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June 19th 2018

Accidents & Illness Abroad

Foreign road signs should not be baffling 89% of British drivers abroad

Paul McClorry

Paul McClorry

Head of Travel Litigation

Foreign road signs should not be baffling 89% of British drivers abroad

Driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road is difficult enough in itself and confuses most of the four million British motorists who drive when they’re on holiday in Europe.

Driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road is difficult enough in itself and confuses most of the four million British motorists who drive when they’re on holiday in Europe.

So, I was shocked to learn that 9 out of 10 holidaymakers (87 per cent) who drive when abroad actually do so without conducting any research into that country’s highway code or rules.

In a survey of 2,000 British drivers that was conducted on behalf of easyJet and car hire firm Europcar, a massive 89 per cent of Britons admitted they had little or no understanding of foreign road signs and regulation.

More than half of those questioned (59 per cent) admitted to becoming confused and said they’d driven on the left by mistake.

According to the survey, the biggest challenges for British holidaymakers are:

  • Driving on the right-hand side of the road (59 per cent)
  • Understanding foreign rules and regulations (51 per cent)
  • Identifying foreign traffic signs (44 per cent)

Unfortunately, these shocking statistics are indicative of the attitude of British drivers when abroad – even though unfamiliar roads, strange signage and obscure regulations can make driving abroad a very daunting (and stressful) experience.

As someone who deals with the aftermath of road traffic accidents abroad, I’ve seen the negative impact that a lack of road knowledge can have on a driver’s behaviour behind the wheel.

Being distracted is often a major contributory factor behind accidents involving vehicles. The fact a driver might be unaware of exactly what they are required to do – because of a lack of on-the-road knowledge – can only increase the potential for poor decision making.

Having pursued hundreds of cases involving all kinds of injuries in various countries around the world, I know that some of these incidents could have been prevented had drivers carried out proper research before travelling.

The peak time for overseas road trips usually arises when the summer holidays start in July.

If you’re planning to get behind the wheel on foreign soil, you should definitely allocate some time to study the traffic laws and signs of the country where you’ll be traveling – before setting off.

Although European laws mean that many rules are similar, something simple like knowing the difference between kilometres and miles per hour could help to prevent an accident or minimise its impact.

How to seek justice if you’re involved in a road traffic accident abroad

If you’re unfortunate enough to be caught up in a road traffic accident, the situation could be exacerbated if you haven’t arranged suitable travel insurance because the costs of hospital treatment can be crippling.

Sadly, this is an oversight that 10 million Brits make every year – and taking out cover should be your number one priority ahead of any trip overseas.

If you are one of the thousands of British holidaymakers who are involved in a road traffic accident when abroad, you could be entitled to seek justice through the English court system. Again, this is something that many British holidaymakers do not know.

But thanks to powerful pro-consumer legislation (including EU Motor Insurance Directives), motorists and passengers who are not at fault can make a claim for compensation in their own country against the at-fault motorist’s insurer.

Not only does this make the legal process more straightforward, it allows any injured parties to return home for treatment. They can then pursue a claim against the foreign insurer of the negligent driver in their own country, where they can access legal advice and independent medical experts.

It doesn’t matter if you were the driver, a passenger or a pedestrian, you may be able to claim compensation for:

  • A car, taxi or motorbike accident
  • A coach or minibus incident
  • A bicycle crash
  • An accident as a pedestrian

Even if you are involved in an accident caused by an uninsured driver, you can often claim compensation.

The best way to stay as safe as possible when driving abroad is to learn the rules, regulations and road signs which are observed by your host nation. Adopting a cautious and defensive driving style will also help to keep you safe.

Even if you do everything possible to protect you and your passengers, accidents can still happen. Should the worst happen and you need to make a claim, we would advise doing so as soon as possible because different time limits apply depending on the country where it happened.

If you need any expert legal advice or help to guide you through the process, please get in touch – even if it’s only to put your mind at rest.

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