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European road signs

British motorists baffled by European road signs

European road signs

If you’re planning a European road trip this summer, you might want to do a little homework before you leave. That’s the message from Easyjet and Europcar, with the claim that “Brits are left baffled when faced with European road signs.”

Research conducted by the two firms found that a European road trip is on the bucket list for half of all Brits, and more than a third plan to drive abroad this summer. Worryingly, 89 percent of the 2,000 motorists surveyed admitted having little or no understanding of foreign regulations.

If you’re one of the motorists who doesn’t know their ausfahrt from their umleitung or their arrêt from their toutes directions, you’re not alone. Professor Stuart Cole, Professor Emeritus of Transport at the University of South Wales, analysed 800 road signs across eight European countries to determine which territories left Brits baffled.

Italian roads most confusing

Fiat 500

The results? Seventy-eight percent of British motorists found Italian road signs to be the most confusing, followed by Portugal (69 percent) and France (68 percent). The professor said: “Unfamiliar roads can be daunting for Brits travelling abroad due to the lack of expertise in foreign regulations and road signs.

“European laws mean that many rules are similar. However, Brits should take the time to look through the traffic laws and signs of where they’re travelling to give them peace of mind to enjoy their trip”.

Kim McDonnell, Head of Proposition at Easyjet, said: “Brits are in holiday mode once they’ve boarded a plane, but a car at their arrival destination gives them the freedom to enjoy and create their own holiday.

“Our research shows that whilst fearful of unknown European roads, Britons love the notion of road-tripping across Europe because it offers flexibility and spontaneity.”

As part of the study, the researchers looked into the top 10 confusing European road signs. Take a look at the following signs and ask yourself if you’d know what they mean without some research. Be honest.

1. Alternative parking – i.e. no parking on the side of the number one on odd days and on the side of the number two on even days (Italy)

Alternative parking Italy

2. Indirect left turn (Italy)

Indirect left turn Italy

3. No vehicles carrying water pollutants (Switzerland/Portugal)

No vehicles carrying water pollutants

4. If you want to turn left from a main road then turn right first take the road shown to cross the road (Spain)

Indirect left turn Spain

5. Priority on turn (France)

Priority on turn France

6. Skiers allowed to cross road during these hours (Germany)

Skiers allowed to cross road Germany

7. No handcarts/wheelbarrows (France/Portugal)

No handcarts or wheelbarrows France

8. No parking on verges/shoulder (Germany)

No parking on verges Germany

9. Accident ahead that is blocking the road (France)

Accident ahead that's blocking the road

10. Emergency lane with gravel pit (Switzerland)

Emergency lane with gravel pit Switzerland

The research also revealed some of the obscure and quirky road laws you might encounter when travelling on the continent. Of those surveyed, Brits weren’t aware of the following European regulations:

  1. Filling your tank while your radio is still on in Spain could lead to a €91 fine (51%)
  2. Legally, you cannot wash your car on a Sunday in Switzerland (43%)
  3. In Romania, you’ll be fined if you’re driving a dirty car (42%)
  4. In Germany, you can legally drive naked as your car is considered a private space (29%)
  5. Drivers in Denmark must check for sleeping children underneath their cars before they set off (27%)

If you saw the European signs and they opened up your eyes, maybe you’d enjoy some Europop.

Read more:

Land of confusion: UK motorists failing to read the signs

Road sign

How well do you know the rules of the road? Here’s a question to get you started.

What is the meaning of a set of double yellow lines painted on the roadside? Is it:

  1. No stopping at any time
  2. No parking at any time
  3. No waiting at any time (unless signs indicate seasonal restrictions)
  4. No waiting between 7am and 10pm

If you answered ‘c’, well done. Give yourself a Tufty badge for your efforts. If you answered incorrectly, you’re not alone, because research carried out by Aviva found that only one driver in 10 knew the correct meaning of double yellow lines, while a range of road signs caused similar confusion.

‘Pedestrians in the road ahead’ and ‘no buses’ appear to create the most confusion, with only 45% of respondents recognising them when faced with multiple choice answers. Similarly, some drivers were left scratching their heads over ‘no motor vehicles’ and ‘no stopping’, with the signs being correctly named by 59% and 62% of motorists respectively.

Aviva questioned more than 1,500 UK drivers and, on average, people answered eight out of fifteen correctly, with only two motorists managing to achieve full marks. This is despite research in 2015 which suggested four out of five motorists classed themselves as safe drivers.

Other findings include:

  • 33% of drivers were unable correctly identify 60mph as the UK national speed limit on a single carriage A-road.
  • 10% of motorists weren’t aware that 70mph is the speed limit on UK motorways.
  • 20% of drivers failed to recognise the sign for ‘national speed limit applies’.
  • 35% couldn’t identify the ‘one way traffic’ sign.
  • 25% didn’t know the meaning of the sign for ‘no through road’, with 22% of drivers believing it to be a ‘T’ junction.
  • 70% of motorists didn’t know the stopping distance at 30mph.

In case you’re wondering, the stopping distance at 30mph is 23 metres.

Adam Beckett, propositions director for Aviva, said: “Most of us think of ourselves as safe drivers and we genuinely try to follow the rules of there road, but as our study shows, we might not always know what these rules are!

“The good news is there are lots of ways we can try to improve our road safety, [such as] reacquainting ourselves with the Highway Code. By identifying where we can improve and taking a few simple steps to make these changes, we can all try to help make UK roads safer for everyone.”

To find out how much you know about road safety, check out the Aviva quiz. More than 40,000 people have answered the questions, scoring an average of 8 out of 10. Can you do better? Let us know.