What Brexit means for driving in Europe

Two-thirds of British holidaymakers can't recognise European road signs

Up to 16m motorists could be stumped by road signs, survey finds


IT’S THE time of year when many Brits load the car and set off for summer holidays in Europe — yet new research suggests most could do with brushing up on their continental driving rules.

A survey by the dash cam maker Nextbase revealed 40% of respondents had driven from the UK to mainland Europe, yet 65% of them failed to correctly identify five roads signs that are used in countries including France, Germany and Spain.

Many of those quizzed said they spend plenty of time behind the wheel in Europe however: three out of five (60%) of those who took part said they have driven 300 miles to their destination, which is roughly the distance between London and Paris.

A quarter (25%) of those who participated in the poll said they have even more experience of driving in Europe, claiming to have embarked on journeys across the Channel of 500 miles or more — suggesting some Brits wouldn’t be put off by the idea of driving from London to places like Turin (572 miles), Geneva (614 miles), Bordeaux (646 miles) or Berlin (681 miles).

Want to see how you’d have fared in the Nextbase survey? We’ve replicated it below, including the same wording for the multiple choice options:

Of the signs that stumped UK drivers in the Nextbase survey, the least recognised was the one marking the end of speed limit restrictions on Germany’s autobahn motorways. Three-quarters (75%) of those polled weren’t able to correctly identify the sign, with Nextbase saying many of the people who got it wrong seemed to get it mixed up with the UK’s national speed limit symbol.

The lack of understanding of European road signs is concerning, says Nextbase, as so many Brits travel to mainland Europe every year. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show 75% of the 71.7m overseas visits made by UK residents in 2018 were to other European Union member states.

With the latest Department for Transport figures stating around 40.7m Brits held a full UK driving licence as of May 2019, Nextbase claims there could be as many as 16m motorists who aren’t sufficiently prepared for foreign roads.

The survey revealed that a quarter of drivers had been involved in vehicle collisions abroad, with half of them being serious enough for local police forces to intervene.

In instances involving local constabularies, a third of drivers said they felt they’d been poorly treated by law enforcement “solely for not being from that country”.

Nextbase’s poll isn’t the first to suggest some British drivers may need to familiarise themselves with overseas driving rules. In 2018, a survey of motorists who had come back from a trip in continental Europe found more than half of them couldn’t name a single piece of equipment you need to have in your car when driving in France.

At the time of writing, it’s unclear if British motorists will still be able to drive in mainland Europe as freely as they can now, due to the ongoing uncertainties over the UK’s departure from, and future relationship with, the European Union. In the event of a no-deal Brexit on October 31 this year, the Department for Transport has advised that UK drivers may require an International Driving Permit before they make their way abroad.

Will I need a permit to drive in Europe after a no-deal Brexit?

Over half of motorists don’t know what they need to drive in France