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Author Topic: Why do we drive on the left?  (Read 2138 times)

Offline thedoc

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Why do we drive on the left?
« on: 08/02/2014 10:30:01 »
Joel Rosner  asked the Naked Scientists:
   
Regarding your recent Naked Scientists podcast, specifically, the segment where someone asked why we do walk on the right or left side [http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/questions/question/1000314/]:

I believe Chris and Dominic made the point that one reason we may walk on the right side of the street is that cars immediately to your left are coming toward you, allowing a pedestrian and a driver easily to spot one another.

Of course, that explanation only applies in the UK and other places where cars drive on the left. In the U.S., on the other hand, cars to the left of the pedestrian come from behind.

An interesting question arises from this as to why we drive on the right or left, and whether someone who drives on on the left would have an easier or more difficult time learning to drive on the right than would a right-side driver learning to drive on the left?

Chris and Dominic also made the point that web designers and others are told to put the most interesting/critical bit of a page on the left side, as that is the part of the page first (and most atttentively) seen by the viewer. For the most part that may be true, but one notable outlier is the New York Times. By tradition, the right-hand column on the front page of that newspaper contains the most important news story of the day, while the left-hand column (generally) contains the second-most important news story.

Joel Rosner

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 08/02/2014 10:30:01 by _system »


 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Why do we drive on the left?
« Reply #1 on: 08/02/2014 11:16:24 »
They say it is safer to walk facing the traffic, but to ride one's bicycle with the traffic, so in the USA, walking on the left side of the road and riding one's bike on the right.  At least in the USA, on a sidewalk, one tends to pass other pedestrians on the same side one drives on, which would be on the right.

Britain and Australia would be the opposite. 

As far as whether or not one is more "natural", I really don't think it makes much of a difference.  Having different driving standards is a bit of a pain for international travel.  They say you can always recognize the Americans who are driving in Britain as they are the ones with the broken left hand mirror. 

Screen layout may be in part due to the language.  European languages are read from left to right and top to bottom.  So, one might put whatever one expects the reader to see first or access first on the top left.  However, that is not the case for all languages, many of which are read from right to left.  So, one might expect to place the critical information on the right for a native Arabic page design.  However, if 3/4 what they see is translated, then they may choose to adopt the European and American style of pages.

MS Word 5 & earlier word processors had the menu on the bottom.  It was a big change when they moved it to the top of the page (Word 5.5). 

I'm used to the start menu and task bar being on the bottom of the page.  But, Gnome puts it at the top by default (thus I don't use Gnome). 

Anyway, one gets used to certain systems, and gets used to looking in a certain place for the information. 

I kind of gave up on Microsoft software a while ago, but I find it annoying that the company has chosen to scramble the menus every few years.  I have  a lot of problems finding anything with their latest incarnation of editors.  However, I suppose that at times it is good to just throw away the old and start fresh.  And, if one gives configuration options, then those people that are stuck in the mud will keep the old system and never learn the new system (I am quick to turn off the Control panel category screen).
 

Offline Aemilius

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Re: Why do we drive on the left?
« Reply #2 on: 09/02/2014 02:38:36 »
Quote
An interesting question arises from this as to why we drive on the right or left....

The reason people drive on the left or the right is simple. If everyone tried to drive in opposite directions up and down the street in the middle it probably wouldn't work out too well.

 

Offline Violent_S

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Re: Why do we drive on the left?
« Reply #3 on: 12/02/2014 17:28:53 »
The reason people in the UK drive on the left is because, in the time of the american revolution commanded by general Washington, they would ride horses on the left so they could use their swords in their right hands to attack each other
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Why do we drive on the left?
« Reply #4 on: 12/02/2014 19:36:43 »
The reason people in the UK drive on the left is because, in the time of the american revolution commanded by general Washington, they would ride horses on the left so they could use their swords in their right hands to attack each other
That makes some sense, although jousting is usually done with riding on the right, I think.. 

Perhaps a more civilized nation would choose to ride on the right, thus lowering the chance of getting stabbed when one rides past each other.
 

Offline Bill S

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Re: Why do we drive on the left?
« Reply #5 on: 23/02/2014 19:18:48 »
Quote
Perhaps a more civilized nation would choose to ride on the right, thus lowering the chance of getting stabbed when one rides past each other.

There is also the consideration that riding on the left presented the clearest opportunity to show the advancing rider that your sword hand was empty; a gesture that gave rise to the right handed hand shake.  Perhaps not all our ancestors were as uncivilized as we sometimes think.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Why do we drive on the left?
« Reply #6 on: 24/02/2014 00:20:14 »
Of course one has to always consider about 10% of the population who are lefties.
 

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Re: Why do we drive on the left?
« Reply #6 on: 24/02/2014 00:20:14 »

 

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