Go Left!

September 8, 2009

via Telegraph.co.uk

An amazing thing happened yesterday on the other side of the world.   At 5:55 AM local time, all the drivers on the road in Samoa stopped.  Listening to their radios broadcasting an address by Prime Minister, Toleafoa Faafisi, they took a breath and then switched to the left side of the road and drove on.  This is all according to plan.  The Samoan government has decided to up end a hundred years of driving policy and become a left-side-of-the-road country.  To aid the transition there has been a two day National holiday and alcohol sales are restricted for the week.  Signs have been changed, the roads re painted and police check points are reminding drivers to go slowly.

The motivation behind all this is complex but many of the reports I’ve scanned this morning cite checking the American auto import market as a major impetus.  I like that one so I’m running with it.  Samoas nearest big neighbors are New Zealand and Australia, both of which use left side driving.  But currently Samoans are much more likely to drive imported American cars which are more expensive to bring in and … being American … much less fuel efficient and much more road hoggish.  This driving shift will make it easier for Samoans to tap into the second hand car market of their down under cousins.  Of course the environmental implications aren’t all positive.  Some groups fear that the change will result in a countryside full of abandoned right side cars.  However I choose to say – hooray.  Lets keep the world from adopting short sighted American car fads and then lets get America to pedal back from our SUV mistake too!  I’m going to be eagerly watching the story coming out of Samoa in the next couple of days to see how the transition goes.

Read more from the AP here.

Read more about reactions and protests at Telegraph.co.uk here.

Read more the NYTimes blog Wheels here.

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