Right-side driving

In the letter “Tips for Driving in Britain” (Aug. ’05, pg. 73), the comment that more people drive on the left side of the road than on the right is incorrect. The latest figures I have seen (from 1996) estimate that about four billion people drive on the right versus two billion on the left. And since the most rapidly “automobilizing” country in the world is China, which drives on the right, the numbers are undoubtedly skewed more heavily in that direction every year.

Denver, CO

ITN contacted the letter writer, who submits that there are more countries in which people drive on the right side of the road than countries in which people drive on the left*, and if you add up their populations, then, on the surface, you can say that more people in the world drive on the right, BUT if you take into account the actual numbers of cars and, hence, drivers, then left-hand-side drivers outnumber right-hand-side drivers worldwide, although developments in China may even things out soon.

Consider, as ITN found, that China, in which people drive on the right, has over 1,200,000,000 people and yet, according to www.economist.com, as of June 2005 the number of private cars in China was about 10 million. Incidentally, with five million cars sold in China in 2004, that country is now the world’s third-largest car market, behind America (17 million sold last year) and Japan (5.9 million — left side) — this after the Chinese government passed laws making auto purchases more difficult.

ITN found conflicting figures on the number of “countries” in which people drive on the right or left side — anything from 139 on the right versus 53 on the left (www.geocities.com) to 164 right vs. 75 left (www.wikipedia.com).