Goodyear's iconic blimps, not seen in Europe for twelve years, have returned to the skies in order to promote the company's 2011 Safety Tour. Two of the famous craft, Spirit of Safety I and Spirit of Safety II, will visit twenty European countries between March and October this year. In each, Goodyear will be linking with local partners such as motoring organisations in order get the safety message across.

To coincide with the UK section of the tour, fronted by Quentin Willson, presenter of the TV Show Britan's Worst Driver, Goodyear has released the somewhat disturbing results of a survey designed to test British drivers' knowledge of the Highway Code.

About 95% of those polled believed their knowledge of the Highway Code was adequate, good, or very good, but the results tell a different story. For example, 23% of respondents couldn't correctly identify the meaning of the standard “no overtaking” sign, one of the most common and easily decipherable warning signs found on British roads. Most knew that the speed limit in built-up areas, in the absence of any other posted limit, is 30mph, but a worrying 15% did not, while 76% did realise know that the figures “30” on a circular sign with a blue background signified a minimum speed of 30mph. Minimum speed signs are less common than many others but play a vital role in managing safety and traffic flow in tunnels, for example. A majority (52%) of respondents correctly guessed that the stopping distance of a car braking from 50mph is about 53 metres, or about 13 car lengths, but 18% thought the answer was 36 metres, which could turn out to be a severe under-estimate in real-world conditions where bad weather or worn tyres can increase the standard 53 metre result considerably.

On the other hand, at least most British drivers thought that periodic retesting on the Highway Code was a good idea, with a favoured interval between tests of ten years. One other interesting finding; younger drivers, whose knowledge of the Highway Code should be freshest, performed worse in the tests than their older counterparts.

Spirit of Safety I has been causing a stir with its appearances in the skies above London this week; it will be flying over Cardiff this weekend and, later on, over the West Midlands. After touring continental Europe during the summer, it will return to the UK for a series of Road Safety Day events in October.

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