167: Sweden Switches to the Right Side of the Road

DagenH

Vehicles in Stockholm navigate city streets on the first day of Sweden’s switch from driving on the left side of the road to driving on the right side. (Photo by Jan Collsiöövia Wikimedia Commons).

On September 3, 1967, drivers in Sweden switched from driving on the left side of the road to driving on the right.

Here are a few things you may not have known about what was called Dagen H.

First off, Dagen is the Swedish word for day and the “H” stands of Hogertrafik, or right-hand traffic.

The government of Sweden decided to switch sides because it was the only Nordic country that drove on the left. Norway and Finland, which share land borders with Sweden drove on the right. Most vehicles in Sweden were left-hand-drive vehicles designed to be driven on the right side. This led to many head-on collisions because of poor visibility from the driver sitting on the wrong side. Despite a 1955 referendum in which 83 percent of Swedes voted to keep driving on the left, the government began implementing the change in 1963. Four years of preparations included education campaigns and a song contest. The song that was chosen was “Håll Dig Till Höger, Svensson” or “Keep to the Right, Svensson” by the Telstars

The largest cost associated with the switch was replacing trams with buses and switching out headlights on vehicles so they wouldn’t blind oncoming traffic. On the day of the switch there were only 157 minor accidents reported,. The first Monday after the switch the number of reported traffic accidents  was lower than the previous weeks. The dip in accident numbers is attributed to people paying closer attention after the changeover. Accident rates returned to normal by 1969.

According to WorldStandards.eu, 65 percent of the world drives on the right side of the road. Most of the places that don’t are former British colonies. Japan is one of the few countries without a history of British colonization that drives on the left. Iceland made the switch from left to right in 1968. The most recent country to switch is Samoa in 2009.

Our question, besides Great Britain, name one European country that still drives on the left.

Today is also Independence Day in Qatar, Memorial Day in Tunisia and Merchant Navy Day in the United Kingdom. In the United States it is unofficially National Welch Rarebit Day and U.S. Bowling League Day. It’s the birthday of physicist Carl D. Anderson, musician Al Jardine and actor Charlie Sheen.

Now for our weekly take-home test: What two Norwegian cities have hosted the Winter Olympics? Click here to submit an answer

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Sources

http://www.wired.com/2014/02/throwback-thursday-sweden/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ODZtwkBYPs

http://icelandreview.com/stuff/ask-ir/2012/11/12/why-did-iceland-change-left-hand-right-hand-traffic

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