UK drivers are being warned about being too relaxed driving in foreign countries where they drive on the right-hand side of the road, as the AA Driving School found nearly half have struggled to adapt.
AA Driving School research found 45% of UK drivers have experienced a problem when driving in a country with right-hand traffic.
Shockingly one in ten (9%) said they forgot where they were and carried on driving on the left-hand side of the road, risking driving straight into oncoming traffic. 5% said they had even drifted to the left and 3% said they had experienced a near-miss.
Drivers can easily be caught out on road trips to Europe upon first entering a country with right-hand traffic where your focus is on exiting ports and entry points in the correct direction but, just as you would set your clocks to local time, you should adjust your mindset to driving on the opposite side of the road. This is especially important when setting off early or after a long travel day, as lack of sleep can impair your reaction times.
More than a third (34%) found some part of driving on the right-hand side stressful, whether that was navigating roundabouts and junctions, carrying out manoeuvres or driving at night.
Younger people (18-24) were most likely to have problems with navigating in a foreign country with right-hand traffic. Older drivers (65+) were more likely to say they have forgotten which side of the road they should be driving on and drove on the left (10%).
The AA offers breakdown support abroad through its European Breakdown Cover, which gives drivers access to a network of 60,000 repairers in 44 countries across Europe.
Sean Sidley, AA Patrol of the Year, said: “It always pays to be prepared when driving abroad and making sure you have breakdown cover set up for the places you are visiting gives extra peace of mind. Although we can’t help with getting used to driving on another side of the road, our network of repairers will be on hand to assist if you breakdown.”
Mark Oakley, Managing Director at AA Driving School said: “With two in five UK drivers struggling with right-hand traffic, drivers need to be aware of the dangers they pose if they are over-confident behind the wheel in foreign countries.
“Although modern technology has replaced the need for a map reading passenger or sprawling paper route plan, sat navs can’t guide the car to the correct exit if drivers are confused about left and right. Allow plenty of breaks if you struggle to get used to right-hand traffic and, if worse comes to worst, make alternate travel plans if you find yourself posing a danger to other road users.
“Aside from the main hurdle of driving safely in right-hand traffic areas, drivers may be surprised when crossing borders on a summer road trip that different the speed limits, road signs and parking rules can be.
“Nobody wants to come back from holiday with a driving offence, so don’t rely on luck or translating as you go to understand a country’s rules of the road.”