Forty-nine years ago today Sweden turned away from the light and towards the darkness.
They went to the right.
No, not politically. They remained lefties for many years afterward. They started driving on the right.
In a manner that might interest Brexit voters, the government held referenda on the matter. The last one in 1955 was accompanied by a strong “nej” campaign with exhortations by the young and old to “think of us!”
and ads by bus owners who were concerned about the implications on their rhd fleet
The “nej” side won overwhelmingly with 83%. Did this exercise in democracy end the matter? Of course not. Ten years later the Government issued an edict that the change was going ahead regardless, partially because most cars were already lhd and partially because headlights were beginning to have asymmetrical dip patterns and would require replacement if the change were delayed.
Dagen-H was duly decided upon (Dagen Högertrafik or Day Righttraffic, so Day R in English) and was given its logo which could be seen everywhere.
In your car for example:
(the owner of this pert derrière would now be in her seventies...)
They didn’t stop there.
Colour coded gloves:
Stamps and postmarks:
And best of all, a song. There was a competition which was won by The Telstars and their contribution to automotive history, “Håll dig till höger, Svensson” or “Keep right, Svensson”. You want to hear this? Of course you do.
At this point we pause for a moment to wonder why the words for “right” (and indeed “left”) in Scandinavia are completely unlike those anywhere else in Europe. We also wonder why the title on the video is “håll dej....” rather than “håll dig...”
The pro camp claimed that road traffic accidents would fall as people were now driving lhd vehicles on the right, the anti camp claimed that there would be disaster on the roads.
The change duly took place (this is Kungsgatan in Stockholm):
And this is someplace else:
(I’m a bit surprised by these pictures as the official change was at 5 am and both are in daylight so they may be staged.)
In the event both camps were wrong. Accidents fell for a while as drivers were being very cautious but they soon returned to normal.
Half a century on, Swedes still argue about the change.
Meantime, I live in one of those places where we drive on the left and so I’ll continue to håll mig till vänster.