More than a quarter of drivers (27 per cent) who have taken their own vehicle abroad to continental Europe have driven non-stop for five or more hours, with one-in-10 having done so for upwards of seven hours, putting their safety and that of their passengers and other road users at risk, a new survey by RAC European Breakdown shows.
The research, conducted among 2,500 UK drivers of which four-in-10 (39 per cent) have driven in Europe, also shows the extent to which drivers are prepared to drive for longer when going abroad, with 16 per cent saying they’ve driven without a rest for six or more hours when overseas versus 12 per cent who have done so this side of the Channel.
Compared to the one-in-ten (10 per cent) who say they’ve driven seven or more hours when abroad, just six per cent admit to doing so in the UK.
Men are also significantly more likely to drive for longer than women, the figures show.
Three-in-10 (31 per cent) male drivers have driven without a break on the continent for five or more hours, while a fifth (19 per cent) admit to doing so for six hours and upwards.
This compares to 18 per cent of women who have driven non-stop in Europe for five or more hours, and around one-in-ten (11 per cent) who have done so for six or more hours.
As of last September, drivers must display the letters ‘UK’ on their vehicles when taking them out of the United Kingdom, yet 24 per cent of drivers travelling to Europe this summer said they still intend to display a GB sticker with 12 per cent relying on the ‘GB’ letters on their number plates.
Meanwhile, 16 per cent don’t plan on displaying any sort of country identifier at all.
RAC Europe spokesman Rod Dennis said: “Tiredness kills so the fact that such a large proportion of drivers are prepared to go for so long without taking a break when driving on the other side of the Channel is alarming.
“Add in the fact that the number of road deaths in countries including France, Belgium and Italy are so much higher than in the UK and it’s clear drivers are putting themselves at risk by going for so long without a stop.
“Perhaps it’s the determination to get to their destination combined with the fact there are often fewer cars on the road which is leading drivers to put themselves, their passengers and others in danger.
NEED TO KNOW: The Highway Code recommends drivers take a break of at least 15 minutes for every two hours of driving. EU rules state that drivers of goods vehicles, buses and coaches must take a break of at least 45 minutes for every four-and-a-half hours of driving.
“The quieter motorways, with less going on to keep drivers alert might feel less arduous, but it can also induce fatigue.
“Regular breaks are essential to keep drivers alert, as well as themselves and their passengers comfortable and, given the frequency and quality of many service areas on the continent, the reality is there’s really no need to go a very long time without stopping.
“Anyone driving on the continent is best to factor in plenty of breaks and regard the driving as part of the holiday, not least as two-thirds of drivers think the quality of roads abroad are far superior to the potholed carriageways of the UK.”
Don’t forget to subscribe to the Van Life Matters newsletter to stay up-to-date with the latest UK Van Life news, tips and advice.