A country either drives on the left side of the road, or on the right side of the road, to avoid collisions during bidirectional traffic. LHT or left-hand traffic (colored blue in map above) is the practice of keeping to the left side of the road, while right-hand traffic (RHT) (colored red in map above) is the practice of keeping to the right side of the road, in two-way traffic. Currently, only about 30% of the world's countries and territories implement left-hand traffic (LHT), which accounts for about a sixth of the world's area, 35% of its population and 25% of its roads.
Kenya is one of the 14 countries in Africa that follows the LHT rule. In countries where one drives on the left-hand side of the road, the cars are built so that the driver sits on the right-hand side of the car. The steering wheels of these cars are located on the right-hand side, and they are known as right-hand drive (RHD) vehicles. People go around the roundabouts in the clockwise direction in such countries.
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History of Left Hand Traffic in Kenya
Well before cars were invented, all traffic used to follow the left-hand traffic rule. Most people, being right-handed, found it easier to mount their horses from the left. It made sense to climb from the side of the road rather than from the middle, hence they chose the left-hand rule. At the same time, the right hand would be free for greetings or for defense (by holding a sword).
However, when 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.
The French Revolution also contributed to popularizing the right-hand rule. The farmers in France were previously forced to travel on the right side of the road while the aristocrat travelled on the left side. Post the revolution, travelling on the right side became a symbol of freedom that quickly spread to other European countries.
Nonetheless, the United Kingdom was not affected by this change, being an isolated island nation, just like other island nations, such as Japan and Indonesia.
During colonization, Britain introduced LHT to the Cape Colony (now Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa), Rhodesia, and the East Africa Protectorate (now Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda). Most countries and territories which were formerly British colonies or protectorate – like Kenya – still drive on the left-hand side of the road.
Presently, about 41 countries and territories in Africa follow right-hand traffic (RHT), while only 14 African countries and territories practice left-hand traffic (LHT).
Here is a list of both RHT and LHT following countries in Africa.
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