Which Countries Drive on the Left Side of the Road?

If you’re traveling and want to drive a car or ride a motorcycle in another country, you should know which side of the road you’ll be driving on. Moreover, you should pay close attention to what other drivers do and how going to left-driving countries affects the driving dynamic. Check out which countries drive on the left side of the road and pilot right-hand drive cars. 

Which countries drive on the left? 

Here are some of the major countries that drive on the left-hand side of the road:

  • The United Kingdom
  • Ireland
  • Australia 
  • New Zealand 
  • India
  • Japan
  • Thailand
  • Kenya
  • South Africa
  • Jamaica

However, this is just a small segment of the countries with a road orientation that puts drivers on the left. According to Statista, 76 countries around the world have a leftward orientation when it comes to roads and highways. Many former colonies of the once-expansive British Empire maintain that left-driving orientation, but several have since adopted driving on the right-hand side. Still, only four countries in Europe maintain a leftward orientation.  

How many countries have left-hand drive?

Many countries, including the United States of America, produce left-hand drive vehicles to work on roads where drivers stick to the right-hand side of the road. The United States isn’t alone, though; Statista says 163 countries drive on the right-hand side of the road. 

Conversely, the countries that drive on the left side typically have standardized right-hand drive vehicles for access and visibility purposes. If you ever drive a right-hand drive car on the right side of the road, you’ll quickly understand why it would be tricky. For instance, passing a vehicle on a divided road in a passing zone is dangerous if you can’t see around a truck or other vehicle. 

Many countries drive on the left side of the road using right-hand drive vehicles.
A right-hand drive vehicle in Australia | Tim Graham, Getty Images

Why does Japan drive on the left?

Japan, although it was never a territory of the British Empire, Japan is a left-driving country. The popular explanation for Japan’s orientation is the ease of mounting horses for riders during the “Edo” period from 1603 to 1867. Most riders were right-handed, meaning easier access from the left. 

According to Tofugu, Japan codified the decision in 1872, around the time that it adopted a railroad system. However, the rail system design was British, and the complimentary road system followed suit. As a result, Japan is one of the major countries in the world without British Imperial roots that drives with a leftward orientation.

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Why do Americans drive on the right?

According to Reader’s Digest, one of the principal reasons behind American road orientation is Henry Ford’s 1908 Model T. The motor carriage had its steering wheel on the left, which derived influence from multiple-horse carriages where the driver sat on the left side horse at the back. 

For a complete list of which countries drive on the left-hand side of the road, check out World Standards. It features a color-coded map and a list of countries for travelers to reference. 

Have you ever driven in any of these left-driving countries? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below!