Are you planning on hiring a car on your summer holiday? Before you hit the open roads of Europe, there's something you should know: Brits have a knack for turning a holiday drive into an unintended misadventure. Research indicates that UK drivers are three times more likely to be involved in accidents while driving abroad compared to locals.

The study conducted for the Foreign Office also warns that UK residents are most vulnerable to accidents only one hour into their first overseas car journey! Factors like driving on unfamiliar roads, dealing with rented vehicles, and driver fatigue tend to peak at the 60-minute mark. Professor Geoff Beattie of Manchester University, who led the research, suggests that taking your time and acclimating to the foreign road conditions can significantly reduce accident risks.

So, before you embark on that holiday drive, here's everything else you need to know about keeping yourself safe.

Driving on the Wrong Side: A Persistent Fear

Accidentally driving on the wrong side of the road is such a major concern for Brits travelling to Europe by car that a quarter (26%) of surveyed individuals list it as their top worry, according to a study conducted by RAC European Breakdown.

The FCO's survey reveals a similar shocking statistic: nearly a third (31%) of those surveyed admitted to making the potentially catastrophic mistake of driving on the wrong side of the road. This seemingly simple error can have far-reaching consequences, ranging from near-misses to tragic accidents. The jarring impact of this misstep underscores the vital importance of becoming familiar with local road layouts, signs, and driving practices.

Negotiating roundabouts is also often a tricky task for tourists. Over 10% of respondents confessed to mismanaging roundabouts while driving abroad. This statistic sheds light on the complexity of adapting to different traffic rules and patterns.

The stress of navigating unfamiliar territory can be particularly daunting when combined with the excitement of exploring new cultures and landscapes. However, it's important not to let this fear overshadow the safety and enjoyment of your holiday:

family using volkswagen california

Research and Preparation- Before you embark on your journey, take some time to familiarise yourself with the driving rules of the country you'll be visiting. Researching road signs, roundabout rules, and traffic regulations can provide you with the confidence you need to navigate unfamiliar roads.

Take Your Time- If you're feeling overwhelmed, don't hesitate to take it slow. Driving cautiously and at a comfortable pace can give you the time you need to adjust to the new driving conditions.

Stay Alert and Focused- Distractions can easily lead to accidentally veering onto the wrong side of the road. Stay focused on the task at hand, avoid distractions, and keep your attention on the road.

Young Brits: The Ogle-Overs

Ah, the allure of foreign landscapes and the enchantment of new places! The temptation to feast your eyes on charming towns, stunning vistas, and even attractive pedestrians is undeniable. But let's face it, your primary focus should always be on the road when you're behind the wheel. While it's completely natural to be captivated by the beauty around you, it's crucial to remember that safety comes first. This is especially important for young British drivers, aged 18 to 24, who have shown a tendency to be distracted by these very attractions…

Research by Ford sheds some light on a concerning trend: the distraction of "attractive pedestrians" is playing a role in road accidents involving young drivers. Among UK road deaths in the 18 to 24 age group, this distraction has been identified as a contributing factor in the majority of cases. It's a sobering reminder that even a momentary lapse in focus can have dire consequences.

Audi A4 Saloon S Line with a women walking around the rear

Set Your Mind- Before you start your engine, remind yourself that your main responsibility is driving safely. Mentally commit to keeping your focus on the road and the task at hand.

Limit Distractions- Clear away any distractions within your reach. Put your phone on silent or use a driving mode to minimise notifications. This helps you resist the urge to glance at your phone while driving.

Stay Well-Rested- Fatigue can greatly impair your ability to focus. Get enough rest before embarking on your journey, and take regular breaks to stay alert.

Mistakes Abroad: Learning from Experience

New research from Prima, a car insurance provider, highlights that more than half of those who have driven abroad in Europe over the past year admit to making mistakes. These blunders range from exceeding speed limits (17%) to not being familiar with local road signs and customs (14%). This lack of familiarity could explain why 14% of these drivers have been involved in or almost involved in traffic collisions overseas. This is why it's essential to familiarise yourself with local driving rules and signage before setting off on your journey.

While the allure of the open road is enticing, don't let excitement overshadow the importance of proper insurance coverage. Research by Admiral shows that Londoners aged 30-39, driving a Volkswagen Golf in France, are statistically more likely to make insurance claims for accidents abroad. Surprisingly, one in 20 UK adults admit to not using any type of insurance when driving abroad, a risky decision that can lead to financial woes and legal complications in the event of an accident. It simply isn’t worth the risk.

side view of yellow golf parked on a beach

Tips to Navigate the Perils with Confidence

As you gear up for a driving experience in a foreign land, consider these tips to navigate the perils of mistaken driving and ensure a safer journey:

Pre-Travel Preparation- Research the driving regulations of your destination thoroughly. Familiarise yourself with road signage, speed limits, and any unique road rules that may differ from what you're accustomed to.

Study Local Maps- Before hitting the road, study local maps and routes. This helps you anticipate turns, intersections, and potential challenges along the way.

Daytime Travel- Opt for daytime driving, as visibility is better and the challenges of driving on unfamiliar roads are less intense.

Stay Well-Rested- Fatigue impairs judgement. Ensure you're well-rested before embarking on your journey and take regular breaks to maintain alertness.

Local Driver Observance- Observe how local drivers behave on the road. This can provide insights into lane discipline, merging, and other driving norms.

Adventure with Caution

So, if you're planning that unforgettable road trip across foreign landscapes, remember to blend your adventurous spirit with caution. Prepare yourself by understanding local driving rules, signs, and customs. Keep your focus on the road and avoid distractions at all costs. Ensure you're properly insured to safeguard against unexpected mishaps. Remember, the journey should be as memorable as the destinations you'll explore - just make sure it’s for the right reasons. Happy driving!



Share this article

You May Also Like...