February 13th, 1918


February 13, 1918

The Rule of the Road.

(Letter from Judge Savary)

To the Editor of the SPECTATOR)

SIR: - I notice by your last issue that a vigorous effort is being made to secure a change in the "rule of the road" which in these Maritime Provinces requires two carriages passing each either travelling in opposite directions to keep to their left. This is the rule in England and has been from time immemorial, and like all the common law of England is founded on common sense. The object is of course more safety from collision in the vast majority of cases. Passing to the left the two drivers are nearest each other and both on the side of the vehicle which alone is in danger of collision with the other, and each can watch plainly his own wheels and those of his neighbor, ready to give a quick turn to his horse at the moment when a collision by some sudden mishap becomes imminent. Sound policy based on the most obvious considerations of safety is decidedly in favor of the present rule. It would be years before our people would get accustomed to the new one, and incautiously many would forget it, old habit would unconsciously rule and many serious accidents would occur. It would take a generation to get habituated to the new rule so that our roads would be as safe under it as they are now; a man in an ordinary carriage meeting an automobile coming swiftly would not have time to check his natural impulse to steer to the left before the disaster would be on him. I do not see how it can be safer or more convenient for automobiles to pass to the right in meeting. Perhaps our fellow citizen who is pressing this matter has had an experience in driving automobiles that I have not had and may see it all very plainly; but surely those who drive carriages are yet in a large majority over those who can afford autos and legislation should be framed with a view to the convenience of the many and not of the few. The slow teams of the farmers are sufficiently discommoded now by the privileges accorded to motorists who too often abuse their privileges by excessive speeding, killing dogs and fowls. There are parts of the country now where the unpopularity of automobiles is evinced by unlawful acts, and it would be unwise to increase this dislike by compelling people to change the rule of the road to which our people are trained from childhood, and which is recognized as best and safest for the ordinary traffic of the country. The English rule which we have was brought into the old colonies by the first settlers and continued to the time of the Revolution, when I have heard it said it was abandoned out of pure opposition to everything English. Perhaps however, the greater prevalence of ox teams in the new settlements had something to do with it. Along the long frontier between the United States and old Canada frequent crossing and recrossing compelled the fewer Canadians to conform by degrees more and more to the custom of their neighbors. But the Loyalists brought the English rule to the Maritimes Provinces, where I hope it will remain.

I cannot regard as serious the argument that we should change our law to accomodate American visitors who come here every summer with their motors. That would be carrying international courtesy t a humiliating extreme. It would be worse than making the majority yield to the convenience of the larger majority of our own people. The American Visitors inform themselves of our rule and obey it.


Annapolis Royal Jan 23.