Tuesday 20 February 2018

Heading on holiday? Top tips for driving in Europe

Taking your car abroad? Get fully prepared

BE PREPARED: Driving abroad is not just for the brave.
BE PREPARED: Driving abroad is not just for the brave.
Geraldine Herbert

Geraldine Herbert

With just days to go before primary schools shut their doors for the summer holidays, more and more families will be packing up their cars and driving to Europe in search of sun and family fun. We have some tips for safe and happy driving.

1) Before you leave home, notify your insurance company that you are taking your car abroad. Although you should be covered automatically for third-party liability, it may be a condition of your policy that you inform them before going .

2) If you break down abroad it could prove very expensive, so before you go invest in breakdown assistance. If your policy does not extend to leaving the country, you can either extend your policy at an additional cost or you can buy a separate policy.

Whichever you choose the important aspects to look for are multilingual 24-hour helpline, car hire and accommodation costs.

3) When you arrive, remember not to drive on the left hand side of the road. This may sound obvious, but it is very easy to forget and revert to your normal driving pattern.

4) Ensure that you have your driving licence and insurance documentation easily to hand.

5) Stay on busy roads for the first few days as you get used to turning left, right and overtaking. It is much easier to drift back to the wrong side of a deserted back road. Also be particularly careful when approaching roundabouts or when merging lanes.

6) Ensure your car is roadworthy to minimise the risk of breakdowns or accidents and check your tyres carefully - including the spare.

7) Familiarise yourself with the rules of the road for any country you plan on driving in. The European Commission has a handy 'Going Abroad' phone app that can be downloaded from the transport section of its website.

8) A first-aid kit is useful to have in the car and is a legal requirement in some countries, so it's a good idea to include visibility vests, replacement bulbs and a warning triangle in case of breakdown.

9) 112 is the European emergency call number you can dial anywhere in the European Union in case of accident, assault or in any other distress situation.

Some of the more unusual rules around Europe:

If you need to wear glasses while driving you must keep a spare pair in the car with you by law when driving in Spain, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

In Scandinavia, the alcohol limit is so low that effectively you cannot drink for 24 hours before you drive.

In France, drivers are required to carry an unused breathalyser kit but the offence carries no penalty or endorsement.

Germany is one of the few places in the world where drivers, on certain stretches of the Autobahn, are allowed to decide for themselves how fast to drive, limited only by the car they are driving.

Dipped headlights are required by law at all times on all vehicles in Scandinavia. Beam converters for headlights are also necessary when driving in France, Spain, Italy and Germany.

In many countries, there are strict laws about using the horn unnecessarily, especially in built-up areas so it's best to resist the urge.

In Germany, when traffic is congested, normal right-of-way rules give way to the "zipper rule". It means vehicles from each lane must give way one at a time.

In Turkey, you must carry two warning triangles in your car.

Sunday Independent

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