Swearing, tailgating and horn-happy: what do European drivers really get up to?

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By Alice Tidey
Cars drive on the Champs Elysee avenue in Paris.
Cars drive on the Champs Elysee avenue in Paris.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Christophe Ena

Southern Europeans are more likely to display uncivil behaviour when behind the wheel than their northern neighbours, a survey has found, and the French and Greeks are particularly colourful when it comes to language.

In a poll carried out in 11 European Union member states by Ipsos for the Vinci Motorway Foundation, 70 per cent of respondents in France and Greece admitted they insult other drivers — far higher than the 55 per cent average.

Greek drivers were also more numerous — 47 per cent — in admitting that they deliberately tailgate the vehicle of a driver they find annoying. The rest of the podium is however occupied by mostly northern countries including Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany and France.

When it comes to using the horn, Spaniards, Greeks and Italians were the least shy of all countries polled with the latter two also among the three nationalities — with Poland — most likely to step out of their vehicle to talk it out with another driver.

Meanwhile, overtaking another car on the motorway from the wrong side was mostly a Dutch, Spanish and British affair.

One thing all Europeans appear to have in common, however, is that they mostly see themselves as good drivers and others as less so.

When asked to describe their own behaviour behind the wheel, 97 per cent of respondents used at least one positive adjective with "vigilant" and "calm" used by 76 per cent and 59 per cent of respondents respectively.

In contrast, only three per cent used "aggressive" and even fewer — one per cent — said "irresponsible".

However, they were more liberal with their use of these two words with other drivers.

Overall, 83 per cent of respondents used at least one negative adjective to describe the behaviour of other drivers and nearly half — 45 per cent — chose "irresponsible".

"Stressed", "aggressive", and "dangerous" were also popular descriptors.

The number of people who die on European roads has fallen by more than a third over the past 10 years, according to data released earlier his week by Eurostat.

The statistics agency revealed that 23,339 people died in roads accidents across the bloc in 2018 compared to almost 37,000 in 2008.

On average, there were 52 road traffic victims per million inhabitants in EU.

Ireland had the safest roads with 29 victims per million inhabitants. It was followed by Denmark and Sweden.

Eastern European countries had the deadliest roads, especially Croatia, Bulgaria, and Romania, the latter of which recorded 96 fatalities per million inhabitants.