This change was not without its critics. Pressure groups, including People Against Switching Sides (PASS), set up protests and challenged the decision in the country’s Supreme Court. Bus drivers were angry that the change left their doors opening on the wrong side, into traffic, and taxi companies were worried that their left-hand-drive fleets would have little resale value once the new law came into place.
On the morning of the switch, the police reported no accidents and the transition was thought to be a success. Some protests took place, but these abated. A two-day national holiday and a three-day ban on alcohol sales were implemented to help residents adjust and to reduce the likelihood of accidents.
Samoa is one of a handful of countries to make such a change. Famously, Sweden moved to the right in 1967, bringing the Scandinavian country in line with its closest neighbours and pretty much every other country (apart from us) for thousands upon thousands of kilometres. In places like Canada and Italy, where driving regulations varied between internal regions, nationwide laws emerged over the first half of the 20th Century.
Reasons behind a country’s driving conventions stem from the political history of the area and often have their roots in colonialism. Many former British colonies still drive on the left, as does Japan.
There have been efforts to make Great Britain drive on the right, a move that would bring it in line with its European neighbours. The Department for Transport considered such a switch after Sweden did so in the Sixties, though ultimately rejected the idea. How this might change in the future – with both political upheaval and a changing technological landscape – remains to be seen.
Should Britain follow Europe’s lead (and that of most other countries) and drive on the right? Or is the cost of changing simply not worth it? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.