2023 Author: Katelyn Chandter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 13:08
How did it happen that there was no general opinion on the question "Where to make the steering wheel"? Distribution of traffic standards in the world.
There is no car enthusiast who at least once has not thought about used "Japanese women" - everyone is good, devils, only the steering wheel is on the right, undignified … But did you know that in Japan, the left-hand drive car we are used to, on the contrary, has a touch of elitism? How did it happen that there was no common opinion in the world on the question “Where to make the steering wheel”?
Before the appearance of the subject of the dispute, mankind spent a long time figuring out which side of the road is better to drive. The answer was determined by two factors: social status and the fact that most people are right-handed. Commoners walked to the right to protect the property worn on the right shoulder. The carriages and carriages also took them to the right when passing - it is easier to pull the reins in the direction of a stronger hand. On the contrary, it is more convenient for foot or horse soldiers to disperse on the left side. In the event of a conflict, the striking hand with a sword is closer to the enemy - and if it does not reach a fight, then the blades hanging on the left on the hips will not hit each other. Since warriors constituted a minority of the population, and weapons on the road were no longer a necessity over time, right-hand traffic gradually began to dominate. By the 18th-19th centuries, traffic flows increased so much that it took a legislative definition of the right side.
Map of the distribution of traffic standards in the world. Red - countries with right-hand traffic, blue - with left-hand traffic. The former is home to about 68% of the world's population.
Foreign historians imagine that the current norm of movement in our country was approved by Napoleon, who conquered (!) Russia. Figures of them with Bonaparte - in 1752, Empress Elizabeth wiped her nose of enlightened Europe by issuing a decree on the movement of carriages and cabs in cities on the right side of the pavement. Four years later, the English Parliament (the first in the Old World) adopted a Bill of Travel on London Bridge on the left side. By the way, the Bill contains the size of the first ever fine for driving into an oncoming lane - 1 pound of silver. The rest of the English roads were sent to the left by the Road Act of 1773.
… and in Britain it is on the left. Photo of London at the end of the 19th century. In the foreground is the prototype of the current gas stations.
It is not known exactly why the sons of Foggy Albion chose a different orientation. Presumably, the principle is taken from the rules of navigation, according to which even now ships at sea diverge on their starboard side. Subsequently, from almost any "leftism" in the world, the ears of the British protruded - in India, Australia, East and South Africa, the countries of the Pacific Ocean. For example, the Japanese fell to the left after the British built the first railroad in Japan by 1872, of course, in their own way. And fourteen years later, the first cars appeared …
Car "Velo" by Karl Benz, 1894. So far, instead of a steering wheel - a steering wheel rotating in a horizontal plane with a handle.
The first horseless carriages were controlled by a lever sticking out of the floor - a "leash". He needed a lot of power, so the driver usually sat on the left. The uncomfortable "leash" in 1893 was replaced by the steering wheel - on the French car "Panhard", created for the Paris - Amsterdam race. You can turn the wheel with two hands, only for this it is better to sit directly behind it, and not to the side - this is how the main control body has shifted to the side of the car. But which one? At first, the steering wheel was placed closer to the edge of the road - on the right for right-hand traffic and on the left for left-hand traffic. So it was easier for the driver to get out, the overtaken horse-drawn carts were better visible (overtaking a car in those days was a rare event). But there were more cars, and oncoming and overtaking cars began to occupy the main attention of the driver. Therefore, he was transplanted. The first model with left-hand drive and correct seating position was the 1908 Ford T.
Quote from Ford's catalog: “The controls are located on the left side, which is logical for the following reasons: when driving on the right side, the steering wheel on the right forces [passengers] to get out of the car into the roadway and go around it. This is uncomfortable and especially embarrassing when it comes to a lady. […] With regard to steering with the steering wheel on the right, the driver is farthest from the oncoming vehicle; with the steering wheel on the left, he can even see the wheels of another car and easily avoid danger."
By the 1920s, the vast majority of cars had a driver's seat on the side of the oncoming traffic. However, there were exceptions. For example, until the 1960s in right-hand Italy, all Lancia models were equipped with right-hand drive - for driving in the mountains. The same principle is still applied in some Italian trucks. In the United States and Canada, mail delivery vehicles still differ from all others by right-hand drive - so that an employee can put a letter in a roadside box without getting out of the car.
Lancia Aurelia GT B20 model 1951. It was more convenient for the driver (and more urgent!) To track the distance to the edge of the abyss, being on the right.
The famous Jeep Wrangler has long been used in the United States to deliver mail to areas with poor roads. The special version of the SUV is included in the limited list of models approved by the US Postal Service for purchase.
And in Sweden until 1967, due to narrow roads and dangerous roadsides, all cars had a European steering wheel, but moved to the left. This created problems when visiting right-handed Norway and Finland, not to mention the rest of Europe. First, the question of the transition was put to a referendum, in which 83% of Swedes said no. Eight years later, the parliament adopted the necessary resolution without asking anyone. Early Sunday morning (04:50) on September 3, 1967, all Swedish cars stopped in unison, carefully crawled to the other side of the road, and continued moving at 05:00.
September 3, 1967 in Stockholm. In cities, the transition process was not so fast - it was necessary to re-equip intersections, repaint the markings and rebalance the signs. Therefore, in Stockholm and Malmö, traffic was closed from 15:00 Saturday for a whole day. Day N was so remembered by the Swedish people that the corresponding warning sign continued its independent existence after the end of the reform.
In the first month, the accident rate dropped to almost zero - the Swedes never drove so carefully. Alas, within two years the number of road accidents returned to the previous level. There was also the only reverse transition in modern history - for better communication with the "Anglophiles" of Zimbabwe and South Africa, Mozambique crossed from right to left.
Sign at the entrance to the Friendship Bridge between left-handed Thailand and right-handed Laos. The bridge was built in 1994 as part of humanitarian aid funded by Australia. The change of sides takes place on the territory of Laos at the prompting of special signal lights.
Countries that do not want to adapt to their neighbors dock different traffic formats at the borders. Where road traffic is low, it may be limited to markings and signs. But on major highways, multi-level interchanges and special bridges have to be built. Many of these structures become true masterpieces of engineering.
An overhead view of the two-level junction after the Lotus Bridge connecting the right-hand mainland China with the left-hand Portuguese enclave of Macau. Right and left are swapped in Chinese territory.
Entry into a left-hand country in a right-hand car (and vice versa) is in most cases legal - according to the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, it is enough that the four-wheeled "horse" complies with the rules of the state where it is registered. True, the convention is not signed by everyone - for example, Oman ignores it. It is much more difficult for the wrong car to get a permanent registration. In Australia, "left-handed" cars are prohibited - those who import them must necessarily spend money on refurbishment. An exception is made for antique cars over 30 years old. New Zealand requires a special permit; the restrictions do not apply to diplomats and … Antarctic researchers, who usually use imported equipment. In Cambodia, right-handed people make up 80% of the vehicle fleet, but in 2001 the government banned them, threatening to confiscate those who did not bring the vehicle into compliance with the law. By the way, changing the steering wheel there costs one or two average annual income. The example of Cambodia is sometimes tried to follow the Russian traffic police, but so far unsuccessfully. The European authorities do not register "right-handed" people in Slovakia and Lithuania.
Since left-handed countries are in the minority, it is customary in them to warn foreign visitors - both drivers and pedestrians - about unusual traffic conditions. On the right is a road sign for the Great Ocean Road in Australia, on the left is a pedestrian crossing near Trafalgar Square in London.
Interestingly, steering wheel wandering does not in any way affect the order of the control pedals - in all countries it is fixed from right to left by the ABC formula - Accelerator Brake Clutch, that is, gas-brake-clutch. Thanks to this, a Russian renting a car in Cyprus, at least in his legs, does not get confused. It is possible that the erasing borders of states, in the end, will lead to a single position of the steering wheel - not without reason, in some concepts, it is again in the middle.