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Costa del Smash: Brits abroad fail to recognise foreign road signs

28th August 2014 Print

UK drivers fail to identify half of foreign road signs (46%), according to revealing new research from Insurance4CarHire (I4CH).

The findings come from a survey of 2,000 UK drivers who were asked to correctly identify road signs from popular holiday destinations. Spain tops the list where British motorists are most at risk of needing to make a claim on their insurance, according to I4CH claims data collected over the past three years (2012-14).

Countries causing the highest road sign confusion

Rank – Country - % incorrect answers

1 Spain 62%

2 Portugal 61%

3 Australia 50%

4 France 49%

5 Italy 49%

And with UK holiday-makers still keen to catch some late summer sun, the realisation we're least able to recognise Spanish road signs could come as extremely bad news, with motorists giving a wrong answer 62% of the time. Even in Italy, where British drivers give their best performance, we’re scraping at the halfway mark, with a success rate of a meagre 51%.

As well as dealing a blow to the image of conscientious British drivers, the results have done little to help the image of younger drivers, with those in the 18-34 year old bracket averaging the lowest score of all at 41%. By contrast, the baby boomer generation (55-64) performed slightly above average with an average score of 48%.

The poll also revealed a marked difference between the sexes, with men scoring roughly 4% higher overall (48% vs. 44%). 

I4CH, which specialises in providing cover for the insurance excess imposed by car rental firms, has additionally revealed the top 5 countries they receive the most claims from, with the average claim coming in at £350.  Since 2011, I4CH have paid over £2million in claims, with the highest paid claims made in Italy (£280,000 worth) and in Spain (£191,000).

Country - Number of claims

Italy 670

Spain 613

France 509

Portugal 395

Australia 122

Commenting on the research, Lauren Mason, from I4CH, said: “These findings highlight just how foreign the experience of driving abroad can be for UK motorists. Whether it’s driving on the wrong side of the road, following different rules or just obeying a different set of signs, it can all add to the hassle of driving a car abroad. This is a clear reminder for British drivers to be as prepared as possible and anyone in doubt about the scope of their insurance policy should consider how covering their excess through I4CH can provide total peace of mind when hiring a car.”

Some other highlights from the research revealed: 

Australia's sign for "Road will change ahead" posed the most problems for drivers, with 99% of all respondents people answering incorrectly

90% of people were also unable to identify the Italian sign for "drive straight"

And the Spanish sign for a “limited access road” forced 89% of British drivers to take wrong turns

The capital may have the cosmopolitan image, but it’s the South East of England which ranks highest, scoring on average 48%

But, those from the West Midlands might like to consider staying at home to revise their theory, as they scored worst of all the regions (44%)