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Newsflash: The UK Uses Miles Per Hour

Here’s something you almost certainly didn’t know: the United States is not the only large automobile market that uses miles per hour on its roads. Even though everyone thinks Europe has completely converted to the metric system, the United Kingdom still uses miles per hour, too — and anywhere you go in the U.K., you’ll see signs in miles per hour.

I bring this up for two reasons. One is because I keep being told by people, even people I speak to in real life, that automakers have to convert gauge clusters and odometers to miles per hour "solely for the U.S. market." That isn’t true — they’re converting these things for the U.K., too, and presumably a few other little countries that haven’t made the switch.

I also bring this up to enlighten people who are convinced that the United States is the only "backwards" country in the world still using miles per hour. This, too, isn’t true, as the U.K. is indeed still doing it — even though you might think they aren’t. Not only do they use miles per hour, but they also use miles per gallon (as opposed to "liters per 100 kilometers" like in other European countries) — and, as you might expect given that fact, they also measure gasoline in gallons (though they’re slightly different than our gallons). Remember how Top Gear always quotes cars’ 0-to-60 times, or their top speeds in miles per hour? That’s because the U.K. uses miles per hour.

Interestingly, the U.K. is a bit of a hodgepodge of metric and imperial units, and the history of this is sort of interesting — though Oversteer isn’t the place for such a history lesson. Many older Brits still use Fahrenheit for temperature measurement; younger ones use Celsius. Grocery store items can be labeled in pounds or grams. And peoples’ weight is often given in a truly unusual measurement called "stones," where one stone is equivalent to 14 pounds.

But while it’s all a bit confusing and the U.K., in general, seems to be heading toward a wider adoption of the metric system, that doesn’t apply to the roads: it’s still solidly in the camp of miles per hour.

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