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Everything you wanted to know about driving (but were too afraid to ask)

Red Mini abroadEver wondered why we drive on the left? Or how many people could fit in a Mini?

Perhaps you wonder about more practical things which may directly affect you, such as which cars are more likely to fail an MOT?

Well, we’ve tried to answer just a few of the questions that sometimes crop up in the office:

Why do we drive on the left whilst most other countries drive on the right?

About two-thirds of the world’s countries drive on the right. But it’s generally accepted that road traffic began on the left. And there’s evidence that dates back to Roman times which supports this.

As more people than not are right-handed, it makes sense that someone on horseback would favour riding on the left, as that means they would be more likely to greet or attack on their good side.

But road users started tending to the right during the 1700s. A common myth is that countries that Napoleon conquered switched to the right, on account of his being left-handed

However, the more likely reason for the switch was to favour the postillion (or ‘post boy’), who was the driver of coaches drawn by several horses. The horses were set in pairs, and the postillion would ride the front horse on the left-hand side, as horses were trained to be mounted from the left. So, to avoid collision with other coaches, it was more manageable to ride on the right.

This switch began in countries such as France and the United States. The twentieth century saw a bit of a domino effect, as more and more countries swapped to the right – principally as the uniformity makes border crossings with neighbours easier and less dangerous.

How far does the average person drive in their lifetime?

Back in 2008, we did a bit of research and discovered that the average British driver clocks up around 507,000 miles in their lifetime. So quite a bit then. This would comfortably cover a trip to the moon and back, in fact. I say “in fact”... Not that you could actually do this.

What’s the most popular colour of car?

Across the world, the most popular colour is silver. Which includes charcoal. Or any shade of grey, it appears. Black comes in second place – which suggests the roads aren’t quite as colourful as they could be.

What’s the fastest speed at which anybody’s been caught driving in the UK?

In the United Kingdom, the fastest anyone’s been caught driving is 197mph, Kazuhiko ‘Smokey’ Nagata in 1999. He did this on the A1(M) in a Toyota Supra he brought over from Japan just for this purpose, and was subsequently arrested.

Apparently, he was only fined £155 plus court costs, and banned from driving in the UK for a month. I wouldn’t recommend trying it though – you won’t be so lucky. You can watch this loon in action on YouTube, which is worth doing just for the unintentionally hilarious commentary.

Which car is most likely to fail an MOT?

The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) first made this information available in 2010, as a result of a Freedom of Information request made by the BBC. The raw data is 1,200 pages long, so good luck if you intend to read that.

However, some readers have made efforts to present this information in an orderly fashion, including one spreadsheet which orders the most common cars and small vans in order of failure rate, with a breakdown including make, model and age. You can assess this for yourself on the BBC Open Secrets blog here.

Although it’s important to bear in mind that other factors will affect the rate of failure, such as the car in question’s mileage, and – of course – how much (or moreover little) care and maintenance the driver has afforded the vehicle.

How many people can you fit in a Mini?

The number depends on whether you mean a classic Mini or the new design. Although both records are held by the same team.

The record was set last month on the set of ‘This Morning’ by Danielle Maynard and the David Lloyd Divas. To celebrate Guinness World Records Day (15 November), they squeezed 23 people into a classic Mini, and 28 people into the new model. And that included four in the boot.

If you’re thinking of getting into the Book of World Records yourself, Guinness requires that participants are at least 18 years old and five feet tall. Plus, you can’t take out the seats, and have to be able to close the doors and windows on completion.

If you don’t feel you’ve learned enough, why not read our article which debunks some commonly-held motor myths.

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Owe Carter

Owe Carter

Owe Carter is a content producer who's worked for since 2007. He's the author of our Carless Cities report. Twitter: @ConfusedOwe View more from Owe