Driving on the wrong side/Geisterfahrer

Isabella Massardo at Taccuino di traduzione has as much trouble with the word spookrijder as I do with the word Geisterfahrer. Apparently she was fined for cycling in the wrong direction on a cycling path. The German word (and possibly the Dutch too) applies only to motorways. Anyway, in Erlangen you can see cyclists at night cycling in the wrong direction without lights, or when it’s raining, with an umbrella in one hand and the other on the handlebars.

bq. Ora, come tutti sanno da queste parti, il termine spookrijder (formato da spook, fantasma, e rijder, conducente) indica un automobilista che va contromano (il Van Dale oldandese aggiunge: in una strada a senso unico, in particolare in autostrada). Il Van Dale olandese-inglese dà come traduzione ghost-driver (da prendere cum grano salis), mentre il Van Dale francese-olandese si limita a fornire una descrizione: voiture / conducteur roulant à contresens.

Apparently the term ‘ghost driver’ does exist in English, but it’s not as universally used as the German term. I suspect there are a high proportion of them in Germany. On the radio, they say, ‘Es kommt Ihnen ein Fahrzeug entgegen’ (A vehicle is coming towards you), which always sounds mysterious to me.

Here’s a mysterious site with some vocabulary.

4 thoughts on “Driving on the wrong side/Geisterfahrer

  1. It would appear much easier to become a Geisterfahrer in Germany Margaret. It stems from their distrust and the rarity of roundabouts. To get on the wrong side of a motorway, all you have to do in Germany is to ignore (misinterpret??) the arrow at the entrance to the sliproad. In the UK, you’d have to come off a roundabout at a pretty sharp angle (probably having gone round it the wrong way) …or am I totally wrong?


  2. @Paul: you must be right. It’s years since I last drove in England and I can’t even remember what the approaches to motorways are like. That makes sense – I can certainly remember having to be careful to interpret the road markings correctly when first going onto the motorway here.

  3. As one out of four Austrians is a pensioner and many an old battle-axe still holds a driving licence, it’s not hard to guess to what group most of the Geisterfahrer belong. Have you ever heard a Geisterfahrerin warning?. Next to fighting dogs barely under their (sometimes child) keepers’ control, they are a road-crossing jogger’s nightmare.

  4. Google gets 1,400 hits for Geisterfahrerin. Not all are real ones. 116 for site:at. The ages of the few I looked at were 60, 20, 19, 73, 82. Some had been drinking.
    Am impressed at your jogging across a motorway. It’s a risky business keeping fit nowadays.

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