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Brits driving abroad love sun, sea, sand... and good quality roads!

11 Jun 2014 at 11:30

The lasting impression of any holiday is normally the weather, the scenery, the fun and the food, but a new report by the RAC has found that an increasing number of Brits driving abroad come home amazed by the quality and emptiness of European roads, combined with the cheaper price of fuel.

With 4.2m1 motorists choosing to take control and travel to Europe by car every year, many motorists are witnessing first-hand how far Britain’s roads are lagging behind our European counterparts in terms of quality2.

The UK is currently ranked 24th in the world for the quality of its highways and byways3, while France comes second, Portugal fourth, with Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Finland and Sweden all in the top 20.

Research carried out for the RAC Driving Abroad Report 2014 found good road surfaces was the top reason people enjoy the experience of driving on the Continent (42%), followed by the lower cost of petrol and diesel compared to the UK (32%).

The quality of Britain’s roads is a constant cause of frustration to motorists who pay in excess of £45bn in motoring taxation every year. Eight in 10 drivers (84%) surveyed for last year’s RAC Report on Motoring (2013) believe the condition and maintenance of local roads is deteriorating while 75% think UK motorways and main roads are getting noticeably worse.

The fewer number of cars on foreign roads was also listed as a positive holiday experience by a quarter (25%) of motorists. A fifth (20%) also said they enjoyed the chance to experience faster roads that parts of Europe have to offer, while 18% had the perception there are fewer speed cameras keeping an eye on their driving behaviour.

In fact, given the choice, more than half (54%) of those surveyed would rather drive to Europe than take any other form of transport.

The top three reasons UK motorists gave for taking their cars on holiday are:

  • Freedom of being able to do what you want, when you want (73%)
  • Seeing places you wouldn’t see by flying (54%)
  • Exploring a country ‘up close’ by road (45%)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, due to its close proximity and easy access to a range of beautiful locations, France (78%) was the most popular destination for those who drove abroad in 2013 followed by Belgium (20%) Germany (18%).

RAC technical director David Bizley said: “With continental Europe right on our doorstep it’s understandable that so many of us pack up the car and head overseas to explore every year taking an average of 15 hours to get to their destination. It is, however, surprising that the quality of European roads has such a dramatic impact on the overall enjoyment of the driving experience abroad. It proves the UK’s road network has much to live up to, particularly compared to countries such as France which has built more than 2,700 miles of new motorway since 1990 – more than the entire UK motorway network put together.

“One can only wonder what European drivers think when they get off the ferry or Eurotunnel and start driving on our pothole-ridden roads with worn-away road markings. Suffice to say it can’t be good for encouraging return visits, and let’s not forget all the British motorists who have to put up with these poor surfaces day in, day out.”

The RAC’s Driving Abroad Report 2014 also shows that in all the excitement and fun involved in planning a driving holiday abroad, many UK motorists are actually failing to ‘do their homework’ before they take their vehicle overseas.

The research shows that just four in 10 (43%) spend between one and two hours researching all aspects of driving before they go abroad, while 14% of British drivers spend just half an hour finding out what they need to know before heading to foreign roads.

With this distinct lack of planning or attention to detail, it is hardly surprising that a fifth of drivers (20%) have driven in Europe without researching the rules of the road first. Some 18% have failed to find out what the national speed limits are in their chosen holiday destination, while 17% have not double-checked what any of the traffic signs mean before getting behind the wheel overseas.

More than one in 10 (13%) of British holidaymakers fail to check the alcohol limits in the countries they are visiting.

And, at a time when different European countries have varying requirements for compulsory equipment you must carry in your car at all times (such as a warning triangle, reflective jacket; winter tyres, breathalyser etc.) nearly a fifth of UK motorists (17%) have risked problems with local traffic enforcement authorities by taking to the wheel without doing their research properly.

The RAC’s Driving Abroad section on the RAC website ( offers a host of advice and tips and handy ‘before you go’ travel checklists for the main European driving holiday destinations as well as details on RAC European Breakdown Cover and RAC Travel Insurance.

The RAC Driving Abroad Report 2014 is available to download from



* Based on online research on behalf of the RAC by OnePoll, consisting of a nationwide sample of 2,000 British drivers that have driven in Europe or are planning to drive in Europe.


If you are a journalist and would like further information, please contact:

RAC – Sarah Rice – 07944 798 380 / 01454 665562 /
RAC – Simon Williams – 01454 664123 /

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