One of the prevailing explanations for this: centuries ago in England, the knights used to ride their horses on the left-hand side of the trail, so as to keep their undefended left side to the bushes, and their right sword hand free to engage the enemy when necessary.
And that could be why traffic in many remaining parts of the British Commonwealth continues to drive on the left-hand side.
But it’s not an easy transition for those of us used to the opposite!
There is a lot of media attention right now in NZ to the issue of allowing right-hand drive tourists onto their roads. Apparently there have been several terrible collisions lately, supposedly caused by tourists, and there is a move afoot to get all visitors to pass a driving test before allowing them on the roads. Probably not very practical to administer, but it is much on the minds of the locals these days.
And in fact, this was one of Peter’s key worries when we travelled here – adjusting to the driving, especially in Auckland where we landed at 5:30am and had our first rental car reserved. So we had already decided to either get our car driven to our downtown hotel by a Hertz employee or else take a taxi there to get a feel for the roads and traffic patterns before driving ourselves.
Our hotel was farther from the airport than we thought and there were no extra Hertz staff working so we ended up taking a taxi. Very fortunately, we got a really nice driver who was very polite and very helpful about the rules of the road. $100 to get to our boutique hotel and, when we got there, it wasn’t open yet! So we decided to get the driver to take us back to the airport and wait until daylight to drive our car back to the hotel. Another $70!
Since we spent both trips talking all the time about the road rules and watching the way traffic worked and the turn patterns, we like to think we did our bit by taking a $170 driving lesson before putting the key in our ignition! Not sure how well it worked because our trip back downtown to our hotel was pretty nerve-wracking and took every ounce of concentration from both of us to get there in one piece. But I honestly don’t think we could have made it all if we had gotten straight into the car and driven out into Auckland traffic, not unless we did the whole drive at 20km/hr (with its own repercussions!)
The adjustment really does require significant effort and I’m sure it takes even longer before emergency reactions are accurate. If a driver does not stay totally alert, it is all too easy to see how quickly a bad collision would occur and why the locals should be so concerned.