Driving Abroad

24 Jul 2017

Don’t get caught out if you’re driving abroad - the rules of the road vary from country to country and you won’t be excused from a fine just because you are a tourist. From documentation and vehicle equipment to drink driving laws and speeding, here is a handy check list of things you might not have considered.

Documentation

You could be fined or even have your car impounded if you can’t produce the necessary documents. You should always carry the following:

Your valid full driving licence, a copy of your DVLA driver record and a licence check code if needed, your original vehicle registration document (V5c), your motor insurance certificate, your passport, your travel insurance documents, and your visa and International Driving Permit (where applicable).

If you’re taking a hired, borrowed or company vehicle you’ll also need a Letter of Authorisation from the registered keeper.

GB Sticker

You won’t need to display a GB sticker within the EU if your number plate contains the symbol. However other countries still require it, so it’s worth putting one on your car regardless. This will help make other drivers aware that you are not local and may not be familiar with the road layout or rules.

Driving On The Right

It’s easy to forget that most countries (excluding Malta, Cyprus and Ireland) drive on the right. Pay extra attention when pulling out of junctions or petrol stations, and when navigating roundabouts. Overtaking can be much harder to judge and it may be safer to wait for a dual carriageway.

Reflective Jackets & Warning Triangle

We always advise you carry at least one reflective jacket and a warning triangle that you should use in the event of a breakdown or emergency. This is actually a compulsory requirement in many countries.

Headlights

You should take a set of headlamp beam convertors if your lights can’t be automatically adjusted. There is a legal requirement to not dazzle oncoming drivers and if you need to drive at night or in bad weather the standard UK setting is likely to cause problems for other road users.

Overloading

Don’t overload your car. You could be fined, it’s dangerous and could invalidate your insurance. Booze cruises are a common cause of breakdowns due to overloading – carrying five cases of wine is equivalent to having another passenger in the car, and the bigger the load the harder the car will be to handle.

Servicing

Get your car checked, including tyre condition, tread and pressure before you go. This will reduce the likelihood of a vehicle breakdown or tyre failure. If you’re planning to go to central or Northern Europe in the winter, you will quite likely need to fit snow chains and winter tyres, which are compulsory in some countries.

Drinking and Driving

The legal limits vary across Europe, and the penalties are severe. In fact, it’s compulsory to carry a personal breathalyser kit in France. There’s only one safe rule, and that’s don’t drink at all if you’re driving.

Speed

Find out what the national speed limit is for the country you are visiting. You should disable any sat-nav functions that detect police speed traps or show fixed locations as this is illegal across most of Europe. Penalties can include a fine, driving ban or even imprisonment.

Regional Traffic Rules

Many countries operate rules that don’t apply in the UK. For example, you can only park in the direction of the flow of traffic in Italy, and you can’t drive in flip flops in Spain. The AA has a useful country by country checklist so make sure you’re up to speed before you leave. Driving in a way that contravenes local laws could cause an accident, as local drivers won’t be expecting it.

Holiday Spirit

Just because you are on holiday, doesn’t mean that normal driving rules and hazards don’t apply. Always wear a seat belt, don’t use a mobile phone or get distracted by your sat-nav, passengers or the scenery. Taking plenty of breaks is even more important as focusing on unfamiliar roads and driving on the opposite side of the road will be especially tiring.

Useful Links

http://www.rac.co.uk/drive/travel/driving-abroad/

http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/overseas/

http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/overseas/countrybycountry.html

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