Almost half look the wrong way at junctions

With up to an estimated 8 m British drivers taking to foreign roads this year*, new research out today reveals many motorists are riddled with nerves, make dangerous mistakes and lack essential knowledge when it comes to driving abroad.

According to the research, which forms part of Norwich Union's "Driving Abroad Uncovered" report*, almost half (48%) of British motorists admit to being nervous about driving overseas. And the study reveals that their nerves are often well-founded - over a third (35%) say they have accidentally driven on the wrong side of the road while abroad, 42% say they usually look the wrong way when approaching junctions and 24% say they have unwittingly broken the speed limit in a foreign country.

These common concerns are supported by Norwich Union claims analysis, which highlights confusion at roundabouts and giving way to the right as some of the most common causes of accidents in Europe.

The research also identifies British drivers' main concerns when driving in a different country, which include being involved in an accident (49%), being flummoxed by foreign rules and regulations, their car breaking down (34%) and misinterpreting unfamiliar road signs (13%).

Despite their concerns, many motorists are worryingly unprepared for driving in unfamiliar conditions and countries. One in five (20%) say they don't do any research before they leave and assume they will just "pick things up" when they get there, and 5% even admit that they don't bother to do any research because they assume the road rules and regulations will be the same as in the UK.

And while more than a third of motorists (34%) say they wouldn't know how to get assistance if they broke down in a foreign country, nearly a million people still don't check their motor insurance before heading off.

Norwich Union warns that failure to do so could cost them dear, with claims data from the UK's largest insurer showing that car accidents abroad vary in costs from an average of £1,445 in France to £5,180 in Sweden and Denmark.

"We strongly advise drivers planning a trip abroad to do their homework on road rules and regulations before they leave the country. Assuming you will pick things up when you get behind the wheel is extremely dangerous and could mean that you are breaking the law", says Erik Nelson, spokesperson for Norwich Union.

"It's important to understand that fully comprehensive motor insurance in the UK does not automatically mean the same level of cover abroad and so we urge people to contact their insurer to assess their level of cover abroad and decide whether to upgrade their policy prior to their trip."

*Source: ABI report