On This Day 30 July

By TheBoldAge. Published 2020-07-30
In 1818 Emile Brontë was born, in 1921 insulin isolated as a pancreatic extract; in 1935 the first paperback was published by Penguin; in 1951 the first computer program to play checkers was run and in 2006 Top of the Pops was aired for the last time. In 1978 Okinawa prefecture switched back to left-hand side driving.

After an 8 hour ban on all traffic, Okinawa traffic started again on the opposite side of the road

Okinawa is one of Japan's many islands, located to the south east of Japan's main island, Honshu, on which Tokyo is located.

map of Japan

Following the defeat of Japan in World War II the Okinawa prefecture came under the control of the United States. On the 24th of June, 1945, the prefecture was forced to change to drive on the right-hand side of the road in line with the United States.

Koza_Crossroads_in_1950s (Koza Crossroads in 1950s)

Japan regained control of the island in 1972, but this did not translate into an immediate return to driving on the left-hand side as there were delays in the handover and Japan was also preparing for the 1975 Expo.

From 10pm on the 29th of July, 1978 all traffic (excluding emergency vehicles) was banned from driving. At 6am on the 30th of July, 1978 traffic returned but this time on the left-hand side. The change was publicised heavily with posters and TV adverts.

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It is estimated that the Japanese government spent US$150 million to convert which included highways, bus stop relocation, the replacement of buses from 729 buses to 730 buses (the local designation used to identify whether a bus was right-hand drive or left-hand drive).

Koza_Crossroads (Koza Crossroads in 2008 with cars driving on the left)

LHT (left-hand traffic) versus RHT (right-hand traffic)

There are 165 countries that drive on the right-hand side which has increased since 1919 with 34 LHT countries switching to RHT. There are many myths around as to the origin of LHT versus RHT but there is no actual evidence to support them. For example it is referenced that horses are traditionally mounted from the left and led from the left therefore RHT would be used to keep the horses separated.

1920px-Driving_standards_historic

Other events on this day:

  • 1818: Emile Brontë was born in West Yorkshire
  • 1921: Insulin isolated as a pancreatic extract
  • 1935: paperback revolution started with the 1st publication of a Penguin book
  • 1951: British computer scientists Christopher Stracey's program that plays checkers is run for the first time
  • 1978: Okinawa prefecture of Japan switched back to driving on the left-hand side of the road
  • 2006: Top of the Pops aired for the last time
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