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Who are the worst drivers in Europe?

Who are the most aggressive drivers in Europe? What about the most likely to speed or beep their horns? A new survey claims to have the answers.

Who are the worst drivers in Europe?
Who's the rudest, and who's the most likely to drive too fast? Photo: AFP

Main points: 

  • French and Greeks are the rudest
  • Swedes most likely to drive too fast
  • Swedes also most likely to drive too close to another car
  • Dutch the most likely to undertake
  • Spanish most likely to use their horn

Drivers in most of Europe say they have adopted safer and more courteous behaviour behind the wheel, with the notable exception of the French and Greeks who share the top spot for hurling insults at other road users, polling data suggested on Wednesday.

In a poll of self-reported behaviour, drivers in most European countries said they were less likely to resort to insults than a year ago, to lean on the car horn, to overtake on the right, or to drive too closely to the car in front of them.

However, the poll found the Greeks were most likely (47 percent) to drive on the tail of the car in front of them and, with the French, to insult other drivers (70 percent).

READ ALSO: 'No consideration for anybody except themselves': The damning verdict on Danish driving

The Spanish, at 66 percent, were quickest to jump on their car horn, according to the research conducted in 11 countries by the Ipsos polling agency for roads operator Vinci Autoroutes.

The Greeks, the study found, topped the list for dangerous road behaviour while the British came last.

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Overall, 88 percent of European drivers admitted to exceeding the speed limit on occasion – one percent down from 2019, and 61 percent – a drop of three percent – to not respecting the safety distance.

The Swedes were the most likely to drive too fast or too close to another car, or to take their eyes off the road, the poll found.

Dutch drivers were the most likely – almost half of them – to overtake on the right in lanes meant for slower traffic.

Not on target

On a positive note, the poll found that only two of the 14 indicators of dangerous driving behaviour were on the rise – speaking on the telephone and setting the GPS while driving.

A fifth of drivers – a rise of one percent from 2019 – said they had got out of their car to settle an argument with another road user. The Poles, at 37 percent, were most guilty of this.

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A fifth of French drivers, compared to 16 percent in Europe, said they were “not really the same person when driving”, and judged themselves to be more nervous, impulsive or aggressive than otherwise.

According to EU data, some 22,800 road traffic fatalities were recorded in the 27 European Union countries in 2019. This was about 7,000 fewer than in 2010, representing a decrease of 23 percent.

The number fell by two percent from 2018.

While the underlying trend remains downward, progress had slowed in most countries since 2013, and the EU target of halving the number of road deaths by 2020 from 2010 would not be met, the European Commission said in a report.

“2020 still may prove to be an outlier with early indications that the number of road fatalities is likely to drop significantly in view of the measures taken to tackle coronavirus but not by enough to meet the target,” it said.

Member comments

  1. This is another set of statistics that treats Greece as homogenous. My experience is different.

    On Santorini, almost everyone I talked to said that the most dangerous drivers were American tourists—especially male tourists from specific stated (guess which ones). I didn’t try to drive on Santorini.
    But I drove all over East Crete and I never felt insulted or endangered. The only place I had trouble was the center of Heraklion, after dark, and even my Cretan friends wouldn’t drive there, given a choice.

  2. I spent three months dry retching when I first started driving in southern Italy. This after 35 years extensive driving in the UK. The obsession to overtake, tailgate, inability to look left, no use of indicators. They are crazy, that is why the insurance is so expensive. However they do it all with a smile, a cheeky grin and a shrug of the shoulders. “You got eyes and brakes – use them.” Driving in France is so polite.

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DRIVING

Ten things for foreigners to know when learning to drive in Denmark

Foreign residents from outside the EU are sometimes required to learn and take a driving test in Denmark – even if they can already drive. We asked driving instructors and foreign drivers in Denmark for their best advice.

Ten things for foreigners to know when learning to drive in Denmark

Do a bit of homework

A bit of home study and focus on technical aspects – which may be different from other countries where you have driving experience – can set you on your way, according to both an instructor and a testee.

“Starting from attending the theory classes, a consistent focus on the technical instructions when you are driving with your instructor is extremely important”, Martin Kremmling, a driving instructor from Næstved, told The Local.

“I found the driving licence handbook very helpful, especially when I had to understand the uniquely Danish technical and theoretical aspects of driving,” Kiama Chola, a Kenyan expat who previously held an American driving licence, said.

Rosa Camero, a Mexican native who had driven for almost two decades prior to moving to Denmark, said it was like starting from scratch. “What helped me pass my theory test was taking online tests every single day,” she said.

Prepare yourself psychologically 

Getting started on your journey to getting a driving licence in Denmark requires preparing oneself psychologically.

“When you are behind the wheel of a car, your mental strength is what will help you in driving safely and efficiently,” says Kremmling.

Learn to drive from the passenger’s seat

Unlike in many other countries, Denmark does not allow a learner’s permit that allows students to continue practising their driving with a parent or someone with a valid driver’s licence. Therefore, many students have to pay to drive with their instructors

“Understandably, the process of getting a driver’s licence in Denmark is expensive. But, a student can learn by just being a passenger,” says Kremmling.

“If you can sit in the passenger’s seat and see how the driver prepares and manoeuvres, it will go a long way in helping when you are behind the steering wheel”.

Maya Pandya, an Indian native who moved to Denmark, agrees.

“It helped me to observe and learn while sitting next to my husband as he drove, especially changing speeds from the highways to city limits, and at the roundabouts,” she said.

Find the driving school and the language of instruction that is best for you

“I had to find the right school and instructor before investing my time and money in getting my driver’s licence,” Hina Akram, who moved from Pakistan to Copenhagen, told The Local.

Akram chose Urdu to be the language of instruction and tests. While this was helpful in overcoming the language barrier, she notes that some terms don’t have exact translations from Danish.

Some Danish schools offer driving instructions in various languages – this will often be stated on the school’s website, or you can call them to find out. When taking the practical test, if a foreign language is chosen, a translator will have to be hired at an extra fee of around 1,000 kroner.

READ ALSO: What to know about taking the Danish driving test as a foreigner

Communication is key

Open communication is key to success, according to some who learned to drive in Denmark after moving here.

“My first driving school and instructor were not a good fit for me, as I could not fully understand them. It changed when I changed my school and instructor, whom I could understand and ask any question, no matter how silly it may have sounded,” Chola says.

Driving instructor Deniz Cicek said he modifies his teaching based on his student’s level of manoeuvring.

“For some of my foreign students, I had to begin with teaching them to manoeuvre a shopping trolley before letting them sit behind the steering wheel”, says Cicek.

Civek said he uses videos on TikTok and YouTube to engage his students and for them to take note of driving safely while learning how to master the theory and road tests.

READ ALSO: How and when should I exchange my foreign driving licence for a Danish one?

Respect and acknowledge uniquely Danish road safety needs

“Despite being from the EU, driving in Denmark – especially in Copenhagen – is quite different,” said Kristel, an Estonian who moved from London. She had to be especially aware of the biking lanes and bikers in Denmark.

“I encourage my foreign students, especially those from outside of Europe, to understand key signs on the road, arrows and lanes that they may not be familiar with, before getting started,” Kremmling said, adding that he encourages his students to begin with cycling to understand traffic and develop better judgement around safe driving.

“I was learning new terms for the first time. For instance, ‘unconditional give way duty’. I worked with my instructor to really understand how it plays out while driving,” Pandya said.

Remember “mirror-mirror-shoulder”

Every instructor will tell their students this well before they turn the ignition.

“Checking your rear-view mirror, the side mirror, and looking over your shoulder should become natural for every driver,” says Kremmling.

This is echoed by Cicek. “The mirror-mirror-shoulder check is probably the most important thing in a practical exam. Every practical test examiner will be looking at you if you have checked your mirrors and looked over your shoulder”, he says.

“Road safety is taken seriously and being meticulous is the way to being a safe and successful driver in Denmark. Especially so in the city centres, where there are many cyclists on the side lanes – so one has to be extra vigilant,” Chola notes.

Try not to stress about the exam

“Most of my foreign students who fail their exams seem to be taken over by stress,” says Kremmling.

One way to avoid this is prioritisation, according to Camero.

“It can be overwhelming and stressful to remember everything at once. So, I prioritised based on what I saw on online tests and what my driving instructor said would be important. That helped a lot,” she said.

Another way is to imagine driving with your instructor.

“For your practical test, it can be nerve-wracking for foreign students to be driving with someone they are meeting for the first time. I always suggest that they imagine that they are driving with their driving instructor, with whom they have established a comfort level,” Cicek says.

Use online resources to prepare

Several sites offer practice theory tests. These include Teoriklar, Sikkertrafik and Bedrebilist.

“It is worth investing in as it helped me pass my theory after having been unsuccessful without these online tests two previous times,” says Pandya.

Know that the practical test evaluators are on your side

At the end of it all, both Kremmling and Cicek emphasise that students need not fear test evaluators but consider them as allies in their process.

“They are nice and there to help”, says Cicek.

Kremmling echoes the same sentiment: “the evaluators are experienced and understand how stressful this can be, particularly for a foreign student.”

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