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‘No consideration for anybody except themselves’: The damning verdict on Danish driving

Danish drivers were recently slammed for being increasingly reckless and for their worsening behaviour behind the wheel. But is Danish driving culture really that bad?

'No consideration for anybody except themselves': The damning verdict on Danish driving
File photo: Claus Fisker/Ritzau Scanpix

We put the question to our readers in Denmark. The response was emphatic, and may make for uncomfortable reading for Danish drivers.

Here’s what you had to say. Thanks to all who responded.

‘No respect for other drivers’

Are Danish drivers really that bad? We asked you to explain in a few lines.

The most common response we received to this question was a resounding ‘yes’.

“They are really poor and seriously bad,” said Carlo Mazur, adding that he felt there was “no respect for other drivers”.

“They never use the indicator, (which is) super dangerous, and always drive through the yellow and even red light,” Z. Albert from Copenhagen said, echoing the sentiments of the chairman of the Danish Police Union

Another reader, who gave her name as Maria, hit out at “constant speeding, disregard for the traffic regulations and inability to acknowledge other drivers or pedestrians”.

“The bad drivers seem to fall into two categories,” claimed one reader, who wanted to remain anonymous.

“Those that saved hard and got so excited about owning a ridiculously expensive car (because of the tax) that they think they know everything. These are the ones that run the red lights, speed, generally behave like they own the road,” they wrote.

“The other category are those who couldn’t afford to own a car for a long time (because of the tax) and so weren’t that bothered about keeping up their skills. These are the ones who turn without looking, don’t indicate and randomly hit the brakes because there is a car coming the other way,” the commenter added.

Motorway lane discipline is another area in which many found Danish drivers lacking.

“I once saw someone go from the fast lane, onto the hard shoulder, undertake several cars, come back onto the motorway and move over the fast lane again. He got ahead of two cars,” said Sarah Shaw, who lives in Roskilde. Shaw also said she regularly experiences reckless lane changing — often without indicating — during her daily commute.

“Lack of understanding of the ‘fast lane’ and therefore there’s a tendency to occupy the left lane several kilometres before needing to make a left turn, despite faster drivers trying to get past,” wrote James Amstutz, who lives in Aarhus.

File photo: Sofie Mathiassen/Ritzau Scanpix

Amstutz added that, on roundabouts, many have “no idea how to use a two lane roundabout, the majority having no qualms with taking the third exit from the outside lane, meaning that the inside lane is utterly unusable and/or dangerous.”

This was just one amongst many comments decrying poor use of roundabouts by drivers in Denmark.

A few of you stood up for Danish drivers, though, saying they did not deserve a bad reputation for their road etiquette.

“From my experience, in general Danish drivers seem better than American and German drivers and a lot better than Italian, Mexican and Israeli drivers,” said Adam Ackerman, who lives in the south of Denmark.

“I was impressed that the majority of the people obey the speed limit. I am Portuguese and we never drive at speed limit, always above,” added Marco Carneiro.

What's the most annoying thing drivers in Denmark do?

“They tailgate stupidly close, overtake at the most dangerous moments including on blind corners. They suddenly pull out in front of you without looking…” said Phillip Salisbury, who lives in northern Zealand.

“They decide to suddenly brake and turn before indicating and without looking in their mirrors. No spatial awareness at all. No consideration for anybody except themselves. They hate driving behind others, always have to be in front causing chaos. The list is endless,” Salisbury continued.

Not leaving adequate space for other drivers was a source of anger for many, notably cutting in front of others on motorways.

“I had several situations where I suddenly had to brake overtaking a truck because another car was squeezing in in front of me and my safety distance to the car ahead of me was gone,” said Frederike Molt.

“Speeding, tailgating and rude behaviour, will not let you out from a side road or other driveway,” Mazur added.

Others also pointed out a perceived lack of politeness on the roads in Denmark.

“I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve given way to a Dane with absolutely no acknowledgement of thanks whatsoever! It seems to be worse in Copenhagen with the over 60s seemingly being the main culprits. Maybe it’s just me being overly British and used to more courteous driving,” Mark Chapman said.

What are the best tips for people driving in Denmark?

“Watch out for people speeding especially on back roads,” Adam Ackerman wrote.

“Accept that most Danes probably don’t even know that they are being rude. It’s just what they are used to and have been taught. Try not to get too frustrated by it (like I obviously do!),” Chapman said.

Mazur said his best advice was to “take the train or bus”.

READ ALSO: The Danish habits that are just impossible to shake off

Member comments

  1. Danish drivers aren’t as inconsiderate as described here. On my daily commute the speeds are low on the motorway, so not too much crazy stuff happens. The worst is those vultures who wait until the last second to find a hole in the queue and jump in instead of queuing up like everyone else. It creates a predatory atmosphere where one has to drive too close to the car in front and seems to put everyone a bit on edge.

  2. IF…you think its bad in Denmark….try driving in Latvia..! Where Russians think they own the road, with their suvs and their big Mercedes ! Even though it is ” supposedly illegal” not to talk on mobile phones when you drive there …NO ONE cares !IF you leave 1 meter between you and the person in front…there is always some clown who will try and push his way in ..!!!The roads in Riga are pure crap ! Because of the out of control corruption here !

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What’s it like driving from Scandinavia to the UK with a young family?

With the cost of airline tickets increasingly discouraging, is driving from Scandinavia to the UK becoming a more attractive option? The Local Denmark editor Michael Barrett gave it a try.

What’s it like driving from Scandinavia to the UK with a young family?

This summer has seen the return of large-scale international travel after a couple of Covid-hit years that have not been a picnic for anyone.

While the end of restrictions came as a relief, severe delays and disruptions at airports have added a new uncertainty around travel in 2022.

Scandinavia has not been an exception to this, with strikes at Scandinavian airline SAS and delays at Copenhagen and other airports among the problems faced by the sector.

Additionally, the increasing price of airline tickets in a time when inflation is hitting living costs across the board has become another factor discouraging air travel.

Finally, there’s the impact of air travel on climate to be considered. So is there an alternative?

The plan

Unlike colleagues who have made long distance journeys from France and Sweden respectively by rail, our plan was to make the trip from our home in Denmark to the UK by car.

There are a few reasons we picked this less climate-friendly option. I’ll readily admit they were driven (no pun intended) by our own needs, and not those of the planet. I hope we can offset this by using the train more than the car for longer journeys within Denmark, where costs are competitive.

Once we decided not to take our usual Ryanair flight, we only really considered driving. This is primarily because we have a toddler (age two), and felt that on such a long journey, the ability to control the timing and length of our stops would be crucial.

Secondly, the route would have taken longer and been more difficult logistically by rail, and would also have cost more. For example, we arrived at Harwich International Port late on a weekday evening, from where onward travel was to rural Suffolk. The thought of doing this on multiple local rail (possibly bus) services with a tired two-year-old makes me shudder a bit.

The route

From our home in central Denmark, we set out on a Monday morning and drove south on the E45 motorway, crossing the German border and continuing past Hamburg. We then got on to the A1 Autobahn and made for Bremen, where we stopped overnight.

Travelling non-stop, this journey takes just under four hours. It took us around five and a half. We stopped twice and were caught in traffic at Hamburg, where there is lot of construction going on around the city’s ring road.

Leaving early (just after 6am) the following day, we drove southwest and crossed the border into the Netherlands after a brief stop, but then managed to complete the journey to the port town Hook of Holland without a further break.

Our ferry from Hook of Holland to Harwich was due to leave at 2:15pm and check-in time was an hour before that. This was the only deadline we had on our journey that would have been problematic to miss, so we gave ourselves plenty of time for the drive from Bremen. We arrived in Hook of Holland at around 11:30am.

Next was a six-hour ferry crossing to the East Anglian coast. We booked a cabin – they are inexpensive on daytime crossings – which gave us a chance to relax after the drive and our daughter a comfortable spot for her afternoon nap.

After a queue at customs in Harwich which took around 45 minutes, we were driving through the Essex countryside just before 9pm local time. The final drive to our destination took an hour and a half.

What went right

It’s not the most relevant information for anyone considering a similar trip, but I have to mention our car. A 2003 VW Polo we bought two years ago that has never had any mechanical issues, I was nevertheless braced for possible problems given its age (and ensured I had roadside assistance for outside of Denmark, more detail on this below).

However, there was not so much as a hint of an issue of any kind at any point during the 900 kilometres it covered on the journey, nor on the way home. Respect.

Our plan to split the trip into two days paid off. I think you could do it in one day (there are also overnight ferries) if you shared the driving and needed less flexibility. I should also recognise here that we live relatively close to Germany and our destination was close to the east coast of the UK. If you were travelling, for example, from Copenhagen to Cardiff, you’d have significantly more driving to do.

For us, knowing we could take long breaks if we needed them took a lot of stress out of the journey and allowed us to adapt to our toddler’s needs – changing nappies, finding a service station playground or stopping for an ice cream.

Stopping overnight also gave us the chance to see some new places (we switched things up on the way back and stayed in Groningen in the north of the Netherlands, instead of Bremen) and gave us a feeling of being on our own little bonus holiday.

What went wrong

In all, things went as well as we possibly could have hoped for and our conclusion after we got back home was that we’d like to travel this way again.

We were stopped by traffic police in Groningen city centre because I failed to understand signs showing we were entering a public transport-only zone. The officers who stopped us then offered to escort us to our accommodation a few streets away.

The ferry, operated by Stena Lines, had far less to do on board than we’d imagined there would be on a six-hour voyage. Two tiny off-duty shops, a cinema showing a superhero film and a minuscule play area (which our daughter nevertheless enjoyed) were about the extent of it. We hadn’t downloaded any films ourselves or brought much entertainment with us from the car, so we got a bit bored during the crossing. This is hardly a serious gripe and an easy one to rectify on the return trip.

The practical stuff 

Roadside assistance is obviously crucial for a journey like this, and it’s also important to double check your insurance is valid once you leave the country in which your car is registered and insured – Denmark, in our case.

Foreign authorities can check your insurance is valid. You can document this with the International Motor Insurance or “Green” card, which serves as proof you have motor insurance when you drive outside of the EU (you don’t need it within the EU).

This means that (in theory) you can be asked to present it in the UK. We weren’t asked for it.

The Green Card can be printed via your insurance company’s website. You’ll need your MitID or NemID secure login to access the platform and print off your document. Here is an example of the relevant page on the website of insurance company Tryg. If you can’t find the right section on your insurance company’s website, contact them by phone.

A number of Danish companies specialise in roadside assistance, including Falck and SOS Dansk Autohjælp. You can also include roadside assistance as part of your motor insurance package. We have the latter option, but in either case, I’d recommend calling your provider to make sure you are covered for breakdown in the EU and non-EU countries like the UK (if that’s where you’re going). Obviously, you should add such cover to your existing deal if you don’t have it, or change to a different deal.

The company which operates the ferry from Hook of Holland to Harwich is Stena Line. Both directions have daytime and overnight departures.

There is a range of prices, and I couldn’t cover all the options here if I tried. However, I’d recommend a cabin on the daytime departures, because it’s inexpensive and gives you a bit of personal space and privacy, which is useful with children.

After calculating what our approximate fuel costs would be, the price of the hotel stays and ferry tickets, we found that the trip cost around 1,500 kroner more than we would have paid to fly from Billund Airport to London Stansted with checked-in baggage with Ryanair on the same dates. In return, we could take as much luggage as we want with us (and back), we got to see Bremen and Groningen and had our own car with us in the UK. This was more than worth the additional expense.

I also spent 50 kroner on a “DK” sticker for the tailgate of the car (because the car is so old it predates the EU number plates that include the country code) and 70 kroner for some headlight stickers which prevent full beam headlamps from dazzling oncoming drivers when you are driving on the left in the UK.

As I busily fixed them onto my car as we waited to disembark the ferry, however, a lorry driver parked next to us said these were, in fact, entirely unnecessary.