Dagen H (H-day), today usually called "Högertrafikomläggningen" (lit.'the right-hand traffic reorganisation'), was on 3 September 1967, the day in which Sweden switched from driving on the left-hand side of the road to the right.[2] The "H" stands for "Högertrafik", the Swedish word for right-hand traffic. It was by far the largest logistical event in Sweden's history.[3]

Kungsgatan, Stockholm, 3 September 1967, during the night Sweden had changed from left-side traffic to right-side traffic[1]
Dagen H campaign logo
Left-hand traffic in Stockholm in 1966
Headlamp sold in Sweden not long before Dagen H. Opaque decal blocks the lens portion that would provide low beam upkick to the right, and bears warning "Not to be removed before 3 September 1967".
A pair of coloured gloves used in 1967 by Swedish authorities in order to remind drivers they should drive on the right as the traffic was changed
Sign at the border crossing in four languages reminding of the right hand drive in Norway

Background edit

There were various arguments for the change:

  • All neighbouring countries drive on the right, including Norway and Finland, with which Sweden shares land borders, with five million vehicles crossing annually.[4]
  • Approximately 90 percent of Swedes drove left-hand drive vehicles,[4] and this led to many head-on collisions when passing on narrow two-lane highways.[5] City buses were among the very few vehicles that conformed to the normal opposite-steering wheel rule, being right-hand drive (RHD).[6]

However, the change was unpopular; in a 1955 referendum, 83 percent voted to keep driving on the left. Nevertheless, the Swedish Parliament approved Prime Minister Tage Erlander's proposal on 10 May 1963 of right-hand traffic beginning in 1967, as the number of cars on the road tripled from 500,000 to 1.5 million and was expected to reach 2.8 million by 1975.[7] The Swedish Commission for the Introduction of Right-Hand Driving (Statens högertrafikkommission, HTK) was established to oversee the change.[8] It also began implementing a four-year education programme on the advice of psychologists.[5]

The campaign included displaying the Dagen H logo on various commemorative items, including milk cartons and underwear.[5][9] Swedish television held a contest for songs about the change, and the winning entry was "Håll dig till höger, Svensson" ('Keep to the right, Svensson') written by Expressen journalist Peter Himmelstrand[2] and performed by The Telstars.[10]

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. A parallel set of lines was painted on the roads with white paint, then covered with black tape. Before Dagen H, Swedish roads had used yellow lines.[citation needed] Approximately 350,000 signs had to be removed or replaced, including some 20,000 in Stockholm alone.[11]

Vehicles had to have their original left-hand-traffic headlamps replaced with right-traffic units. One of the reasons the Riksdag pushed ahead with Dagen H despite public unpopularity was that most vehicles in Sweden at the time used inexpensive, standard-size round headlamps, but the trend towards more expensive model-specific headlamps had begun in continental Europe and was expected to spread through most other parts of the world. Further delay in changing over from left- to right-hand traffic would have greatly increased the cost burden to vehicle owners.[citation needed]

The switch edit

On Dagen H, Sunday, 3 September 1967, all non-essential traffic was banned from the roads from 01:00 to 06:00. Any vehicles on the roads during that time had to come to a complete stop at 04:50, then carefully change to the right-hand side of the road and stop again (to give others time to switch sides of the road and avoid a head-on collision) before being allowed to proceed at 05:00. In Stockholm and Malmö, however, the ban was longer – from 10:00 on Saturday until 15:00 on Sunday – to allow work crews to reconfigure intersections.[12] Certain other towns also saw an extended ban, from 15:00 on Saturday until 15:00 on Sunday.[citation needed]

One-way streets presented unique problems. Bus stops had to be constructed on the other side of the street. Intersections had to be reshaped to allow traffic to merge.[citation needed]

Results edit

The relatively smooth changeover saw a temporary reduction in the number of accidents.[13] On the day of the change, only 157 minor accidents were reported, of which only 32 involved personal injuries, with only a low number being serious.[14] On the Monday following Dagen H, there were 125 reported traffic accidents, compared to a range of 130 to 198 for previous Mondays, none of them fatal. Experts suggested that changing to driving on the right reduced accidents while overtaking, as people already drove left-hand drive vehicles, thereby having a better view of the road ahead; additionally, the change caused a marked surge in perceived risk that exceeded the actual level, and thus was followed by very cautious behaviour that caused a major decrease in road fatalities. Indeed, fatal car-to-car and car-to-pedestrian accidents dropped sharply as a result, and the number of motor insurance claims went down by 40%.[citation needed]

These initial improvements did not last, however. The number of motor insurance claims returned to "normal" over the next six weeks and, by 1969, the accident rates were back to the levels seen before the change.[15][16][17]

Trams in central Stockholm, in Helsingborg and most lines in Malmö (which ultimately abolished its tram system in 1973) 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 left-traffic buses to Pakistan and Kenya.[18]

Although all road traffic in Sweden changed to the right-hand side, railways and metro systems did not switch to the new rule and continued to drive on the left, with the exception of tram systems. Additionally, many of them were abandoned as a result of Dagen H; only the trams in Norrköping and Gothenburg and three suburban lines in the Stockholm area (Nockebybanan and Lidingöbanan) survived. Gothenburg faced high costs for reconfiguring trams, while Stockholm's budget only covered purchasing new buses, since the remaining lines had bidirectional trams with doors on both sides. In any event, most trams in Stockholm were replaced by the metro, a decision made long before the Dagen H decision.[citation needed]

Fellow Nordic country Iceland changed to driving on the right in May 1968, on a day known as H-dagurinn.[13]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Ttnyhetsbyrn (26 January 2022). "Sidbyte genom kameralinsen" [Driving side switch through the camera lens]. TT:s blogg (in Swedish). Archived from the original on 15 September 2022. Retrieved 15 September 2022.
  2. ^ a b 50 år sedan: Så gick det till när Sverige fick högertrafik, Expressen, 1 September 2017
  3. ^ "Kommer du ihåg när Sverige fick högertrafik 1967?". Året Runt. 1 September 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Réalités". No. 200–205. Société d'études et publications économiques. 1967. p. 95. {{cite magazine}}: Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  5. ^ a b c "Switch to the Right". Time. 15 September 1967. Archived from the original on 4 February 2007. Retrieved 25 September 2018.
  6. ^ "Transport in Stockholm in the 1960s". Includes photographs of a RHD bus in Odenplan, 1962 and a RHD trolleybus in Vattugatan in 1964.
  7. ^ "News from Sweden, Issues 840-858". Swedish Information Service, Swedish Consulate General. 1963. p. 35.
  8. ^ "Riksdagens protokoll". Kungl. Boktr. 1966. p. 8.
  9. ^ "Dagen H" (in Swedish). Archived from the original on 18 January 2007. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
  10. ^ The Telstars – Håll dig till höger, Svensson, YouTube, 23 February 2013
  11. ^ "Report of the Fifth World Meeting of the International Road Federation". London. 1966. p. 144.
  12. ^ "Sweden Makes Change-Over to Driving on Right". The Herald. Glasgow. 4 September 1967.
  13. ^ a b Et tu, Iceland? Another change to right hand driving, Autocar, 23 May 1968
  14. ^ "Swedish Motorists Move To Right". Montreal Gazette. 5 September 1967.
  15. ^ Adams, John (1985). Risk and Freedom: Record of Road Safety Regulation. Brefi Press. ISBN 978-0948537059.
  16. ^ "Dagen H: The day Sweden switched sides of the road". The Washington Post. 17 February 2012. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
  17. ^ Behavioural Adaptation and Road Safety: Theory, Evidence and Action. CRC Press. 24 May 2013. p. 67. ISBN 978-1-4398-5667-3.
  18. ^ "Kollektivtrafiken drabbades" (in Swedish). 22 February 1997. Archived from the original on 27 September 2020.

External links edit