Detective

My work has me in the car quite a bit during the week. After a recent holiday that inspired this post, I’m now on the road again. To make some use of the time spent driving and mainly to have some fun, I decided to do a little experiment. I have noticed the EUs mantra of free movement of people, goods, services and capital has lead to an increased diversity in the origins of cars and trucks on our roads as witnessed in the variety of country codes on license plates of vehicles driving around. So how international are our roads anyway? I decided to do a completely unscientific, unreproducible and highly circumstantial count of all different country codes I can spot in one month.

Rules of the road

No game or experiment can be without some “rules”. So here are the ones I’m playing by:

  • Safety first, of course… As the driver you can see plates, but can’t and shouldn’t try to scan them all.
  • The license plate’s country code must be clearly visible and seen as such, not assumed based on conventions (I.e. “Austrian plates have a little red border so that must have been one” - BTW, Danish plates sometimes have a similar feature…)
  • The vehicle may be driving or standing still somewhere.
  • No roaming around airport parking lots or holiday resorts to up the stats :)
  • If it is a truck, the truck itself must have the license plate code. The trailer it happens to be lugging around does not count, since the trailer is not being driven. Especially nowadays, trailer and truck combinations are often not from the same country.

The goal is to see how many of the EU plates come up in a month. Below is the list I have managed to spot. Any plates from outside the EU or not bearing a EU emblem are listed separately of they can be identified.

Started on the 7th of August, ending by the 7th of September.

EU license plate codes

Plates according to wikipedia.

25/29 seen
A - Austria  
B - Belgium  
BG - Bulgaria  
CY - Cyprus  
CZ - Czech Republic  
D - Germany  
DK - Denmark  
E - Spain  
EST - Estonia  
F - France  
FIN - Finland  
GB - Great Britain  
GBZ - Gibraltar  
GR - Greece  
H - Hungary  
HR - Croatia  
IRL - Ireland  
I - Italy  
L - Luxembourg  
LT - Lithuania  
LV - Latvia  
M - Malta  
NL - Netherlands  
P - Portugal  
PL - Poland  
RO - Romania  
SK - Slovakia  
SLO - Slovenia  
S - Sweden  

Other European license plate codes

BIH - Bosnia and Herzegovina  
CH - Switzerland  
MK - Macedonia  
NL - Netherlands Blue  
N - Norway  
SRB - Serbia  

Other license plate codes

BY - Belarus  
RUS - Russia  
UA - Ukraine  
TR - Turkey  

Updates

  • 7th of August: added initial sightings
  • 8th of August: added CZ and BG. Added L, GB, SRB, UA and Netherlands Blue.
  • 11th of August: added Hungary and Latvia. Also added Macedonia and Slovenia.
  • 14th of August: added Switzerland
  • 16th of August: added Finland
  • 18th of August: added Belarus
  • 18th of August: added Austria and Ireland
  • 25th of August: added Sweden
  • 30th of August: added Russia
  • 3rd of September: added Croatia
  • 5th of September: added Norway
  • 6th of September: added Bosnia and Herzegovina

Conclusion

I managed to spot 25 of the 29 EU plates and about 10 others. Curiously, no Danes on the road. I did see a trailer a couple of times, but these were hauled by vehicles not registered in Denmark. So by my own rules…