March 17, 1939 brought a revolution on Czech roads: the commander of the German occupation forces ordered a change-over to a right-hand traffic system with almost immediate effect.
Interestingly, the changeover was first introduced in the provinces on March 17, and then just over a week later in Prague, on March 26. “Technical reasons” – a perennial Czech explanation – were responsible for the delay. And the switch to driving on the right is almost always associated with or blamed on, Hitler.
But new research by a historian called Pavel Fojtik suggests while the Nazis did indeed enforce this change, it was going to happen anyway. In 1926 Czechoslovakia had signed up to a so-called Paris agreement, committing the country to going right at some unspecified time in the future.
The day the change was introduced in Prague the authorities reported 26 accidents –including one road death when a pedestrian stepped into the way of an oncoming tram after automatically looking the wrong way. Dozens of small and big alterations were made on the go – such as doors on buses being moved to the other side.
As the change took place, boy scouts stood by roads and streets with signs saying “jezdime pravo”, “we drive on the right”, and billboards bearing the same slogan appeared around the country.