How British drivers compare in European survey on responsible driving

LONDON--()--The VINCI Autoroutes Foundation for Responsible Driving has released the results of a vast Ipsos survey of European drivers’ behaviour, including the British. Do they see road violence as inevitable? Does the way they see themselves and other divers reflect reality? How does their driving behaviour open the way to other risky behaviour? In other words: what sort of drivers are they?

Lower road accident rates: the majority of British drivers are sceptical

At a time when the European Union has set a target of halving road fatalities by 2020, 61% of Europeans are convinced that it will not be possible to substantially reduce the number of people killed on their country’s roads in the coming years. But while 78% of Spanish drivers, who saw a record 24% drop in their road fatalities in 2013, are especially optimistic, British drivers seem to be equally divided on this issue, as a slight majority (51%), like their German counterparts (55%), consider that it will be difficult to lower the number of road victims to any significant extent. Drivers in these latter two countries are also the saddest when referring to the number of people killed on the road (56% of the British and 47% of Germans, compared with the 41% European average).

To bring down the road accident rate, Europeans are aware that action needs to be taken on several fronts. A total of 60% think that the main cause of road fatalities is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, followed by inattentiveness (51% of Europeans), and then speeding (46% of Europeans). This ranking is different for the British, who put inattentiveness first (58%). This particular awareness of inattentiveness or driver distraction is confirmed in the statistics for motorway fatalities, as 44% of the British believe that drowsiness is the major cause of accidents on motorways (compared with the European average of 40%).

Exemplary drivers in their own eyes

If there is one point on which Europeans agree across all borders, it is the positive assessment they have of their ability as drivers, giving themselves an average score of 7.8/10. Almost all of them (97%) use at least one positive adjective to describe their driving, such as “careful” (75%) or “calm” (52%). In fact 0% of drivers consider themselves as irresponsible or dangerous. The British are no exception to this rule, as they above all see themselves as “careful” (71%) and “courteous” (47%, compared with just 29% for the European average).

When it comes to judging the behaviour of their compatriots behind the wheel, the British, like other European drivers, are more severe in their assessment (81% use at least one negative adjective to describe them). More than in any other European country, the British see their compatriots as “aggressive” drivers (36% compared with the European average of just 29%), and 43% even see them as “irresponsible” (compared with 41% for the European average).

Unanimously, the Europeans consider the model drivers to be the Swedes (47%), followed by the Germans (26%) and the British (13%); and the least responsible to be the Italians (50%). However, the British tend to judge themselves relatively severely, as 21% of them consider that Great Britain is the country where drivers are the least responsible.

Risky behaviour and rudeness: European drivers vs. British drivers

  • 86% of European drivers admit they exceed the speed limit by a few km/h (vs. 89% of British drivers)
  • 62% fail to keep a safe distance from the vehicle ahead (vs. 58% of British drivers)
  • 48% admit they forget to indicate when overtaking (vs. 52% of British drivers)
  • 19% admit they sometimes drive without wearing their seat belt (vs. 12% of British drivers)
  • 46% say they use a hands-free telephone when driving (vs. 35% of British drivers)
  • 31% admit to telephoning without a hands-free kit when driving (vs. 15% of British drivers)
  • 26% send or receive texts and/or emails when driving (vs. 15% of British drivers)
  • 56% admit to swearing at other drivers (vs. 54% of British drivers)
  • 28% admit to overtaking on the right on the motorway (vs. 38% of the British, on the left)
  • 47% say they sound their horn excessively at drivers who annoy them (vs. 37% of the British)
  • 14% admit to getting out of their vehicle to argue with another driver (vs. 9% of the British)

Focus on several British specifics

Inattentiveness: While the risks associated with inattentiveness are by and large well identified, given that 70% of British drivers say that you should never drive if you are tired, almost one British driver out of three nonetheless admits to doing so (32%). They are the European champions of last-minute preparations (85% of British drivers compared with the European average of 77%), and even 80% of British drivers go to bed later or get up earlier before a long trip (compared with the European average of 77%). With regard to driving habits, only 63% of British swap drivers during a trip (compared with the European average of 71%), and just 53% stop for a restorative nap (compared with the 63% European average). This perhaps explains why 27% of British drivers admit to feeling as though they may have dozed off at the wheel for several seconds (compared with the European average of 25%).

The British are the most exemplary European drivers when it comes to telephoning while driving. Half as many of them admit to telephoning without a hands-free kit as the other Europeans (15% compared with 31%), and just 15% (compared with 26% for the other Europeans) admit to sending or reading texts and/or emails while driving.

Alcohol: The British are well aware of the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, which they rank among the main causes of road fatalities (40%). Moreover, they are more compliant with regard to drink driving laws than their European counterparts, as 7% of them (compared with 11% of Europeans) admit to driving above the legal alcohol limit when they do not feel the effects and just 3% (compared with 5% of Europeans) when they do feel the effects. Similarly, their average alcohol consumption before driving is less than the average for the other European drivers (1.7 drinks on average compared with 2 drinks), and they are more compliant with the UK’s legal BAC level.

Method: For this overview of European driving habits, Ipsos carried out an Internet survey between 29 January and 10 February on a sample of over 7,000 Europeans including 1,015 French, 1,001 Germans, 1,001 Belgians, 1,002 Spanish, 1,003 British, 1,004 Italians and 1,006 Swedes. The quota method was used to ensure the representativeness of each national sample.

About the VINCI Autoroutes Foundation for Responsible Driving

Created in February 2011, the VINCI Autoroutes Foundation for Responsible Driving is a laboratory, observatory and source of information specifically focused on improving road safety. It aims to help bring about changes in driver behaviour and to encourage drivers to contribute to their own safety and to that of other road users. Its actions include: information campaigns to raise awareness of road risks; funding for innovative scientific research in certain areas of risky driver behaviour that have not been sufficiently explored or are poorly identified by road users; and finally to fund initiatives by non-profit associations or citizen initiatives aimed at encouraging responsible driving.

Click here to read the full version of the 2014 European barometer on responsible driving.


Project Associates Ltd
Gemma Watts
0207 321 0773


Project Associates Ltd
Gemma Watts
0207 321 0773