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Left-hand traffic (LHT) and right-hand traffic (RHT) are the practice, in bidirectional traffic, of keeping to the left side or to the right side of the road, respectively. A fundamental element to traffic flow, it is sometimes referred to as the rule of the road.

RHT is used in 165 countries and territories, with the remaining 75 countries and territories using LHT. Countries that use LHT account for about a sixth of the world’s area with about a third of its population and a quarter of its roads. In 1919, 104 of the world’s territories were LHT and an equal number were RHT. From 1919 to 1986, 34 of the LHT territories switched to RHT.

Many LHT countries were formerly part of the British Empire, although some were not, such as Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, and Suriname. Conversely, many RHT countries were part of the French colonial empire.

For rail transport, LHT predominates in Western Europe (except Germany, Denmark, Austria, Spain, and the Netherlands), Latin America (except Mexico), and in countries formerly in the British and French Empires, whereas North American and central and eastern European train services operate RHT.

Boats are traditionally piloted from starboard to facilitate priority to the right
According to the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, water traffic is effectively RHT: a vessel proceeding along a narrow channel must keep to starboard (the right-hand side), and when two power-driven vessels are meeting head-on both must alter course to starboard also. For aircraft the US Federal Aviation Regulations suggest RHT principles, both in the air and on water.

In LHT vehicles keep left, and cars are RHD (right-hand drive) with the steering wheel on the right-hand side and the driver sitting on the offside or side closest to the center of the road. The passenger sits on the nearside, closest to the curb. Roundabouts circulate clockwise. In RHT everything is reversed: cars keep right, the driver sits on the left side of the car, and roundabouts circulate counterclockwise.

Source: Wikipedia


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