Lessons from Högertrafikomläggningen

Yesterday afternoon I closed my laptop and went for a bike ride on the South Marshall Mesa trail. It was a beautiful day and the close proximity to the mountains and biking trails is one of my favorite things about Boulder. I’ve found jumping on a bike and getting away for a while is a great way to clear my head and reflect on life. Yesterday as I was riding my mind wandered to an historical event I discovered while I was preparing for my last Ignite talk.

On September 3rd 1967, Sweden switched from driving on the left side of the road to driving on the right. The day when the transition took place was called Högertrafikomläggningen which means “the right-hand traffic diversion”. It is often referred to as Dagen H or simply H Day. The craziest part of this story to me was that during the transition, traffic accidents actually fell by 17%. In my Ignite talk I focused on the fact that we are more careful when things feel dangerous and that making something scary is actually one of the best ways to make something safe. But today I thought about Dagen H in a new way.

Right now my life involves lots of big decisions and lots of change. But I doubt there will be many decisions in my life as drastic as having an entire country switch to driving on the opposite side of the road. I can imagine the struggle as the Swedish parliment delibererated on whether or not to make the switch. Every country around Sweden drove on the right and switching really was the most logical decision. On the other hand, switching required a ton of work and preperation and it’s not hard to envision what the negitive reprecusions could have been. The plan was also incredibly unpopular at the time.

In spite of the risk and the effort involved, Sweden made the right decision. And it worked out for them. The lesson for me is that no matter how overwhelming a decision may seem, sometimes you just have to go for it, and trust that if you do the right thing, everything will work out in the end.