Did you know: about 65% of the world’s population lives in countries with right-hand traffic and 35% in countries with left-hand traffic. Maybe this news will surprise you but these are the statistics.
About 90% of the world’s total road distance carries traffic are on the right and 10% on the left. Right-hand traffic predominates across most of the continental landmasses, while the majority of the world’s island nations and territories drive on the left.
Jurisdictions with left-hand traffic – total: 75 countries, territories and dependencies.
Today road traffic in the following seven European jurisdictions drives on the left: the United Kingdom, Ireland, Isle of Man, Guernsey, Jersey, Malta and Cyprus. None shares a land border with a country that drives on the right and all were once part of the British Empire. Some Commonwealth countries and other former British colonies, such as Australia, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Brunei, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritius, New Zealand, Pakistan, St. Kitts and Nevis, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Trinidad & Tobago drive on the left, but others such as Belize, Canada, Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone drive on the right.
Countries that drive on the left in Asia, but were not former British colonies, are Thailand, Indonesia, Nepal, Bhutan, Macau, East Timor and Japan. In South America, Guyana and Suriname drive on the left. The Falkland Islands, which are a British Overseas Territory drive on the left. Most of the Pacific countries, such as Fiji, drive on the left, in line with Australia and New Zealand, with Samoa joining most recently, on 7 September 2009, the first country for three decades to change the side on which it drives.
Although Japan was never part of the British Empire, its traffic also keeps to the left. This practice goes back all the way to the Edo period (1603-1867) when Samurai ruled the country (same sword and scabbard deal as before), but it wasn’t until 1872 that this unwritten rule became official. That was the year when Japan’s first railway was introduced.
Three countries approached the Japanese government to help them build a railway system. These three countries were America, France, and Britain. In the end, Britain won out. In 1872 the first Japanese railway was up and running thanks to the British. A massive network of railways spread out from there, all of which were left-side running. And as we all know, Japan loves their trains. If American or French railways had been built instead, Japan would probably be driving on the right side of the road today.