Sweden’s Dagen H – Leaving the Brits Left to Go Right

3 Sep
2012

Forty five years ago today, Sweden switched it’s traffic from left hand side (like in the UK) to the right side of the road. After all, Sweden’s Scandinavian neighbors were on the right side of the road, most of Europe was on the right side of the road (props for Britain being the special one), and Swedish cars had left hand steering.

That’s right, errr, left. Saab and Volvo built their cars with left hand steering for drivers who drove on the left side of road.

You would think with a double blind spot, there would be a myriad of accidents. That was the government said. That was what all the campaigns said. “Switch to the right side of the road, and we’ll have less accidents.”

That worked for four years from Dagen H when traffic accidents fell. Then it was business as usual for cars to smash into each other again. And still remains today.

Göteborg on Dagens-H via GP

The campaign to switch Sweden to the right side of the road battled for more than forty years. And for forty years the people voted for against the measure. In 1955 through a public referendum, the measure lost 15.5% to 82.9%. More than two million Swedes said no to the right side. They wanted to be cool like the Brits.

But in 1963, the Riksdag voted for the switch. They created a new commiteee, Högertrafikkommission, to oversee the switching of every road sign, bus stop and traffic signal in the country. Dagen H {Right hand side traffic diversion} was the H-Day for Sweden to make history.

And Högertrafikkommission had four years to teach the country how to make the switch. From logoing the “H” on women’s underwear to pasting info on milk cartons, Swedes were bombarded with the new regulations.

At 5AM on September 3rd, 1967, Sweden made the switch. No one was run over and cars didn’t fall into the rivers. Overall, it was a success. Even Olaf Palme was estatic on September 3rd, “Fantastiskt! Kan någon tänka sig, att svenska folket upplevde en revolution för bara några timmar sedan.”

So was the government right {left}? Do Swedes miss being like the British or should island people stay on the wrong side of the road?

{Photograph by Jan Collsiöö / Public Domain}

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