What's up with right-hand drive cars driving in a left-hand drive country?

I see this around here quite often (I saw two right-hand drive cars just today, prompting this thread), and it got me wondering - is it safe for drivers to drive on the right-hand side of the car in a place where almost all other drivers are driving in left-hand drive cars, and all the roads and systems are set up for left-hand drive? Is it just an inconvenience to be on the wrong side when you go to drive-throughs and such, with no other repercussions? Why do people want to drive on the wrong side of the car? I’m assuming that it’s legal to drive such cars here, even though as far as I know there aren’t any right-hand drive cars sold at regular dealerships (so where are they coming from? Imports?). I don’t quite understand what is going on with this particular phenomenon.

I have a RHD car and I live in Calgary. It’s fine. What else do you want to know?

In Canada, at least, a lot of the RHD cars are private imports of specific models of sports cars from Japan, models that were not sold here officially. As long as they’re more than 15 years old, they’re legal.

So if the car is less than 15 years old, it has to be modified to Canadian standards which is a left-hand drive when you import it?

Throatwarbler, what’s the draw for you? Why do you drive a right-hand drive car?

Some of the right hand drive cars you see are probably used for mail delivery.

Hell yeah! Most head-on impacts are LF/LF! I’m just increasing my odds!

Importing cars is a big complicated topic. In practice there are 2 ways to import a car permanently to Canada. 1) if it’s a used car over 15 years old, and 2) if it’s an American car and on the RIV approved list. I don’t know of any regulation specifying which side the driver needs to sit on, for either new or used cars, I’m pretty certain there is none.

Being on the wrong side has some inconveniences - making left turns at an intersection is tricky, if there’s a car in the oncoming side turning left also, you can’t see too well. Overtaking on a 2 lane road is also tricky. Drive-throughs are difficult, I don’t use them, at toll booths and what not if I’m alone I get out and walk around. There is no draw for me, I didn’t specifically want a RHD car but just ended up with one through circumstance. People buy them from Japan largely because certain models of sports cars were either not sold here at all or only sold in very low numbers, not because they like being on the wrong side.

My family used to have a right-hand drive vehicle - a former US Postal Service van. Presumably it was right-hand for ease of getting out of the van and servicing mail boxes and homes. We used it for selling ice cream, and it was very useful to be able to vend to the kids on the sidewalk without having to cross the van.

It had some weird features - it could be driven either standing or sitting with two gas pedals. There was a well close to the ground to stand in and a seat much higher up that folded back. When seated, the driver’s right foot could reach a standard gas pedal on the firewall below the steering wheel. When standing, there was a second gas pedal down in the well that was operated by pushing it to one side with the driver’s toe, pivoting on his heel. The brake and clutch was one pedal on the wall of the well, below the firewall where the upper gas rests. Press the brake/clutch half-way, and it clutches. Press it all the way, it brakes.

This was all a long time ago when I was a kid. Here is a photo of one. Except ours was covered with paintings of cartoon characters.

When I first came to Afghanistan in 2002, almost all the cars were RHD from Pakistan, while Afghanistan is a LHD country (kinda). It would be scary to be in the passenger seat and the driver pulls out into the left lane to pass and you can see the truck coming at you that the driver can’t see yet.

A friend of mine moved from the Netherlands to London and took his car with him (has british plates now) and hasn’t really complained about it. I have visited him (by car) a few times and while you do have to get used to it, it isn’t that big of a deal. The only thing I consistently had difficulty with, was on the highway to see (in my mirrors) whether an overtaking car was in the lane next to me or whether he was two lanes over.

In the US, I believe, some states will permit you to register a car with the steering wheel on the right. If your state will let you register it, then normally that registration is respected throughout the US due to the Full Faith and Credit clause. It would most likely also be respected in Canada due to reciprocity laws.

Of course, many postal vans in the US have the steering wheel on the right to facilitate delivery, but I believe that they are exempt from State registration requirements because they are under Federal jurisdiction, like US Military vehicles, so they don’t need State tags to drive on State roads.

Back in the 70’s, my LHD car and I lived on the west coast of Scotland for a couple of years. The only safety issue was that you had to pull ALL the way out into oncoming traffic before you knew whether or not it was safe to pass. I drove both left and right hand drive vehicles extensively while I was there but I would say that for the first couple months I was more of a menace to myself and others behind the wheel of a local vehicle. After that, it was a wash.

Can you show me a cite showing there are states that disallow registration based on the position of the driver?

My former in-laws used to have a right-hand drive car which they took from the UK when they moved to France. French drivers gave them a wide berth, especially when my ex-MIL was driving and they could only see just the top of her head (she is 4’10").

I don’t think so - all the ones I see are sporty-type cars.

It sounds like people are saying that right-hand drive cars aren’t a big deal, and are perfectly safe, except for the times when you’re not as safe because you can’t see because you’re on the wrong side. One of the most common causes of collisions is left-hand turns, and that’s when RHD cars are most vulnerable - that doesn’t sound like a good thing to me.

I can just lean way over to the left hand side to get a better view, and not turn until I am sure there are no oncoming cars. Same thing with overtaking on a 2 lane road. As I said, inconvenient but not particularly dangerous. People do plenty of much more dangerous things everyday in their LHD cars.

If anyone is “lucky” enough to go to Eastern Russia, most of the cars are right hand drive. They’re bussed in from Japan. The steering wheel on the wrong side is a minor safety issue compared to the terrible roads and rampant alcoholism.

Vladivostok rioted when the Kremlin cracked down.

Years ago, a friend of mine was a chauffeur for a prestige limo company in Toronto. Among their cars was an Austin Princess, which had right hand drive. He often drove this car for clients, and I recall him mentioning many of the challenges raised here: difficulty seeing well enough to turn left, problems passing, etc. But he also mentioned that the Princess was such a head-turner that many times, people got out of his way just to have a better look.

We frequently see cars with the ‘wrong’ side driver’s position here now - most of them come from eastern Europe, driven over by the many immigrants arrived here in recent years. They are supposed to be on the road for no more than six months before registering them with the DLVA, but I doubt many are. They would then have to get the speedometer changed as it’s illegal to have one that only reads in kilometers. It is useful for evading parking tickets and speed cameras, as the authorities just give up trying trying to send tickets out to foreign-registered cars . This is now changing, with tickets enforceable in their own countries as de facto convictions/fines.