Rules of the road wrong foot holiday drivers

Article date: 13 July 2012

  • Three quarters of motorists have got into difficulty on holiday

Almost three quarters (73%) of Brits have fallen foul of the rules of the road or got into difficulty when driving on holiday, according to new research from Aviva1.

In the month when it became law for all drivers to carry a breathalyser when driving in France, research among holidaymakers from the UK’s largest insurer shows many have experienced potentially dangerous situations on their journeys.

The statistics reveal 28% of people say they have misread or misunderstood foreign road signs and 16% admit that they have actually driven on the wrong side of the road.

And drivers are faced with different trials whether in the UK or overseas. While those driving abroad are most concerned about a lack of familiarity with the route (28%), in the UK it’s the second highest concern among motorists (16%) after volume of traffic (31%). More than one in ten drivers rank the infamous Great British weather (12%) as a major motoring obstacle in the UK.

In addition, tiredness and boredom on the roads affect people more in the UK (10% and 11%) than abroad (6% and 2%), suggesting that the excitement of a change of scenery and location have an impact.

But as thousands of families in the UK are preparing for the great summer getaway as the school term comes to an end, it is apparent that some problems are the same whether motorists are driving at home or abroad, with 58% of holidaymakers admitting to getting lost when driving either in the UK or overseas. One in 20 people (5%) said they had had an accident while driving on holiday.

Counting on the car
Despite the high incidence of previous mishaps, seven in ten of us will use a car on holiday in the UK or Europe this summer, with 54% of people relying on a car as the main method of transport to reach their holiday destination and a further 14% using one to drive from the airport, train or boat to their accommodation.

On average, drivers estimate they will drive 250 miles to reach their destination and will be behind the wheel for five hours. Once they have arrived, motorists will cover another 125 miles of road on average, going out on day trips or driving between locations.

With cars being so central to their holiday plans, it is worrying that over 70% of people were unable to predict their journey times and distances very accurately, suggesting they may not be fully prepared for their trip.

Nigel Bartram, senior motor underwriter at Aviva, said: “Most of us will be jumping into a car when we go off on holiday this summer and will cover hundreds of miles in pursuit of a well-earned break. However, while we might favour driving over queuing in airports, despite the high petrol costs, it is not without its hazards.

“Driving on holiday, in the UK or abroad, often involves an unfamiliar route and long hours behind the wheel and leaves us to contend with everything from driving on the other side or the road and adverse weather conditions, to tiredness and boredom. Drivers should prepare for their journey as best they can by looking over the route and the rules of the road and make sure they have the correct insurance to cover them should anything go wrong.

“By law, all UK insurers provide the minimum third party cover for driving in Europe but if you want comprehensive cover while you’re driving abroad, you need to get in touch with your insurer to get the cover upgraded. Breakdown cover is also usually restricted to the UK so holidaymakers should check their cover with their provider.”

Aviva’s top tips for holiday driving

  • Plan ahead – consider the journey and pre-empt any potential hazards or problems so that you are more prepared, should they occur. Make sure you have the correct insurance in place to cover you if something does go wrong and consider taking out European Breakdown Cover in case your car breaks down.
  • If you are driving abroad, do your research on the rules of the road – check to see if you need reflective vests, spare bulbs, warning triangles, GB stickers, masking stickers for headlamps, breathalysers etc.
  • Familiarise yourself with your route on the map before you set off.
  • If you are covering a long distance, stop regularly for a break and make sure you don’t continue if you are tired. It is also safer to share the driving if you can.
  • Accept that the roads may be busy and allow extra time for your journey to avoid getting stressed.
  • If you are travelling with children, think of fun games that they can play to keep them occupied and take plenty of refreshments so they don’t distract you.
  • If you are driving a hire car, take the time to familiarise yourself with how it operates and drive around the car park a few times before going out onto the roads.


1 Consumer research conducted for Aviva by Chime in June 2012 among over 1000 UK adults with a driving licence holidaying in the UK or Europe this summer.

If you are a journalist and would like further information, please contact:

Aviva Press Office
Liz Kennett  
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Jenny Chapman  
Telephone: +44 (0)1603 689894 / +44 (0)7800 699668  

The Wriglesworth Consultancy
Louise Weaver / Hugh Murphy  
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