Hundreds of thousands of road crashes abroad caused by Brits not understanding road signs

25 April 2018

A new study from Co-op Insurance has found that there have been hundreds of thousands* of road crashes abroad due to British drivers not understanding the road signs.

According to the study, three fifths (62%) of holidaymakers have driven abroad, yet nearly three quarters (71%) have driven blind when it comes to understanding what the road signs meant. Worryingly, Co-op Insurance has estimated this has resulted in almost 860,000 avoidable road crashes.

In addition to accidents, the study reveals that almost a quarter (22%) of UK motorists said not understanding road signs abroad led to them taking a wrong turn.

A fifth (19%) ventured down a road that they weren’t supposed to and over a tenth (14%) had to endure the wrath of other drivers, who became aggressive and in some cases, shouted at them. Furthermore, over a tenth (12%) of UK motorists admitted that foreign road signs had also been to blame for an argument within their own car.

Nearly half of drivers (46%) believe that trying to understand what road signs mean in foreign countries is the most stressful part of driving abroad.

As a result, two fifths (39%) of drivers say they refuse to drive abroad, highlighting the distance motorists will go to in order to swerve dealing with foreign road signs.

Why are brits wary

With holiday season now upon us and thousands of Brits about to set off on a leave, the insurer is urging motorists to familiarise themselves with the road signs in their chosen holiday destination and avoid a potential holiday disaster.

When asked what may encourage these motorists to drive abroad, four fifths (86%) explained they would find some foreign road sign guidance useful and a further tenth (13%) said such guidance would actually encourage them to drive more when abroad.

Nick Ansley, Head of Motor Insurance at the Co-op said:

“Familiarising yourself with road signs before you drive abroad is incredibly important. As the figures show many British drivers are having crashes on holiday turning what should be a relaxing time of year into a stressful one.

“Ten minutes brushing up on the road signs of the country you are visiting could stop a lot of stress and worry for you and other road users in the long run.”

At the Co-op Insurance we want to help our motorists feel confident and therefore safe when venturing on foreign roads. For that reason, we’ve developed an easy to use interactive tool in the hope that it will help to educate drivers ahead of overseas road trips.

Nick’s top tips for driving abroad

  • Make sure you’re aware of the rules of the road for the country you’re travelling in
  • Don’t forget, generally the speedometers abroad are set as km/h rather than mph
  • Make sure you have appropriate footwear - never drive in flipflops
  • Check your Satnav is up to date for the country you’re visiting
  • Keep your documents including a driving licence to hand

Co-op motor insurance customers who purchase optional breakdown cover receive European breakdown cover for 8 days as standard.


Media Contact:

Jenna Moss
PR Manager
Mobile: 07770 441 828

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Notes to editors

Research was conducted among 2000 UK adults on behalf of Co-op Insurance by Atomik research in March 2018

*39 million drivers in Great Britain
62% of drivers have driven abroad: 24,180,000 million drivers
71% have come across road signs they didn’t understand: 17,167,800
Of these 71% 5% say they have crashed: 858,390 drivers
39 million figure by DVLA sourced via

About Co-op Insurance:

Co-op Insurance is part of Co-op Group, one of the world’s largest consumer co-ops, owned by millions of members. Alongside Co-op Insurance, we have the UK’s fifth biggest food retailer, the UK’s number one funeral services provider, and a developing legal services business.

As well as having clear financial and operational objectives, the Group is a recognised leader for its social goals and community-led programmes.