29.6.12

Driving on the right.


Listening en inglés. Most of the world started to drive on the right in the 20th century.  

   Map of left and right driving countries                         A teamster wagon

In a previous podcast I talked about the time when most of the world drove on the left hand side of the road. Today, however, about three quarters of the world drive on the right. So, why did it change?

Well at first in the USA people, like in the rest of Europe used to ride on the left, although in those days the rules did not seem to be as strict as they are today. But then something happened.

In the the late 18th century the wagons transporting goods became bigger and bigger. They were called teamsters because they had a team of horses pulling them. The driver would typically sit on the rear left horse. This allowed him to easily drive a whole team of horses with the whip in his right hand. So as the driver sat on the left he wanted people to pass him on the left. Result -you drove on the right. Pennsylvania passed the first right hand drive act in 1792

The French Revolution of 1789 gave a huge impetus to right-side travel in Europe. Before the Revolution, the aristocracy travelled on the left of the road, forcing the peasantry over to the right, but after the storming of the Bastille aristocrats preferred to keep a low profile and joined the peasants on the right. An official keep-right rule was introduced in Paris in 1794.

Later, Napoleon's conquests spread the new right rule to Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, then Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Russia and many parts of Spain and Italy.

The states that resisted Napoleon kept left, Britain, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Portugal. This European division, between the left and right-hand nations would remain fixed for more than 100 years, until after the First World War.

Then, during the Second World War that there was another big push towards right-hand driving, especially in Europe. The Nazis forced the counties they had dominated to adopt  the right-hand rule.

When the Pan American Highway from Alaska to Cape Horn was planned in the 1930s it was decided that people should drive on the same side for its entire length. The side that was chosen was the right and this further consolidated right hand drive throughout the Americas.

Vocabulario:
used to - solía
used to ride on the left. - solía conducir a la izquierda.

wagons - carros, carretas

goods - mercancías

rear - trasero, posterior

whip - fusta

impetus - impulso

aristocracy - aristocracia

peasantry - poor people

the storming of the Bastille - la toma de la Bastille

a low profile - un perfil bajo

push - impulso

Curso ingles online. Listening en ingles.




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