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Motorway Driving Abroad: A Case Study

By: Sally Aquire - Updated: 28 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Driving Motorway Driving European

You might assume that driving on a motorway is the same no matter which country you are in, but this is often not the case. Many UK drivers are often quite taken aback when driving on motorways abroad as the driving styles and attitudes of foreign drivers can be a lot different to what they are used to. Carla Thompson was one such example. She and her boyfriend travelled on holiday to Spain, and were stunned at the driving differences between the two countries.

Driving Attitudes

Carla was surprised that the driving style of many drivers on the Italian motorways was far more aggressive than she was used to in the UK. She says, “The driving was very different from here in the UK. When you drive on the motorway, you actually join the fast lane and the vehicles are driven very close together. It was a little scary at first, but it is something that you have to get used to pretty quickly. Driving in some European countries is a little bit terrifying at times, and motorway driving in Spain was no exception for us!”

Things to Look Out For

Carla advises keeping an eye out for lorries on foreign motorways. She says, “For lorries that have a left-hand drive, there may be a blind spot. If you are approaching this blind spot, they won't be able to see you if they move lanes. Because of this, make sure that you give the lorry driver plenty of space. If he or she cannot see you (because you are in the blind spot), they will not usually indicate and you may not be prepared for the manoeuvre if you have not given them enough space. This happened to us on a Spanish motorway, so I speak from experience”.

Driving at Night

Many people choose to drive on the motorway during the night and early morning as it is often more quiet and there is less traffic around. However, the fact that motorways tend to be long and straight means that they are monotonous. This makes it extremely easy to lose concentration while driving. Carla says, “We took it in turns to share the driving duties as driving down the motorway through the night was very monotonous and it was surprisingly easy to lose concentration before too long”.

Paying Tolls

One major difference on foreign motorways is the presence of tolls booths. Drivers from the UK are often not familiar with using tolls as was the case with Carla. She says, “We found it easier to purchase a toll card that we could hand over at any toll booth. This can work out a lot cheaper than paying the charges as you go but it is only really cost effective if you regularly use toll roads. For a one-off holiday, you're probably better paying in cash or by credit card”.

Carla has some advice to UK drivers who are planning to drive on European motorways, and this is to make sure that you keep your wits about you! As she says, “Be prepared for drivers to give you far less room than in the UK, especially when you first join the motorway. You will often find yourself increasing your speed to keep up with them, and it may actually be more dangerous not to do this.”

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