Sunday, February 16, 2014

A Historic Traffic Jam: the "H-Day" in 1967

When was the last time you've heard about a traffic jam in which people were actually happy to participate?

In his amazing book 'Traffic: Why we drive the way we do (and what it says about us)', Tom Vanderbilt gives us a glimpse of the "H-Day", when everyone in Sweden started driving on the opposite side of the road. I reproduce here a snippet of the book and two great pictures taken on "H-Day":

Just before dawn on Sunday, September 3, 1967, there was an unusually festive air in the streets of Stockholm. Cars honked, passersby cheered, people gave flowers to police officers, pretty girls smiled from the curb. The streets were clogged with cars, many of which had been waiting for hours to participate in a historic traffic jam. [...] At the moment the bell schimed for six o'clock, Swedes began driving on the right.

It had taken years of debate, and much preparation, to get to this point. [...] Undeterred, backers of right-side driving finally got a measure approved by the government in 1963.

As "H-Day" (after hoger, the Swedish word for "right") approached, the predictions of ensuing chaos and destruction grew dire. [...] And what happened when Swedes started driving on the other side of the road, many for the first time in their lives? The roads got safer. [...] Remarkably, it was not just for a few days, or even weeks, after the change over that Sweden's roads were safer. It took a year before the accident rate returned to what it had been the year before the changeover.

[images credit: ? via wired]

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