Seventy-five years of driving on the right
March 17,1939 brought a revolution on Czech roads: the commander of the German occupation forces ordered a change-over to a right-hand traffic system with almost immediate effect. Although the change had been in the pipeline for years its immediate enforcement was not easy. Moreover, Prague was given a 9-day reprieve, creating a schizophrenic situation where drivers in the capital still drove on the left, but elsewhere around the country traffic was already moving on the right.
As it was, the change was ordered with almost immediate effect by the German commander of the invading forces General von Brauchitsch to enable the occupation forces to drive as they were used to and move easily along the roads of the protectorate. An exception was made for Prague where a delay of over a week was deemed necessary to move hundreds of road signs, relocate about 100 tram stops and put up warning signs alerting both drivers and pedestrians of the change.
Although transport officials scrambled to secure a smooth transition the overnight switch caused numerous complications. For nine days there was the schizophrenic situation where drivers in Prague were still driving on the left while in the rest of the country traffic was already moving on the right. Entering and exiting the capital was major challenge.
Although the switch to driving on the right made newspaper headlines for weeks and the roads were dotted with warning billboards it was months before both drivers and pedestrians got used to the change. Today the Czech Republic is one of 164 countries with a right hand traffic system and one cannot even register a car with steering wheel on the right –with two exceptions – veteran cars and specially made vehicles for disabled drivers.