People in Malawi drive in the left-hand lane when there is bidirectional traffic. This is known as the Left-Hand Traffic (LHT) rule. About 35% of the world population drives on the left, and the countries that do are mostly former British or Portuguese colonies.
In Africa, only 14 countries practice left-hand traffic (LHT) for their roads, while 41 countries and territories implement right-hand traffic (RHT).
LHT countries almost always use RHD vehicles. The steering wheels of these cars are located on the right-hand side, and hence they are known as right-hand drive (RHD) vehicles. The driver here sits on the right side of the car, and roundabouts work in clockwise direction. Overtaking is usually done from the right, and it is not permitted to stop on the right-hand side of the road facing oncoming traffic.
History of LHT
In the past, almost everybody travelled on the left side of the road because that was the most sensible option for safety reasons. Since most people were right-handed, swordsmen preferred to keep to the left in order to have their right arm nearer to an opponent, and free to hold a sword. Furthermore, they found it easier to mount their horses from the left, as wearing a sword on the left made it difficult to do otherwise. Since it was safer to mount and dismount towards the side of the road, rather than in the middle of traffic, it made sense to ride the horse on the left side of the road.
In the late 1700s, however, teamsters in France and the United States began hauling farm products in big wagons pulled by several pairs of horses. These wagons had no driver’s seat, and the driver sat on the left rear horse to be able to lash the team with his right hand. Since he was sitting on the left, he kept to the right side of the road.
In addition, the French Revolution of 1789 gave a huge impetus to right-hand travel in Europe. Before the Revolution, the aristocracy travelled on the left of the road, forcing the peasantry over to the right. Post the revolution, the aristocrats preferred to keep a low profile and joined the peasants on the right. Soon, travelling on the right side became a symbol of freedom that quickly spread to other European countries.
Also, as Napoleon came to power, he began changing the left-hand rule to right-hand to suit his own requirements. As he was left-handed, he preferred to stay on the right side of the road with his sword in his left-hand, ready for attack or defense. So he introduced the right-hand system in countries or territories he conquered.
Napoleon’s conquests spread the new right-hand traffic rule to Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany, Poland and many parts of Spain and Italy. The states that resisted Napoleon like Britain, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Portugal, kept left.
Left-hand driving became mandatory in Britain in 1835. Countries which were part of the British empire followed suit. This is why to this day, India, Pakistan, Australasia and the former British colonies in Africa like Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe, go left.
All these countries use RHD vehicles for their roads. You can find a wide selection of affordable RHD vehicles on Caryanga.com – Malawi’s leading online automotive portal. The site offers not just vehicles, but also insurance, loans and spares for your vehicles at pocket-friendly prices. So, the next time you think of cars, bikes, or trucks, visit Caryanga.com for the best deals from the comfort of your home!
Below is a list of African countries and the side of the road on which they drive.
Countries that follow LHT in Africa:
2 Eswatini (Swaziland)
10 South Africa
Countries that follow RHT in Africa:
4 Burkina Faso
7 Cape Verde
8 Central African Republic
11 Côte D'Ivoire
12 Democratic Republic Of Congo
15 Equatorial Guinea
31 Republic Of Congo
34 Sierra Leone
36 South Sudan
38 São Tomé And Príncipe
41 Western Sahara