Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road for a Good Reason

Nov 20, 2006

RAY: This puzzler was sent in recently by a fellow named Aaron Ahouvian. And it came pre-obfuscated!

Aaron writes,

"My work takes me to Padua, Italy. One night after work I went with some friends to dinner in the nearby village of Este. We had to catch the last train home to Padua at 10:06, but I wasn't worried about time, since it was only 9:45 and the train station was only a short walk away. However, after stopping for some gelato, we realized we had missed the train, and our host reminded us that because Este had no more trains running to Padua that night, we needed to drive to a nearby town to catch the train. 'Never fear,' our host announced, 'I know a short cut.'

"Well, the shortcut took us on some back country roads that were so small they were only like one lane wide. And I did ask her, 'What would happen if a car came from the other direction?' She replied that the other guy somehow would get out of the way. Anyway, as this tiny country lane ended, we had to squeeze the car through two giant concrete blocks, which ensured that only the very smallest of vehicles could access the narrow road that we had just been on.

'And we now found ourselves on the grounds of an enormous cement factory. As we left the factory grounds, our driver apologized for drving on the left-hand side of the road, i.e., the wrong side of what was obviously a two-lane road. And I asked why she was doing that and she told me she didn't want to damage her car. I thought that was kind of strange. I mean the road wasn't being used by the cement trucks because the cement factory was closed. But I was puzzled. How could driving on the wrong side of a two-lane road be less damaging to her car?'

Her explanation made perfect sense. What did she say?


RAY: Of course, she wasn't worried about hitting another car. She was worried about the cement trucks. When they're leaving --

TOM: They're very heavy!

RAY: They ruin the road. So, the road leaving the factory, the right-hand lane, is ruined. It's full of potholes and it's all rutted. And the other side where the trucks are entering empty, the road is fine.

So, driving on the left-hand side of the road is better for her car. Who's our winner?

TOM: Our winner this week is Derek Tickle.

RAY: How would you like a name like that? It is an interesting name.

TOM: Derek's from Jonesboro, Tennessee, and for having his answer selected at random from among all the correct answers that we got, Derek is going to get from us a 26-dollar gift certificate to the Shameless Commerce Division at cartalk.com, with which he can get our brand-new collection of Car Talk lore called, Once Upon A Car Fire, The Greatest Stories Ever Told.

RAY: Now this is a collection of stories we've told on the air, right here on National Public Radio, believe it or no. And if these stories were on NPR you know that means what?

TOM: Yeah, we were using them to kill time so we could come up with an answer.

RAY: Right. But they're still good stories. Congratulations, Derek.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter