Nervy British drivers take dangerous risks aboard

Article date: 16 August 2007

  • New report reveals lack of knowledge puts drivers at risk

With up to an estimated eight million British drivers taking to foreign roads this year*, new research out today reveals many motorists are riddled with nerves, make dangerous mistakes and lack essential knowledge when it comes to driving abroad.

According to the research, which forms part of Norwich Union's "Driving Abroad Uncovered" report*, almost half (48%) of British motorists admit to being nervous about driving overseas. And the study reveals that their nerves are often well-founded - over a third (35%) say they have accidentally driven on the wrong side of the road while abroad, 42% say they usually look the wrong way when approaching junctions and 24% say they have unwittingly broken the speed limit in a foreign country. 

These common concerns are supported by Norwich Union claims analysis, which highlights confusion at roundabouts and giving way to the right as some of the most common causes of accidents in Europe.

The research also identifies British drivers' main concerns when driving in a different country, which include being involved in an accident (49%), being flummoxed by foreign rules and regulations, their car breaking down (34%) and misinterpreting unfamiliar road signs (13%).

Despite their concerns, many motorists are worryingly unprepared for driving in unfamiliar conditions and countries. One in five (20%) say they don't do any research before they leave and assume they will just "pick things up" when they get there, and 5% even admit that they don't bother to do any research because they assume the road rules and regulations will be the same as in the UK.

And while more than a third of motorists (34%) say they wouldn't know how to get assistance if they broke down in a foreign country, nearly a million people still don't check their motor insurance before heading off. Norwich Union warns that failure to do so could cost them dear, with claims data from the UK's largest insurer showing that car accidents abroad vary in costs from an average of £1,445 in France to £5,180 in Sweden and Denmark.

"We strongly advise drivers planning a trip abroad to do their homework on road rules and regulations before they leave the country. Assuming you will pick things up when you get behind the wheel is extremely dangerous and could mean that you are breaking the law", says Erik Nelson, spokesperson for Norwich Union.

"It's important to understand that fully comprehensive motor insurance in the UK does not automatically mean the same level of cover abroad and so we urge people to contact their insurer to assess their level of cover abroad and decide whether to upgrade their policy prior to their trip."

To help drivers planning a trip abroad, Norwich Union has developed a short set of guidelines:

Norwich Union's driving abroad checklist

  • Contact your insurer to assess whether you are covered to the level you require while driving abroad
  • Check your home contents policy - your motor policy will have a limit for personal belongings, so make sure your home contents policy provides cover for them outside the home
  • Don't forget travel insurance which will cover you for any medical costs you incur
  • Don't forget to pack:
    • Your insurer's contact details, including the number to call in the event of a claim
    • A copy of your motor insurance certificate
    • A copy of the European Accident Statement supplied by your insurer
    • Your original vehicle registration document
    • European Health Insurance Card EHIC (formerly the E111)
  • Carry the correct documentation including current passports and valid full driving licence. Holders of old-style licences may want to update it for a photo card licence or an International Driving Permit (IDP)
  • Do your research to familiarise yourself with the driving rules and regulations of the country you are visiting.


Download "Driving Abroad Uncovered" report PDF (1.14MB)

For more information and/or to obtain a copy of the report please contact:      
Sophie Lam
Lexis PR
Telephone: 020 7908 6482

Emilie Lien
Lexis PR
Telephone: 020 7908 6421

Erik Nelson
Norwich Union Press Office
Telephone: 01603 682264

Notes to editors:

YouGov interviewed a random sample of 1000 adults aged 18+ on-line across the UK between in June 2007

*Source: ABI report

About Norwich Union
Norwich Union is the UK's largest general insurer with a market share of around 15%, with a focus on insurance for individuals and small businesses.

It is a leading provider of life, pensions and investment products and one of the largest financial adviser (FA) providers. FAs provide over 70% of the company's long-term savings business in the UK.

Norwich Union's news releases and a selection of images are available from Aviva's internet press centre at

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