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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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TRANSPORT

Everything you need to know about driving on the autobahn in Austria

Unlike Germany, Austria already has a speed limit on motorways, but that’s not the only rule that motorists should be aware of.

Everything you need to know about driving on the autobahn in Austria

Austria might be neighbours with Germany but that doesn’t mean they share the same rules when it comes to driving on a motorway (autobahn).

In fact, there is a strict speed limit in Austria, as well as other rules regarding road tax and environmental factors.

Then there are debates surrounding the reduction of the current national speed limit in a bid to lower the consumption of Russian oil.

To make sure you’re up to date and following the rules, here’s what you need to know about driving on the autobahn in Austria.

FOR MEMBERS: UPDATED: How to save money on fuel costs in Austria

What is the speed limit on the autobahn in Austria?

In Austria, the national speed limit on the motorway for motorbikes and cars is 130 km/h (81 mph), unless stated otherwise. For vehicles with a light trailer, the national speed limit is 100 km/h.

There are varying speed limits for vehicles with larger trailers or those with a heavy weight and there is also a speed limit of 60 km/h for certain trucks when driving at night.

This means Austria does not have long stretches of motorway without speed limits like in neighbouring Germany.

There have been discussions in the past about raising the speed limit to 140 km/h on Austrian motorways, with particular interest from the Freedom Party Austria (FPÖ). 

So far though, there are no indications that the speed limit will be raised and, if anything, there are calls to go in the opposite direction (see below for more).

READ ALSO: What you need to know about parking in Austria

Is there a tax for using the autobahn?

Austrian motorways operate on a vignette system which is a prepaid road tax issued as either a physical sticker for the windscreen or digitally.

Vignettes can be purchased at outlets across the country, such as petrol stations, service stations and some tourist information offices.

A vignette can be purchased for 10 days, two months or on an annual basis. For drivers that regularly use motorways in Austria, the annual ticket is the most economical option at €93.80 for a car or €37.20 for a motorbike (2022 prices).

Prices for the vignette are set by the Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology. The Motorway and Expressway Finance Company (ASFINAG) is responsible for issuing vignettes.

Compliance with the vignette is monitored through the use of control cameras on Austrian motorways. For cars or camper vans with no or an expired vignette, the fine is €120. For motorbikes the fine is €65.

If anyone is caught with a tampered toll sticker, the fine is €240 for a car or campervan and €130 for a motorbike.

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about Austria’s vignette motorway toll stickers

The political climate and the impact on driving

Greenpeace Austria recently called for the national speed limit on the Autobahn to be reduced to 100 km/h to save on fuel and emissions, as reported by the Kronen Zeitung.

The announcement follows EU sanctions on Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine and debates within western governments on how to wean themselves off a dependency on Russia oil and gas.

According to Greenpeace, lowering the speed limit would reduce our usage of petrol and diesel as driving at a lower speed uses less fuel. This would then help towards reducing the amount of oil Austria needs to source from Russia.

READ MORE: Austria’s nationwide public transport ‘climate ticket’ now available

Clara Schenk from Greenpeace Austria told Ö1 Morgenjournal that lowering the speed limit would have a “measurable impact” on Austria’s fuel consumption.

This was echoed by Johannes Wahlmüller from GLOBAL 2000 who said: “In principle, reducing the speed is a very simple and inexpensive measure to both save CO2 emissions and reduce fuel consumption. 

“If you drive at 100 km/h on the autobahn, you use around ten percent less fuel than at 130 km/h.” 

The principle arguments in favour of reducing the speed limit are that it is easy to implement, can save motorists money and can lead to quick results.

In fact, a 100 km/h speed limit is already in place on some roads when the air quality requires it, such as on the A1 Westautobahn between Linz and Vienna and on the A12 in Tyrol.

But on a national level, such a move could be politically hard to impose and there are calls to lower tax on fuel instead to combat rising prices. Motorist clubs ARBÖ and ÖAMTC support this approach, as well as the Chamber of Labour, the Chamber of Commerce, the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) and the Freedom Party Austria (FPÖ).

What is the situation elsewhere in Europe?

Germany is known around the world as a country with relaxed motorway rules when it comes to speed, but discussions surrounding a national speed limit have picked up pace in recent years.

In a 2021 survey by public broadcaster ARD, 60 percent of Germans believed there should be a speed limit of 130 km/h on German motorways. Only 38 percent said there should be no speed limit.

The main reason for this was environmental with many people saying they would be willing to lower their driving speed on motorways to reduce emissions.

In the past week, both Greenpeace Germany and Environmental Action Germany have again raised the issue of introducing a speed limit on motorways, but this time to reduce the consumption of Russian oil, as well as emissions.

They claim that a reduction in speed could save 3.7 billion litres of petrol and diesel, as well as 9.2 million tonnes of CO2.

Useful vocabulary

Autobahn – motorway

Vignette – road toll/tax

Tankstelle – petrol station

Tempolimit – speed limit

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