IN his continuing search for the more weird and wondrous in this world, David Ellis says that when Sweden decided to change to driving on the right side of the road 49 years ago this month, over 80% of drivers opposed the idea saying it would result in roadway carnage.
After all, they argued, Swedes had been driving on the left side of the road since the first horses and buggies hit the streets 233 years before in 1734.
But with all neighbouring countries driving on the right-hand side of the road, and the majority of Sweden’s vehicles being left-hand drive imports, the government swept aside public opposition, and decreed in 1963 that driving on the right-hand side of the road would become law at 5am on September 3 1967.
A massive education program was initiated called Dagen H (Dagen meaning “day” and H for Hogertrafik “right-hand traffic.”) Dagen H logos were printed on everything from milk cartons to bras, 130,000 Dagen H reminder signs erected along roadways nationwide, and Dagen H stickers slapped on anything that moved.
One-way roads, crossings, roundabouts and flyovers had to be redesigned, and 360,000 road signs were changed country-wide. Traffic lights were reversed and road lines repainted during the night before the change-over– and buses had to have new passenger doors cut into their right-hand sides.
Then on September 3 only essential vehicles were allowed from 0100 to 0600, with these forced to stop at 0450, and at 0500 to cross carefully to the other side of the road.
And on the first “working Monday” after, there were 125 non-fatal traffic accidents nationwide – compared with 198 normally.
CHANGING from driving on the left-hand side of the road to the right-hand side had its confusion for drivers in Sweden in 1967, but the country survived.