The Universe and Me

Friday, August 18, 2006

Vinstri, hægri

When my niece (who is today heading off to college!) mentioned that they drive on the left in Japan, I thought about how Sweden used to, but decided one day to change. They were the last mainland European nation to do so and finally voted in favour of it because most of the cars built in Sweden were built for right-hand driving and because the countries near them already drove on the right. On back roads, with no clear borders, there wasn’t any way to know when you were entering Norway and Finland and should change sides. The Swedish parliament passed the conversion law in 1963 but it didn’t take effect until 3 September 1967, a Sunday, at 5 a.m. So the people were well prepared. A 30+ page booklet was distributed to every household explaining right side driving. All traffic was prohibited at least four hours (and in some cities up to 48 hours) before and one hour after the conversion. Soldiers helped rearrange the traffic signs. When the roads were opened, a very low speed limit was applied so accidents were lesser than normal. The day was called H-day or "Right Day” or “Dagen H” - the H stands for Högertrafik, Swedish for "right-hand traffic". Not to be left out, Iceland switched from the left side to right side driving on Sunday 26 May 1968.


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