Cambodia drives on the right-hand side of the road, much like 70% of the world’s countries and territories. It is known as right-hand traffic (RHT). RHT is the practice of keeping to the right side of the road, in bidirectional traffic, as opposed to left-hand traffic (LHT), in which people drive on the left-hand side of the road.
While RHT is more popular in the world and is used in 165 countries and territories, the remaining 75 countries and territories follow LHT. Countries that use LHT account for about a sixth of the world's area with about a third of its population and a quarter of its roads.
The steering wheels of the cars in RHT countries are usually located on the left-hand side, and they are known as left-hand drive (LHD) vehicles. The driver is seated on the left side of the car, and uses his/her right hand to shift the gears. People circulate in counterclockwise direction at roundabouts. Overtaking is usually done from the left, and it is not permitted to stop on the left-hand side of the road facing oncoming traffic. Most traffic signs facing motorists are on the right side of the road in such countries.
The road and direction signs in Cambodia are written in both Khmer and English, for the convenience of tourists.
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History of RHT
The reasons for driving on different sides of the road are historical. Earlier, all traffic used to follow the left-hand traffic rule. As most people were right-handed, they 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 braced 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 earlier 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.
However, the United Kingdom was not affected by this change, being an isolated island nation, just like other island nations, such as Japan and Indonesia.
The French introduced RHT to its colonies in Africa and Asia, while the British and Portuguese colonies followed LHT. Since Cambodia was a French protectorate, it also began following the right-hand traffic rule. However, 80% of the vehicles were RHD in Cambodia till they were banned in 2001.
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