Why Does the US Virgin Islands Drive on the Left?
The United States Virgin Islands (USVI) is an exotic Caribbean destination consisting of three main islands – St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas. It is a territory of the United States, but interestingly, it drives on the left-hand side of the road. This may strike visitors as peculiar, considering that the rest of the United States drives on the right. So, why does the US Virgin Islands drive on the left? Let’s explore the historical and practical reasons behind this unique driving tradition.
To understand why the US Virgin Islands drive on the left, we must delve into their colonial history. The Danish West Indies, as they were formerly known, were colonized by Denmark in the 17th century. Denmark maintained control over the islands until 1917 when they were sold to the United States.
At the time of Danish colonization, the convention was to drive on the left side of the road, as it allowed right-handed riders to draw their swords more easily for self-defense. This tradition was passed down to the USVI, and even after the US purchased the islands, driving on the left remained the norm.
The USVI heavily relies on tourism as a significant source of revenue. Millions of visitors flock to the islands each year, mainly from the United States. By driving on the left, the USVI aligns itself with other popular Caribbean destinations, such as the British Virgin Islands, Jamaica, and the Bahamas, where driving on the left is also practiced. This uniformity makes it easier for tourists who are accustomed to driving on the right to adapt to driving on the left in the USVI.
Moreover, due to the close proximity of the USVI to the British Virgin Islands, many residents and tourists frequently travel between the two territories. Driving on the left in the USVI facilitates this cross-border movement, making it simpler for residents and visitors to navigate both territories seamlessly.
The USVI has embraced its unique driving tradition as a marketing tool to differentiate itself from other US states and territories. The islands’ government uses the “drive on the left” feature as a selling point, promoting it as an exciting and distinctive aspect of the USVI experience. This marketing strategy helps attract curious tourists looking for a memorable adventure and sets the USVI apart from other Caribbean destinations.
Some argue that driving on the left in the USVI enhances safety. With the majority of vehicles in the USVI being left-hand drive, drivers on the left-hand side of the road have a better view of oncoming traffic, making it easier to judge distances and safely overtake slower vehicles. Additionally, driving on the left allows drivers to exit their vehicles onto the sidewalk or beach, rather than into the road, ensuring their safety and minimizing the chances of accidents.
Q: Can I rent a car in the USVI if I am used to driving on the right side?
A: Yes, rental car agencies in the USVI offer vehicles with left-hand drive, making it easy for visitors to adapt to driving on the left side of the road.
Q: Are there any driving differences between the USVI and the rest of the United States?
A: Yes, some differences exist. For instance, roundabouts are commonly used in the USVI, and road signs may differ slightly from those in the mainland US.
Q: Can I use my US driver’s license in the USVI?
A: Yes, US driver’s licenses are valid in the USVI.
Q: Are there any left-hand drive vehicles in the USVI?
A: Yes, left-hand drive vehicles can be found in the USVI, but the majority are right-hand drive.
Q: Are there any specific rules or regulations for driving on the left in the USVI?
A: The basic rules of the road still apply, such as obeying traffic signs and signals, wearing seat belts, and not drinking and driving.
Q: Can I take a rental car from the USVI to the British Virgin Islands?
A: Most rental car agencies do not allow their vehicles to be taken to the British Virgin Islands due to insurance restrictions. However, there are ferry services available for transportation between the USVI and the British Virgin Islands.
Q: Can I walk on the left side of the road in the USVI?
A: Yes, pedestrians are advised to walk facing oncoming traffic, regardless of which side of the road they are on.
In conclusion, the US Virgin Islands’ tradition of driving on the left is deeply rooted in its colonial history and has practical advantages for tourism and safety. This unique driving experience adds to the allure of the USVI as a distinctive and exciting Caribbean destination. Whether you’re a visitor or a resident, driving on the left in the US Virgin Islands offers a memorable and enjoyable way to explore these enchanting islands.