With summer holidays upon us, the chances are that many motorists will be travelling abroad and probably hiring a car to see the sights.
Many drivers, who are confident on the road in their home country, become apprehensive when they get behind the wheel in another country: it’s probably an unfamiliar car, very probably they will be driving on the other side of the road than what they are used to, and they will almost certainly not be very sure of the best route to take to their destination. Add in a lack of familiarity with the motoring laws of their holiday destination, and you have seasoned drivers sometimes feeling like learners all over again.
A new study conducted in the UK shows that over half of Brits admit they are nervous holiday drivers – with one in four admitting that it makes them dangerous behind the wheel.
When driving on holiday, one in three motorists have had been involved in a road incident, such as a traffic accident and being booked by the police. The research of 2,000 UK motorists for Continental Tyres comes as part of its Vision Zero initiative, a commitment to reduce road accidents, injuries and fatalities worldwide.
Two in five people said that they have not driven abroad because they are too anxious, with nervousness common among motorists. One in three people who don’t drive on holiday, in Britain or abroad, say it is because they are too nervous to do so.
Adding to the risks, seven in ten drivers would not bother to research foreign road laws before getting behind the wheel overseas, and 48 per cent of people who had hired a car said they did not check the condition of brakes and tyres before heading off.
Mark Griffiths, safety expert for Continental Tyres said: “This research shows that motorists can be more at risk when driving on holiday in the UK or overseas.
“It is essential for those who drive on holiday wherever they are to make sure they do simple safety checks and consider what the rules of the road are for their holiday location.
“It is also important that people drive when calm and alert so that their attention is on the road and their driving ability not compromised. If they need to take a break to be settled, then finding a safe place to do that makes sense.”
The dangers of holiday driving do exist as one in ten drivers say they have had a road accident on holiday, and one in five reported having a near miss. Eight out of ten motorists have had a bad experience while driving on holiday – such as getting lost, arguing with passengers or being caught speeding.
Road safety and breakdown organisation GEM Motoring Assist has also weighed in on the issue, encouraging holidaymakers to ensure they are aware of speed limits, alcohol limits and other driving regulations before setting off on an overseas holiday this summer.
GEM road safety officer Neil Worth says: “It pays to do some research before you go, whether you’re driving your own car on holiday or organising to rent a vehicle once you get there. Familiarise yourself with motorway speed limits, and remember that foreign drivers are subject to the same traffic rules as residents, often enforceable by hefty on-the-spot fines.”
Drink-drive limits are in many cases lower than what we may be used to. Many have a standard limit of 0.05%, although in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, the limit is zero.
Worth added: “It’s worth appreciating that although you can legally drive in the UK at the alcohol limit of 0.08%, doing the same thing in Hungary or Norway could put you in prison. There is no reliable way to calculate how much alcohol you can drink and stay below the limit. But you have nothing to fear if you steer clear of alcohol before driving.
“Summer holidays are the time to relax and enjoy good weather, good company and hopefully some wonderful scenic road trips, whether in Europe or beyond. A bit of research and sensible journey planning will help ensure you don’t feel the need to speed or to drive after drinking alcohol – so you’ll be staying legal and reducing risk on holiday.”
It’s worth pointing out, as well, that drivers of red-plated Z cars in Cyprus are also most likely to be on territory that is foreign to them, and similarly nervous, so local drivers should bear this in mind.
A recent incident brought to my attention suggests that car hire firms also need to be more meticulous when renting out a vehicle. Most hire cars these days are automatic – but do car hire companies check that their customers know how to drive an automatic vehicle? Some, it would seem, do not.
A Russian couple had a minor accident recently where a vehicle ran into the back of their hire car because the driver of the hire car was unfamiliar with automatic transmission and kept putting his foot on the left-hand pedal to change gear – in an automatic, of course, the left hand pedal is the brake – so while accelerating, he would suddenly stop, despite a clear road ahead, and the hapless driver behind him, checking his mirrors to overtake, ran into the back of his car.
If you are planning to travel and drive this summer, there’s a comprehensive database of driving requirements in all European countries at: http://ec.europa.eu/transport/road_safety/going_abroad/index_en.htm# which includes buttons to download a free European Road Safety App called GoingAbroad that contains all important road safety rules and some fun games.