• Aug 25, 2009
Samoan traffic switches sides -- Click above to view the video after the jump

Samoa's prime minister has decided to do something for his constituents who want to buy cheap cars: swap driving from the right-hand side to the left-hand side. The reasoning behind the move is that Australia and New Zealand are Samoa's biggest trading partners, and driving in the same manner they do -- like the English -- will let Samoans buy cheaper cars from the antipodes. Intriguingly, the prime minister also said the switch will help Samoans avoid tsunamis.

It's not exactly a shock to find that more than a few Samoans aren't happy about it. A local attorney has formed a group called People Against Switching Sides, and he was able to get 30,000 petition signatures in a country with just 200,000 people. Samoa's roads are already dangerous, and his reasoning is that this will only mean more injured and killed citizenry, not to mention a huge bill.

The government wants to hear none of it, sticking to its September 7th changeover date and saying it will be a national holiday. If footage a bus full of people traveling the wrong way down a training road is any indication, though, our advice would be to stick to walking. You can watch a video on the reversing maneuver after the jump. Thanks for the tip, Reed!

[Source: Wall Street Journal]




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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 38 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Since more vehicles are built using the RHD system like all of mainland North and South America, most of Europe, the Middle East, China, Russia, and Korea, wouldn't there be a wider selection of affordable vehicles by keeping the RHD system in place? Sounds like change for change's sake or maybe someone in the Samoan government decided that they need to be different from American Samoa.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Eighty-five per cent of cars in Samoa are LHD, so this doesn't make sense aside from the option for Samoans living in Australia and NZ to send their old cars home to relatives, and how often does that happen?

        Samoa has been driving on the right probably since German colonial times and American Samoa drives (I presume) on the right, so it's not about being different.



        • 5 Years Ago
        chconline: You're right, I meant left-hand drive, right-hand traffic.

        Larry: I think you're missing my point. Samoa is currently driving LHD vehicles on the right side of the road, just like American Samoa. What I was suggesting was maybe the government of Samoa is trying to differentiate themselves from American Samoa by switching to driving on the left side of the road. Not the greatest motive for such a change, but national pride sometimes makes people do strange things (like "freedom fries").
        • 5 Years Ago
        You mean LHD and right hand traffic? I think you got the two mixed up.

        "66% of the world's people live in right-hand traffic countries and 34% in left-hand traffic countries. About 72% of the world's total road distance carries traffic on the right, and 28% on the left."
      • 5 Years Ago
      And there are still some odd-ball places on the earth where they're really doing it wrong, like St. John USVI, where they drive on the left, and the steering wheel's on the left, too.
        • 5 Years Ago
        In Japan, there are also cars that have the steering wheel on the left side (Usually expensive German cars). Those drivers don't seem to crash every time they step out on to the road. Personally, I think it's very useful. You get to get out of your car very easily when you park on the curb.
      • 5 Years Ago
      That old Toyota looks like the old Bedford buses from the 1950's.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Personally I think there should be some international standards for the roads. Biggest problem automakers have selling their cars in different countries requires costly overhauling the drivers side along with various safety, identification, and emissions protocols.

      Wouldn't be great if all vehicles had drivers seat&wheel on the same side, and license plates were all the same size and we all followed the same rules of the road? It would greatly improve the auto world.

      Why must a country feel like they need to alienate such simply things like driving?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Finally. I heard about this several months ago. Right hand drive cars driving on the left are actually reportedly safer, because the majority of people are subconsciously right eye dominant, and if they are on the left side of the road, they can use their right eye to look when passing or doing other things. Hey, research even shows that the Romans kept left on their roads so they had to be doing something right. In RHD countries, there are also typically slightly less accidents, so I don't know what this opposition guy is talking about. Most countries switched sides during the 1960's as a further sign of independence, usually from the British. Even the United States used to keep all vehicles on the left, but they changed in the early 1900's. As for the idea that this would help avoid tsunamis, eh, where's the logic on that?
      • 5 Years Ago
      A Toyota Bus. This is a joke, right?
        • 5 Years Ago
        It must be going really fast, cause it's shooting flames from the hood...
      • 5 Years Ago
      I would like to hear more on that avoiding-tsunamis theory...
        • 5 Years Ago
        Tsunamis drive on the right side....
      • 5 Years Ago
      Someone should really point out to the government that there is no need to switch the side people drive on in order to allow them to buy RHD cars.
      • 5 Years Ago
      @Jimbo:

      'Larry: I think you're missing my point. Samoa is currently driving LHD vehicles on the right side of the road, just like American Samoa. What I was suggesting was maybe the government of Samoa is trying to differentiate themselves from American Samoa by switching to driving on the left side of the road. Not the greatest motive for such a change, but national pride sometimes makes people do strange things (like "freedom fries").'

      I really don't think that's likely. There is a large expat Samoan population in Australia and New Zealand looking to send their used cars back home, but RHD cars are still greatly outnumbered by LHD in Samoa itself. That's what is motivating this. I could understand the desire to be distinct from Am. Samoa in this way if they shared a land border, but they don't and I don't think the Samoans are all that concerned about that kind of identity issue. The last time it came up was when Samoa officially changed its name from 'Western Samoa' and American Samoa complained that it made them look less Samoan.

      If expat Samoans want their relatives in Samoa to have cars, they should send money, not cars.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @If expat Samoans want their relatives in Samoa to have cars, they should send money, not cars.

        Exactly. Also, most cars sold in New Zealand are used imports from Japan - why don't the car dealers in Samoa just import directly from Japan - or Singapore? Getting them from New Zealand means that they'd be paying shipping costs and taxes twice over.

        I was in East Timor recently, which changed from right to left after the Indonesian takeover in 1976 - most of the cars are now used imports from Japan or Singapore, with relatively few from Indonesia or Australia.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The weird thing about East Timor is that they must have changed initially from left to right along with Portugal in 1928 and then back again in 1976 to be in line with Indonesia. It might be the only place to change sides twice!
      • 5 Years Ago
      @johnmichael

      I'm left-eye dominant, can I drive on the right side of the road? Seriously. The Romans stuck to the left, but most of their road traveling was done on foot. Those who did right in chariots would use whips in their right hand, so walking on the left was safer as the whip would be coming down to the right (across the body of the user toward the center). Also, sword hands were generally the right so walking on the left kept your sword hand between you and anyone passing by on the other side. We are a bit past that point.

      Again, all US vehicles on the left prior to the turn of the century: the advent of the automobile removed the risk of whip from carriage/wagon drivers, so there was no need to stick left anymore. (Also, sticking left while driving kept the whips on the INSIDE of the road, away from pedestrians.)

      As to Samoa...American postal trucks are RHD and drive on the RH side of the road...why not just say you can import any car that meets safety standards, and disclude what handedness is required. That way you can keep driving on the right and still drive RHD cars! Crazy!
      • 5 Years Ago
      There should have been a world standard for what side of the road cars drove on along time ago. But, changing the side of the road right now over there is just going to cause tons of accidents, I mean that bus didn't car to long on all the arrows painted on the ground and just drove they way it wanted too.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The problem with driving a LHD car on the left is that passing on the right is a real problem. I know several people with RHD British cars here in the US who say it's unerving to try and pass a car, or worse a truck, on a two-lane road.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I have a RHD car in right side driving Canada and it's not a big problem for anyone but my passenger, it helps to have a turbo though :) Most cars you can see around the right side of just as well as you can the left.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I've experienced the same problem but in reverse - a LHD vehicle in the UK. I had the dubious privilege of being the front passenger (too young to drive at the time) who had to take the ticket at car park barriers and so on. Once a guy came up to the RH side of our car to criticize the way my dad had parked our LHD Volvo and was momentarily stunned to find a 9-year-old kid and no wheel on the driver's side ('YOU THINK YOU CAN PARK THAT BLOODY GREAT THING ANYWHERE YOU LIKE EH SUNSHINE WELL I ... oh, sorry').
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