You may think Britain's drivers are some of the worst in Europe, but a simple holiday to Belgium could prove you wrong
Matt Prior
18 September 2015

I’ve been sworn at in enough different languages to know that, deep down, fundamentally none of us on this planet is all that different.

But I’ve also been tailgated enough times through Belgium to know that where you come from makes a difference to what you’re like as a driver.

Last week I drove 3200 miles across Europe, in a Land Rover Defender, which gave me 
ample opportunity to see other drivers from a slow-moving vehicle – like a fat referee struggling in the melee of a football match. And it set me wondering: where exactly will you find Europe’s worst drivers?

Aforementioned Belgium? Perhaps. I’m quite serious about the tailgating. You can be in France one minute, where lane discipline is almost as exemplary as an autoroute’s road surface. The next moment you’re in Belgium and it’s an evens bet which you’ll see first: a windscreen so large in your rear-view mirror that you can read warning notices printed on the sun visors, or a pothole the size of a 1932 Austin Seven.

Curiously, though, it’s not an aggressive tailgate like you’d find on the Hammersmith Flyover in London. Belgian drivers are just waiting, closely, often while towing a trailer, most likely for another traffic jam to begin.

The French version of tailgating is slightly more assertive. It’s probably accompanied by a left-hand indicator, things used in three-minute spells or not at all, impatiently suggesting that, really, you’ve passed that Dutch caravan now and it’s time to pull to the right. It works. Dedication to the correct lane goes to make French autoroutes boring but mostly frustration-free.

Spanish motorways are similar, but both outright lane discipline and following distances are more sloppily applied. Sometimes an entire vehicle could be fitted between me and the Spanish car following me. Sometimes a Belgian tourist proved it.

But on back roads, there is impatience in Spain. Not as much, perhaps, as in Italy, where reckless overtaking is a national pastime. And overtaking skills are seemingly lacking in every single country I’ve ever visited. Whether it’s a lack of patience or spatial awareness that means drivers sit so close they cannot see the road ahead at all, I don’t know. But in the end it made me yearn for dear old Blighty.

And then I returned to it. No word of a lie, before I had even pulled onto the M20, I spotted him, in a red, 15-year-old BMW, slavishly dedicated to the middle lane, setting his speed only by what was in front of him, affecting precisely everyone in the vicinity. Sigh. I nearly turned around and headed south again. Some of the very worst drivers, I fear, are here.

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Comments
11

18 September 2015
Worst drivers I find are in Belgium (tailgating) and in the UK (generally stupid).

18 September 2015
I've driven around most of northern and Southern Europe and completely agree that Belgian drivers are the worst. It's not just the tailgating, their lane discipline is terrible. I spent a week in The Netherlands and as soon as we arrived back in Belgium the difference was marked. I only got cut up/ tailgated twice in the Netherlands and on both occasions it was by a car with Polish number plates.

18 September 2015
forget your lot try Australia !!

Lanman

18 September 2015
IMHO Belgians are the worst. Although as far as I can tell, the difference between the Belgians and the British is that if someone drives really badly / aggressively with UK plates, they're an absolute t*sser who should be locked up, however, if someone does the same with Belgian plates - they're just, well, Belgian - it's kind of accepted and expected. Which nationalities use their horns the most? I thought Italy until I went to Cambodia....

18 September 2015
That's a portuguese motorway, probably A23, or A25, funny you didn't mention Portugal on the article.

18 September 2015
That's a portuguese motorway, probably A23, or A25, funny you didn't mention Portugal on the article.

18 September 2015
Having clocked up approx 2.9 million miles in UK, most EU countries, Middle East, Far East & Australia.

The Belgians have always stood out as undisciplined drivers - but in my opinion - certainly not amongst the worst.

In the 70s, the road from KL to Penang was a death alley.

In the 80s, In Spain, the road from Fuengirola to Gibraltar claimed more lives than any other road in Europe. The Madrid ring highway at rush hour was nose to tail convoys at 90-95mph.

The end of the summer holidays saw Tunisians & Moroccans committing suicide on the main highway from Souther Spain to the French border at Biarritz. Accidents every 200-300 metres between Biarritz & Bordeaux.

Belgium - lies on my route from Romania to UK. Strangely, I have never had a close shave in Belgium.

In late 1990s, German salesman in their A4s were no better than their British counterparts for blocking the outer lanes of the Autobahns.

Austrians in Vienna were intolerant of tourists driving in their city and the agression was amongst the worst ever encountered.

Beijing in 1990 was an experience, my driver in a Hotel S-Class scattered cyclists and other road users with an arrogance never before experienced.

In terms of pure madness, the Romanians are possibly the most terrifying behind the wheel. The dangers are always behind you, with city and highway madness. Porsches doing 145 kph in the centre of Bucharest to mad overtaking on blind bends on mountain roads. All Romanian roads are a mass of potholes in spring following periods of freeze/thaw.

Isolated incidents can occur anywhere.

Malo Mori Quam Foedari

18 September 2015
Having clocked up approx 2.9 million miles in UK, most EU countries, Middle East, Far East & Australia.

The Belgians have always stood out as undisciplined drivers - but in my opinion - certainly not amongst the worst.

In the 70s, the road from KL to Penang was a death alley.

In the 80s, In Spain, the road from Fuengirola to Gibraltar claimed more lives than any other road in Europe. The Madrid ring highway at rush hour was nose to tail convoys at 90-95mph.

The end of the summer holidays saw Tunisians & Moroccans committing suicide on the main highway from Souther Spain to the French border at Biarritz. Accidents every 200-300 metres between Biarritz & Bordeaux.

Belgium - lies on my route from Romania to UK. Strangely, I have never had a close shave in Belgium.

In late 1990s, German salesman in their A4s were no better than their British counterparts for blocking the outer lanes of the Autobahns.

Austrians in Vienna were intolerant of tourists driving in their city and the agression was amongst the worst ever encountered.

Beijing in 1990 was an experience, my driver in a Hotel S-Class scattered cyclists and other road users with an arrogance never before experienced.

In terms of pure madness, the Romanians are possibly the most terrifying behind the wheel. The dangers are always behind you, with city and highway madness. Porsches doing 145 kph in the centre of Bucharest to mad overtaking on blind bends on mountain roads. All Romanian roads are a mass of potholes in spring following periods of freeze/thaw.

Isolated incidents can occur anywhere.

Malo Mori Quam Foedari

18 September 2015
Having clocked up approx 2.9 million miles in UK, most EU countries, Middle East, Far East & Australia.

The Belgians have always stood out as undisciplined drivers - but in my opinion - certainly not amongst the worst.

In the 70s, the road from KL to Penang was a death alley.

In the 80s, In Spain, the road from Fuengirola to Gibraltar claimed more lives than any other road in Europe. The Madrid ring highway at rush hour was nose to tail convoys at 90-95mph.

The end of the summer holidays saw Tunisians & Moroccans committing suicide on the main highway from Souther Spain to the French border at Biarritz. Accidents every 200-300 metres between Biarritz & Bordeaux.

Belgium - lies on my route from Romania to UK. Strangely, I have never had a close shave in Belgium.

In late 1990s, German salesman in their A4s were no better than their British counterparts for blocking the outer lanes of the Autobahns.

Austrians in Vienna were intolerant of tourists driving in their city and the agression was amongst the worst ever encountered.

Beijing in 1990 was an experience, my driver in a Hotel S-Class scattered cyclists and other road users with an arrogance never before experienced.

In terms of pure madness, the Romanians are possibly the most terrifying behind the wheel. The dangers are always behind you, with city and highway madness. Porsches doing 145 kph in the centre of Bucharest to mad overtaking on blind bends on mountain roads. All Romanian roads are a mass of potholes in spring following periods of freeze/thaw.

Isolated incidents can occur anywhere.

Malo Mori Quam Foedari

18 September 2015
The German press close to the border used to announce Belgian public holidays because it meant that more Belgian drivers would be around. Having said that, I lived on the Danish border and the local Germans felt similarly about them too -though I personally never had a problem with Danish drivers.
There are lunatics everywhere but over all, I hate driving in Britain. I mean REALLY hate it. There is an almost ubiquitous stubborn, hair-trigger, aggressive streak that I've rarely encountered in other countries, made worse because lane discipline in Britain (never a national strength) seems to have deteriorated massively since the law about lane-hogging was introduced.

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