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June 6, 2013

Dagen H: The Day Sweden Switched From Driving on the Left to the Right on 3 September 1967


Dagen H (H day), today mostly called "Högertrafikomläggningen" ("The right-hand traffic diversion"), was the day, 3 September 1967, on which traffic in Sweden switched from driving on the left-hand side of the road to the right. The "H" stands for "Högertrafik", the Swedish word for "right traffic".

City buses were among the very vehicles that conformed to the normal opposite-steering wheel rule, being right-hand drive. Trams in central Stockholm, in Helsingborg and most lines in Malmö were withdrawn and replaced by buses, and over one thousand new buses were purchased with doors on the right-hand side. Some 8,000 older buses were retrofitted to provide doors on both sides, while Gothenburg and Malmö exported their right-hand drive (RHD) buses to Pakistan and Kenya. The modification of buses, paid by the state, was the largest cost of the change. In Gothenburg and Norrköping, and in two Stockholm suburbs, tram networks continued to operate.


There were various major arguments for the change:
  • All Sweden's immediate neighbours (including Norway and Finland, with which Sweden has land borders) drove on the right, with 5 million vehicles crossing those borders annually.
  • Approximately 90 per cent of Swedes drove left-hand drive (LHD) vehicles. This led to many head-on collisions when passing on narrow two-lane highways, which were common in Sweden due to the fact that the country's low population density and traffic levels made road-building expensive in per capita terms.
However, the change was widely unpopular; in a 1955 referendum, 83 percent voted to keep driving on the left. Nevertheless, on May 10, 1963, the Riksdag approved the introduction of right hand traffic in 1967, as the number of cars on the road had tripled from 500 000 to 1.5 million, and was expected to reach 2.8 million by 1975. A body known as Statens Högertrafikkommission (HTK) ("the state right-hand traffic commission") was established to oversee the changeover. It also began implementing a four-year education program, with the advice of psychologists.

The campaign included displaying the Dagen H logo on various commemorative items, including milk cartons and underwear. Swedish television held a contest for songs about the change; the winning entry was "Håll dig till höger, Svensson" ('Keep to the right, Svensson') by The Telstars.

As Dagen H neared, every intersection was equipped with an extra set of poles and traffic signals wrapped in black plastic. Workers roamed the streets early in the morning on Dagen H to remove the plastic. Similarly, a parallel set of lines were painted on the roads with white paint, then covered with black tape. Before Dagen H, Swedish roads had used yellow lines.


(via Wikipedia)

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