Driving abroad this summer? Eight expert tips to keep your family safe on the road while on holidays
Our Road Safety expert outlines what you need to do if driving abroad on vacation this summer
I expect many of you are planning on heading off on a foreign holiday this summer as soon as schools close and the Leaving and Junior Certs are over.
Enjoy the fun and the sun and the thrill of exploring different countries and cultures but please DON'T leave your personal safety, and that of your family, in the departure lounge.
Tragically, upwards of 200 Irish people die abroad each year, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs. A number of those deaths are as a result of road collisions.
Road conditions abroad are often quite different to home and can change rapidly,
It's important to familiarise yourself with the country's rules of the road before you leave. This is especially important if you are renting a vehicle. You will need to have the correct licence for the category of vehicle you intend to hire and, of course, insurance.
Be aware of the risks of driving in unfamiliar territory.
Know the law of the country you intend on visiting. Know the penalties for road traffic offences too - what might be a minor offence here may be treated with zero tolerance elsewhere.
The European Commission has a really useful section on its website that details some of the main rules of the road for each European country. The address is Europa.eu. They also have a handy 'Going Abroad' phone app; worth downloading. You should check them out if you are going to do some driving yourself while on holidays.
Check your licence is valid in that country.
You must be 18 and have a full licence to drive in most EU countries (except Austria, Germany, Hungry, the UK and Norway, where it's 17). Please remember Learner Permits are not valid outside Ireland. A permit is not a licence (the clue is in the name). This means people driving outside the Republic on a Learner Permit are not licensed.
Check the expiry date of your licence
Every year we're contacted by people in a panic on the eve of their holidays after they've discovered their licence is either expired or about to be. It takes a minimum of five days to turn around a licence, so check yours and get an application in for renewal to a National Driver Licence Service centre.
Keep tiredness in mind and don't drink and drive
Don't forget either that after a long flight - and all the preparation - you will probably be tired. My advice would be to leave the driving until you have rested.
While some countries permit a level of alcohol while driving, our advice is to never drink and drive. It's simply not worth the risk.
Make sure your safety equipment is in the boot
If you are planning on taking your own vehicle onto the continent, remember you may need to pack some extra safety equipment in the boot. In some EU countries you are required to carry a first aid kit, warning triangle, fire extinguisher and maybe even spare bulbs.
The AA Ireland website has a list of EU countries that shows any legal obligations to have such equipment with you in the car.
Don't ride mopeds in shorts
You may also be tempted to hire a moped while abroad but please, please don't go on one in a pair of shorts and a T-shirt. It may be cooling and nice to have the breeze running through those loose-fitting clothes but if you come off the bike you will hit the ground in much the same way as a block of cheese on a cheese grater.
That's graphic, I know, but unfortunately I've seen the consequences first-hand. Medics call them de-gloving injuries. I'll leave that to your imagination.
Read up before you go
You can get some more really useful travelling tips on the Department of Foreign Affairs website at dfa.ie. They also have an active twitter account, @dfatravel, that tweets regular travel advice and alerts.
Enjoy, and safe driving.