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Samoa is about to become what's believed to be the first nation since the 1970s to order its drivers to switch from one side of the road to the other. That's spawned an islandwide case of road rage. Opponents have organized two of the biggest protests in Samoan history, and a new activist group -- People Against Switching Sides, or PASS -- has geared up to fight the plan.
The main reason for Samoa's switch is that two of its biggest neighbors, Australia and New Zealand, drive on the left-hand side, whereas Samoa currently drives on the right, as in the U.S.
By aligning with Australia and New Zealand, the prime minister says, it will be easier for poor Samoans to get cheap hand-me-down cars from the 170,000 or so Samoans who live in those two countries. It could also help more people escape tsunamis, says Mr. Tuilaepa.
Opponents and some outside experts fear the switch will turn many of Samoa's already-dangerous roads into disaster zones. Roads wind through mountainous jungle terrain with sharp turns, few traffic lights and pedestrians and dogs sharing the lanes. Critics say the switch will add further confusion with drivers likely to forget which side they're supposed to be on.
Globally, about 70% of the world's population drives on the right-hand side of the road. But other parts of the world -- including many countries that were once British colonies -- remain committed to the left.
With the deadline approaching, the government is speeding ahead. It has added road humps to slow traffic and erected signs that, when unveiled Sept. 7, will remind drivers to stay left.