Welcome to my private journal generally on Brunei issues. Any opinions expressed are in my personal capacity. All rights to the articles are reserved.

Friday, May 11, 2007

American Right Hand Cars?

I was at the American Ambassador's for a dinner the other day and the conversation went to the jeep that he drove. I was quite surprised that the jeep was a right hand drive and he bought it in America and shipped to Brunei.

If you said 'so what', you have forgotten that in America they drive on the left hand side - the steering wheel is on the left and not on the right as it is in our case. So for an American company to be selling right hand drive cars in America to an American is pretty unusual.

Apparently a few American companies sell right hand cars for right hand drive in America as well as convert the left hand drive cars into right hand drive cars. If you trawl on the internet you would find a number of American companies doing conversions for cars that will be driven on the 'wrong side' of American roads. We drive our cars on the left side of the road and sit on the right hand side in the cars. The American drive their cars on the right side of the road and sit on the left hand side in the cars. The first time I drove in an American car, I was quite confused as it is my right hand which is now changing the gear. Everytime I reached a junction, I have to think which lane should I go to?

So, if it's so confusing - why should American companies do that? It seemed that the cars are used for postal deliveries. In America, postmen deliver letters to the countryside and they put them in mailboxes along the roads. If they were to use an American car - remember, they will be sitting on the left hand side of the car and the cars will be travelling on the right hand side of the road and for him as a postmen to reach out and put letters in the mailboxes would be cumbersome as he had to stretch across the car.

But if he was to use a right hand drive and drive on the right hand side of the road, he can just lean out the window and put the letters into the mail boxes by the roads. He would look quite funny on an American road as he will be sitting on the right hand side and it would look (to an American) that there is no driver in the car as the left hand side of the car would be empty.

One of the interesting point that occured to me is that, why not import more right hand drive cars? The cost of conversion is probably equal to the cost of importation. But then I guess that would leave the American conversion industries in trouble.

I guess my point is that you can do things that you may not be allowed to do normally but because circumstances demand it, then you do it (driving right hand drive instead of left hand ones). At the same time when there is an easy solution, we sometimes go for the harder ones (importation instead of conversion). I wonder where else can we apply this lesson to?

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