Vehicle Stopped on Shoulder Ahead

Today’s edition of Thoughts is more of a question than a thought.  You likely read our review of Waze, the social media fueled navigation app.  If you are a Wazer, you are also likely recognize the headline.  I hear that warning more than any other on that app here in the States.  But you know where I almost never heard it?  Europe.  I would say that, on average, I currently hear it about a dozen times a day.  That was more than I heard it using Waze over 5000 KM of driving around the European Union (EU).  Combined.  So why are there so many more cars on the shoulder in the US vs. in Europe?  Here are a few possible reasons.

Average Age2034156

One possibility is that Europeans are just driving newer cars.  There could be some truth to this.  According to the Brussels-based European Automobile Manufacturers Association, around a third of cars in use in the EU are under 5 years old.  The overall average across the EU is a slight 8.6 years old.  Compare that with the US average, which just hit a record-high 11.5 years old, according to a new IHS Automotive survey, and you start to see the disparity.  Europeans trade-up even more often than we do.  Jokes about European car reliability aside, that’s a pretty large gap and could contribute to less cars being stranded on the side of the road with mechanical problems.  Now, it’s important to note that the US has seen an increase in new vehicle sales.  So how does that reconcile with these stats?  Well, we are keeping our old cars in the driveway more often even after we buy new.  Or, those cars are being sent back out onto the used market for someone else to buy, contributing to that 11.5 year old average.

Car Culture

Another option is that Europeans are just more car focused than we are.  Outside of Michigan, and a handful of other car-obsessed regions of the country, American’s likely see the automobile as more of an appliance to get from point A to point B, whereas Europeans have long been enthralled with the passion of driving.  Safety too, if you’ve ever looked into a Euro trunk, you’ll see the reflective vest and orange triangle warning signs.  Do Europeans just hate wearing the vest so much that they keep driving?  Regardless, this likely results in more attention paid to the vehicle itself and its well-being.  Which brings me to maintenance!


Caring about your car usually means keeping a closer eye on vital fluids, belts, and other maintenance items, which may result in less time spent on the shoulder ahead.  Euro drivers may be more savvy when it comes to quick roadside repairs as well.  No need to call AAA if you can just fix the problem, but ideally the level of maintenance and care of the vehicle will keep it from being stranded to begin with.

So what do you think America?  Is it the preponderance of run-flat tires across the pond?  Is this an issue you even knew existed?  Why is that we spend so much time sitting on the side of highways?  And why are there so many pictures of scantily clad women stranded on the side of the road?  Wait, I guess I can answer that last one myself.


Images: header carreality and bottom two D&D Towing

  1. Over the years, more and more people I know who are not car enthusiasts have adopted the attitude that they don’t need to know how to change a spare tire – they’ll just call AAA to do it. I’ve waited on the side of the road for hours when my motorcycle got a flat. I’d much rather take 10 minutes – 15, if you’re using the lousy tools included with the car (if it even comes with a spare tire), change it myself, and be on my way. So what if my hands get dirty? That’s what soap is for.

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