A-Z of International Driving Permit & Stories behind Left and Right-Hand Traffic

Choosing the right transport during travel can be challenging to many. Public transport would not be an economically viable option, and one might not be familiar with the new city. Anyhow, resident countries offer an International Driving Permit (IDP) which allows people to rent cars in any country around the world. With a car and a google map at your disposal, both money and time can be saved.

The IDP is a United Nations convention, and accordingly a legal requirement. An IDP is required in 140 countries (excluding people with a driving license from any European country travelling to a European Economic Area, EEA). The license is recognized globally and accessible in 10 different languages to avoid language barriers and facilitate officers in scanning the document.

The requirements and prerequisites to obtain an IDP vary because countries have different conditions. Therefore, if one intends to travel to more than one country, they might require more than one IDP. Some require the applicant to be of at least 18 years of age, some demand experience, and others merely seek a valid driving license. A passport or visa copy, driving license, passport size photo, and an IDP form should be submitted to the issuing country, usually the applicant’s country of residence.

An IDP is valid only for 3 years, but most countries issue only for 1 year. The driver must also carry their original driving license furnished for issuing the IDP while travelling. An IDP is not a valid driving permit in the issuing country. One is expected to acquire the country’s driving license to drive permanently in the country.

What's the Reason Behind Right-Hand Driving in Some Countries? (Updated  2020)
Image Credit: Carmudi

As most veteran drivers are aware, the location of the driver’s seat can differ based on the country. Most countries adopt right-hand traffic, whereas left-hand traffic happens to be a norm in commonwealth countries. As for the right-hand traffic, cars mainly drive on the right side of the road, and the steering wheel is found on the left side of the car, and in the left-hand traffic, cars drive on the left side of the road, and the steering wheel is placed on the right side of the car. 75 countries, including India, UK, Australia, South Africa, Malaysia, Japan, and more, practice left-hand traffic, and 165 countries, such as the USA, South Korea, Brazil, UAE, Thailand, practice right-hand traffic.

This development and differences have an interesting history associated with them. The Commonwealth countries are former British colonies, which forcibly enforced left-hand traffic on colonial subjects. The reason why India observes it. Britain’s preference mirrored that of knights and sword fighters during the period of English feudalism. They preferred to maintain the ‘left side of the road’ because they can wield their weapon on their right and attack their opponent efficiently, avoid knocking against the scabbard (cover of the sword attached on the left side of the body) of another armed man, and to easily dismount from the right side of the horse.

However, Napoleon introduced right-hand traffic in most of the European countries during his conquest of Europe. Unlike the British, he used weapons with his left hand. Generations later, the hand that held the sword also held the gear of the car.

Right-hand traffic was used in the US because of Henry Ford, a revolutionary in the automobile industry. He placed the steering wheel on the left side of the car. Some suggest it was an act of defiance against the British. Several other automobile companies emulated his design and later it became the norm.

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