Dagen H

Inspired by a tweet from Mikipedia, I did a little Googling for “Dagen H”, the day that Sweden reversed its traffic from the left side of the road to the right side, 40 years ago:

On September 3, 1967, at 04.50 in the morning, the traffic everywhere in Sweden was directed over to the right side of the road and stopped. Everything stood absolutely still for 10 minutes, and at 05.00, when it started again, all road users in Sweden from heavy trucks to cyclists were already on the right side of the road, and they have stayed there since.

What’s even more amazing is that there were actually less fatalities and accidents during that September than in previous Septembers (although a possible result of people being more alert just after the switch).

But it could be proof that, even the most rigid and essential standards can be reversed if the warning is long enough and well-organized.

17 Comments

  1. You might also be interested in this article from the Guardian; the idea is that by removing “street furniture”, road users are more aware of each other rather than “watching and obeying robots”.

  2. I got my drivers license just a month prior to the switch and remember the buzz, extensive media coverage and the animated debates on pros and cons. Everybody had an opinion, often a very strong one. That September morning the activity was intense: an army of road workers removing the temporary covers of hundreds of thousands new road sign and covering up as many old ones, and every cop on the force were supervising cars and trucks as they changed place.
    Of course it was the right thing to do. For some odd reason we had for fifty years been driving on the left side of the road with the steering wheel on the left! Imagine having to ask the passenger if the road is clear for overtaking a slower vehicle!

  3. My parents talks about this sometimes. Amazing. Gotta love Sweden =P

  4. John says:

    That is wierd that there was less accidents, but it probably is because people were more aware.
    If you’re bored check out the funniest video ever:

  5. Dave S. says:

    See, you guys COULD switch to metric…

  6. Eric Meyer says:

    Reverse standards? Bite your tongue, you heretic! Standards must remain fixed and unchanging forever and ever, amen. To question this obvious truth is just another way of saying you want the terrorists to win. Why do you want the terrorists to win?

  7. That’s interesting. I wonder how many people had cars in Sweden in 1967. Surely not as many as now. Could they do something like that as easily now as smoothly?

  8. They didn’t move “from the left side of the road to the right side”, they moved from the left side of the road to the wrong side.

  9. Gafroninja says:

    That’s a massive switch. I think there were less accidents than before for mainly 2 reasons.
    1) every1 is more alert. it’s a big change.
    2) the steering wheel was on the left side of the car. Here in the UK it’s on the right and driving is on the left. So it works fine. I think if your cars had the steering wheel on the left then it wouldnt be so bad. But that’s a much harder thing to change.
    Excellent information. I never knew swedes changed which side they had driven on.

  10. kristian says:

    the metric system… after moving to the UK, i started carrying this conversion table in my vallet: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tapaninaho/492134250/
    only thing worse than living with in a county using the imperial system is living in a country that can’t make up it’s mind on which to use.

  11. Ludwig Pettersson says:

    .. or it could be proof that us Swedes are just awesome.

  12. Mikael Holm says:

    Jepp. Sweden is awesome (on almost everything)!

  13. The question remains, which side is better?
    Aircraft carriers are built with the superstructure (the control tower, if you will) on the starboard (right) side because pilots tend to veer left if they abort a landing. (Why, I don’t know. Predominant right handedness maybe?).
    If car drivers react the same way, it would mean that drivers would veer to the left, i.e. into the middle of road instead of into the ditch. Good or bad? Normally it is better to stay on the road, but, if there is an 18 wheeler coming the other direction …
    Wonder if any scientific research has been made into car accidents correlated to left/right side driving.

  14. I can just imagine doing the same thing for switching over to metric in the US!
    “Ok everyone, for the next ten minutes… NO ONE MEASURE ANYTHING!”

  15. Just me, the man says:

    interesting information, i live in sweden and had no idea!
    good work! :P

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