If you have been driving in India all your life and have to relocate to the US all of a sudden, you are in for some real inconvenience, at least for a few days. If you have not yet guessed what exactly we are talking about, it is the fact that Indian vehicles have their steering wheel on the right side of the car while American vehicles have it on the left. You have probably noticed it innumerable times but never took the time to question the logic behind it. Well, we are here to tell you.
It might come as a surprise to you that most countries of the world drive vehicles that have their steering wheel on the left. India is one of the few countries apart from Japan, Britain and Australia that has vehicles with a steering wheel on the right. Well, the reason for India following this practice was the colonial effect.
We were under British rule for more than 200 years and it was the British who introduced motorcars in the country. Like a lot of other British practices that we have imbibed due to the colonial rule, we have also adopted the practice of installing the steering wheel on the right side like the British did and still do.
Now, coming to why Americans have their wheels on the left side, the origins can be traced to the pre-automobile days, 18th century America when teamsters used to be popular. Teamsters were people who steered horse-driven wagons and used to sit on top of one of the horses themselves because of lack of space.
Since most people are right-handed, the teamsters would use the crop or whip in their right hand, meaning they needed to sit on the left-hand horse. It only made sense to arrange traffic so that drivers were on the right side of the road because the majority of teamsters were most at ease whipping with the right hand and riding on the left-hand horse. Drivers are closer to the centre lines and can better gauge their distance from approaching traffic when they are on the left side of the car and the right side of the road.