Leone No No No [133]
 Singapore Yes Yes Yes [152]
 Slovakia Yes Yes Yes
 Somalia Yes Un­known Un­known
 South Africa Yes Yes No
 South Korea Yes Yes Yes
 South Sudan Yes Un­known Un­known
 Spain Yes Un­known Un­known
 Suriname Yes Un­known Un­known
 Taiwan Yes Yes No [153]
 Tanzania Yes Un­known Un­known
 Thailand Yes Yes No
 Turkey Yes Un­known Un­known
 Turks and Caicos Islands Yes Yes Yes [47]
 Uganda Yes Un­known Un­known
 Ukraine Yes Yes No
 United Arab Emirates Yes Yes Yes
 United Kingdom Yes Yes Yes
 United States Yes Yes Yes
 U.S. Virgin Islands Yes Yes Yes [48]
 Vietnam Yes Yes No
 Zambia Yes Yes Un­known

According to the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, which mostly covers Europe, if having a vehicle registered and legal to drive in one of the Convention countries, it is legal to drive it in any other of the countries, for visits and first year of residence after moving. This is regardless if it does not fulfil all rules of the visitor countries. This convention does not affect rules on usage or registration of local vehicles.

See also

Explanatory notes

  1. Contains  England, Northern Ireland,  Scotland, and  Wales.


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