According to http://www.cracked.com/article_23248_6-foreign-words-so-dark-there-are-no-english-equivalents.html (warning: sarcasm), there is no English equivalent for "Geisterfahrer", or someone who drives into oncoming traffic. I know there is a Dutch word ("spookrijder"), but apparently there is no succint term for such a driver in English. What would be the best term to describe that? I assume radio has a term for it in their traffic bulletins, but I don't know what they call it.

Example sentence:

A {Geisterfahrer equivalent} has been spotted on the M4 near Windsor heading towards London. Please keep to the far left and do not overtake other drivers.

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    A "wrong-way driver"? Dec 8, 2015 at 23:40
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    "Contraflower" .
    – Greg Lee
    Dec 8, 2015 at 23:47
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    By the way, "Geisterfahrer" doesn't only mean deliberately driving into oncoming traffic. The person might mistakenly went the wrong way also. Additionally, the official term in German is Falschfahrer (literally "wrong drivers"). Geisterfahrer is a slang term.
    – ermanen
    Dec 9, 2015 at 1:09
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    You're going the wrong way!--How does he know which way we're going? But my real thought for one word is "crazy." Although, having been a near-victim in such a circumstance in Salem, OR, USA, my initial thought was "Holy crap, I think I almost died! That dude wad fu***** insane!"
    – Stu W
    Dec 9, 2015 at 1:57
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2 Answers 2


Wrong-way driver would be understood for someone going against the flow of traffic in the U.S., as in the the 2012 Wrong Way Driving Special Investigation Report from the National Transportation Safety Board and the National Wrong-Way Driving Summit. It is the term used, for example, in California law, explicitly in Vehicle Code 21651.1:

The Department of Transportation… shall update the June 1989 report entitled "Prevention of Wrong-Way Accidents"…. The update shall… include a review of methods studied … to prevent wrong-way drivers from entering state highways

Sadly, this term is all too-common in headlines from just the last week: Teen pedestrians hit by wrong-way driver; Wrong-way driver killed in collision, Wrong-way driver arrested, Wrong-way driver causes havoc, and so on.

I found this term in UK sources as well, but it doesn't seem to last long in headlines— M1 wrong-way driver named by police became Albert Newman named as fatal East Midlands M1 crash driver and 'Wrong way driver' crashes into lorries became Car travelling in the wrong direction crashes into lorries.

Driving against traffic usually has a different meaning— to be driving opposite peak flow during rush hour— but is also used to describe someone driving in the wrong direction on a road. I don't think it has a commonplace noun form, however.

I searched for ghost driver but find no evidence that it is actually used by anyone in the general public or in the transportation industry; I could not turn up a single instance of it on websites about traffic news or regulation, except in Those-Germans-Have-A-Word-For-Everything sidebars.

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    Note, however, that wrong-way driver doesn't have a connotation of deliberateness. Dec 9, 2015 at 5:20
  • According to the comments neither does Geisterfahrer Dec 9, 2015 at 15:13
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    This is a superbly researched and comprehensive answer, Choster. Well done! Dec 9, 2015 at 20:46

In the U. S., broadcasters sometimes frame occurrences in this way: "A few minutes ago a wrong-way driver entered the north-bound lanes using an exit ramp on the 101 freeway."

Example: "'Any time there is a wrong-way driver on the freeway, we automatically look for impairment,' said Sgt. Robert Brazas of the State Patrol. It is not known yet whether drugs or alcohol were involved."


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