TWL #10: The Day Sweden Switched Driving Directions


Hello, I’m Sam, this is my channel, this
is that Wikipedia list, and this… is That Wikipedia List.
September 3rd, 1967: Sweden decides to switch from left to right. Swedish motorists, accustomed
to left-side-of-the-road driving join the growing trend throughout Europe to cross over
to right-side traffic flow. That was a crazy day for Sweden. Prior to 1967, Sweden, much
like many other European countries, drove on the left. Most countries in the world in
fact began driving on the left because that’s how carriages did it and carriages did it
that way because that’s how horses did it. The rule started in the first place because
back in ye-olde-days most would brandish their sword on their right side so when riding they
wanted to be able to respond to an oncoming attacker on the right side. Archeological
evidence proves that left-side riding was norm throughout much of the ancient world.
The shift to right-side riding came when freight wagons got larger. As trade became more common
demand grew so teamsters—the old term for wagon drivers—started adding more and more
horses to pull heavier and heavier loads. There weren’t seats on these wagons so the
teamsters just sat on a horse. Most chose to sit on the back-left horse so they could
whip with their right-hand since the vast majority of people—especially at the time—were
right-hand dominant. Therefore, the teamsters chose to ride on the right side of the road
so that oncoming wagons could pass on their left and they could clearly see that their
wheels were clear. Fast forward 200 years and 65% of the world’s population drives
on the right side of the road, which, as it turns out, is the worse side to drive on.
You see humans are naturally right-side dominant. As we know, the vast majority of the worlds
population is right-handed—about 90%—but the vast majority of the world is also right-eye
dominant. Humans actually do have an eye that works better than the other. For about 70%
of the worlds population thats the right eye. When driving on the left, the right eye will
focus on oncoming traffic while the left will see what’s passing by. This may contribute
to the slightly lower accident rate in left-side driving countries. Anyways, let’s get back
to Dagen H—the name for the day Sweden switched. In 1955 Sweden held a referendum on the issue
of driving directionality and a staggering 83% voted against changing the direction.
The national legislature known as the Riksdag promptly responded by deciding to make the
change. The rational was that every single one of Sweden’s neighbors drove on the right
and most imported cars—which were the cheapest cars—were designed to be driven on the right.
In the months leading up to Dagen H every intersection was outfitted with an extra set
of signals and signs wrapped in black plastic. 8,000 busses were retrofitted with new doors
on the right side and the rest were sold to Pakistan and Kenya. New lines were painted
on the roads then covered in black tape. Milk cartons and underwear with the day’s logo
were sold in stores around the country. Contests were held for songs about the change, then
finally, on September 3rd, 1967 at 3pm the law switched, and the entire country had one
enormous traffic jam as drivers slowly inched across the white line to get to the new normal.
No one died that day on Swedish roads… in fact, nobody died the day after as well. On
the Monday after Dagen H there were only 125 collisions compared to the average of 164.
It seemed that the switch worked. However, by 1969 collision rates were back to normal.
It turned out that the roads were only safer because drivers were more cautious as they
learned the new traffic patterns. I’ll end with an only somewhat related but interesting
tidbit. The Geneva Conventions have a treaty that outlines international rules of the road
including the rule that traffic directionality must be uniform throughout the same country.
The vast majority of countries follow this rule with no problem, however, the good ol’
US of A holds the territory of the US Virgin Islands where all drivers drive on the left,
and therefore the US is technically in violation of the Geneva Conventions which, as the no-longer-existent
country of Yugoslavia knows, is kinda a big deal.
Anyways, I hope you enjoyed this video. Make sure to subscribe to catch more episodes of
That Wikipedia List and other videos I make. You can also follow me on twitter @WendoverPro.
Additionally, you can check out my last video on the secret symbol that stops you from copying
money here or watch an old video of mine on space law here. Lastly, I think it’s worth
mentioning that I’ve been putting out videos far less frequently recently. I work seasonally
in outdoor recreation and summer is a really big time for that so I just don’t have as
much video-making time. Once mid-August rolls along I’ll be back to releasing videos almost
every week.

100 comments

  1. I feel like i should explain why its called "Dagen H" It translates to "The H day" H standing for Höger which is the swedish word for right.

  2. why was this done at 3 PM? It makes no sense to me – would have been better to be first thing in the morning or after midnight

  3. The USA never signed the Geneva Convention, IIRC. We do lots of other, worse things in violation of the Convention too. (The use of napalm and white phosphorous comes to mind. Again, going from memory here, so correct me if I'm wrong.)

  4. 3:48 Agent Orange, white phosphorous, Gitmo, extraordinary rendition, CIA torture, NSA spying, endless covert meddling in foreign governments, Abu Ghraib, routine use of excessive force and chemical weapons on US civilians..

    and now non uniform driving rules? The monsters.

    But seriously though. We should do something about the US.

  5. I’ve been waiting for weeks for the new video to come out until I checked the release date 🤦‍♀️

  6. NO, I vehemently disagree with the notion that the left side driving is better. Whilst the location of the car on the road might be better, I find the interior layout in cars with the driver on the left much more convenient, for example for using the gear lever or the central console.

  7. 1:27 we don't drive in the right side in India. We drive wherever the hell we want and yell at others who are breaking traffic rules. No joke 🇮🇳

  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diverging_diamond_interchange does that come into play for the Geneva Convention?

  9. What I learned from this video is that we should switch traffic direction at a random day every month or so.

  10. I'm right handed but left-eyed. Right eye is legally blind from birth. It feels weird because at times i feel like wanting to use my left hand for things as a result but its terrible at doing it

  11. I think it is better to drive on the right when you have more bicycles need the right eye to look out for the bikes on your right when doing a right turn. left side means more dead bicyclists less dead drivers, so overall less deaths when on the right since cars are safer in a crash than bikes.

  12. Funny story: My father got his driver's license on the day that we switched sides. Meaning he learnt everything driving on the left, but started driving instantly on the right side

  13. It’s nearly impossible for me to drive a Manuel that the steering wheel is on the right and you drive on the left, I have to use my right hand

  14. Im polish and had learned to drive on the right side. Then I moved to UK and after a brief moment where I was crapping my pants while focusing on driving on the left side of the road, when I finally managed to switch completely and drove effortlessly without thinking – I have to say – driving on the left side of the road does seem more… convenient.
    But, I firmly believe that soon this will stop being a thing. Once automatic cars fully roll out whether we drive on the right side or on the left side of the road will stop to matter. Eventually once humans will be banned from driving cars will be using the full lenght of the road and will negotiate in the cloud how to most efficiently pass one another. There will be no more lanes or sides of the road, just a strip of asphalt.

  15. The United States is not the country you want to follow in many respects. Doesn't use the metric system, doesn't use the proper colors for political parties, doesn't like football (soccer)

  16. I seem to remember that as a child I read that France was switching from left to right. I can't find any reference to that now… Did it happen for France, also?

  17. Lmao how you said ”riksdag” It sounded like when us swedes try to speak in a southern american accent in swedish lol.

  18. My grandma told me that she got her drivers license driving on the left side, and then had to relearn as they switched a couple of weeks later.

  19. When my brother and I went to Wales three years ago the hotel owner in Llandudno, hearing we were Swedish, told an anecdote about how he remembered when he saw on TV how everyone in Sweden changed sides at once.

    And then we rented a car and my brother drove on the left side through Wales, which was fun.

  20. This Eye thing is complete bullshit. I focus on stuff with both my eyes and not only with one, so it's completely stupid to say something like that. You can't focus on two thing's at the same time, your left eye doesn't look left and you're right eye doesn't look into the right direction. BOTH you're eyes look at one thing so it's completely bullshit to say "driving on the right side is the ABSOLUTE worst thing because 90PerCeNT of HuMan HavE A beTTeR RiGhT EyE" You're not an fucking lizard

  21. But as a carguy, you want to shift as fast and as precise as possible. And due to the fact that most people are right handed, the right side of the road is the best

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