Does it bother you to rent cars and drive on the left? 50 years ago Sweden changed sides!

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St. Thomas – Reminder drive on left side!

Even though I speak fluent Swedish I still prefer reading in English (probably due to my dyslexia). Thus I like to have resources like TheLocal.se to touch on news bits from Sweden and it seems yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of when the entire country switched over from driving on the wrong side of the road, a.k.a. the left, to the right side of the road! Can you imagine something like that being done today in any country let alone the USA? Personally I think England should follow the lead of the old colonies and switch over as well – don’t you?

Most of us know that not all parts of the US drive on the right. The USVI, for example, are still left hand drive as well as a number of other Caribbean islands also still maintain left hand driving. I think the first time I ever drove left hand side of the road was when I went to Grand Cayman 5 years ago for two weeks of diving free on points. I will admit it did take constant reminders to drive left but I think I got the hang of it rather quickly. The worst part was turning on the wipers when I was trying to use the turn signal (a dead giveaway someone is renting if you see them with wipers on on a sunny day).

While most of the civilized world now drives on the “proper” side we still have to contend with left hand driving if we are going to rent cars in a number of places worldwide (Wikipedia maintains a list for us here).

They installed the steering on the wrong side!

I personally really like the fun of driving on the left now and then. A few years ago my wife and I spent a week driving around England in this little Ford Mondeo and I do admit I embraced my inner “Top Gear” self on some of those back country roads. It was great fun! My only issue was forcing myself not to get in on the passenger side since, for some inexplicable reason, the steering wheel was installed on the wrong side of the car. 😉

But driving on the left can be exhausting mentally after a while and I am always happy to get home and back to the way things naturally should be. And that brings me to my question for you today. Would you rent a car for left hand traffic? Also, in the comments part of the post, would you feel more or less comfortable with a left hand or right hand wheel in the car when you are driving in a country with left hand drive? – René

Would you rent a car for left hand traffic?

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16 comments

  1. Actually, driving on left is safer than driving on the right. Most human are right handed. Thus, react quicker for a threat from the right side rather than left side. Just a tiny split second maybe, but in an accident, those split second could mean life or death.

    Oh well, maybe french revolution has somehow changed priorities of road safety…. lol

  2. I came to Barbados for this long weekend and had to learn. My first time! A little stressing at first but am enjoying it now. I turned on the wipers several times! It took me longer to get used to the round-abouts. You find one every 300-500 meters here! I did have to cheat on DL an had to come on AA with 40K Citi TY Points! DL needs to start flying here! The people are amazingly courteous and kind. The beaches are breathtaking!

  3. I have driven left hand exclusively for years and have refused to drive in the USA simply because my brain will force me to drive in the left lane (and into oncoming traffic).

  4. Australia and The UK weren’t an issue. I would never rent a car in Japan though… luckily there is no need to regardless of what side of the road they drive on.

  5. Fortunately my driver picks me up in a Tesla in HKG so I do not have to show my ineptness for adaptation in driving skills. This also has increased my laziness to learning in case I needed to in the future. ( and yes I frequently attempt to enter the vehicle on the “wrong” side) That said when my “driver” comes to visit in the USA I dread hearing the stories of near misses when he borrows my car to drive around Texas …

  6. Neither my wife nor I have ever owned anything but a stick shift. Interestingly enough, whether a steering wheel is on the left or right, manual transmissions shift in exactly the same pattern. It makes driving on the left an easier transition for those of us used to driving on the right.

  7. Left hand drive is in India and Japan so don’t expect the world to switch. Personally I put a note on the right side of the front widow saying “keep left”. It works but it is more tiring.

  8. Also surprising (but logical) is pedestrians keep to the left in the UK, Japan, etc. and escalators and moving walkways are switched around (so you take the one on the left).

  9. As a mailman in Tucson, I sit on the right and drive on the right. When we went drove around Ireland, I was comfortable in my seat, but still had those wiper/signal issues. And pulling off the road into a parking lot usually found me on the wrong side!

  10. I am, er, “over 50” and I remember reading a magazine article when Sweden made the change. A lot of planning went into doing this including building all of their vehicles with the steering wheel on the left for several years prior so they would be ready. As I recall, they did the change on a Sunday when traffic was lightest.

    As for driving on the left myself, I tend to avoid it but a business trip to South Africa forced me to as there was no reliable public transport available. I found driving in traffic was easiest as the hearding instinct takes over and you just go with the flow. It was the lonely suburban roads where I occasionally found myself turning into the opposite traffic lane.

  11. About a dozen years ago, the wife and I did a vacation in Grenada. We rented a car (SUV) for a day and it was a stick shift with right hand steer. That was a bit weird but not nearly as strange as entering a roundabout from the wrong direction and circling clockwise! Now THAT took some getting used to!

  12. As a European of a certain age, I vividly remember the changing from left to right side The Swedes had to do overnight. It was a very big deal at the time, but I guess the country was very well prepared.
    So, lesson learned ….. it CAN be done overnight !

    Nowadays, both hubby and I have no problems whatsoever switching from left to right and vice versa and actually do it on a very regular basis, whether it’s in Australia, New Zealand (where we keep a camper ready), the UK, Singapore or South Africa.
    No big deal, except when you drive off the (Channel) ferry at Dover – however the road signs will remind you.

  13. Driving on the left in a left hand drive car on unlined streets is the worst.
    Driving on the left in a right hand drive car on lined streets in the UK is easy once you learn the width of your car. Ireland on the other hand can be a real problem is very narrow roads in some places.

  14. Driving on the left was easy. Right turns, without turning into oncoming traffic, was the hard part.

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