Don’t let driving on the right put you in the wrong
July 1, 2015barriehol
Driving in Europe can be an exciting adventure, but it’s one that needs careful planning. Fire and Safety Centre offers pre-planning advice to make the journey smooth by being sure you comply with all the regulations of the countries you’ll be visiting.
The Italian farmhouse accommodation was in the middle of nowhere, and reached by driving half a mile down a single-track road. ‘Road’ was perhaps an overstatement; it was little more than a track, and had grass growing in the middle of it. Nevertheless, it was a superb road safety aid for a friend of mine who used it to chant his daily mantra of ‘drive on the right drive on the right drive on the right’ to overcome instinct and attune his mind to driving abroad.
It was a daily reminder, too, that which side of the road to drive on when driving in Europe wasn’t the only difference from being at home. He was driving a hire car. That made things a little simpler, but for those taking their own cars to the Continent it’s a more complicated picture. Heading for continental summer sun is no longer a case of packing clothes, passport and a phrase book before heading south.
Driving in Europe checklist
As well as a list of things you and the family will need to pack, it’s almost reached a point where the car needs a list for its own European driving kit. You’ll need to ask yourself: ‘What do I need to drive in Europe?’ The answer varies from country to country.
Although they have many things in common, there are some unexpected quirks, highlighted in a free download from the AA covering compulsory equipment and the basic requirements for driving in Europe. For example, do you know in which country you’re expected to carry your own breathalyser (though two are recommended), where some traffic policemen carry ATM machines to help you pay on-the-spot fines, and where speed limits change depending on the time of year?
Tips for driving in Europe
• For a start, check that your insurance covers you for leaving the country. You’ll need the original certificate with you, as well as a number of other documents that you’ll find listed in the AA’s General Advice – Driving Abroad guide.
• If you’re involved in an accident, or need the help of police, dial 112. That’s the emergency number used throughout the European Union.
• Don’t drink and drive. Laws are strict, and penalties are severe.
• Before you go, check with your credit card issuer that the card will work in the countries you’ll be visiting.
• Having a speed-trap detection device is illegal in most European countries. Possession can result in imprisonment.
• Tyre tread depth requirement of 1.6mm is common to most European countries, but sometimes in winter this rises to 3mm, and the Czech Republic requires 4mm in winter.
• Snow chains can be compulsory in some countries in winter Check before you go!
More specific detail covering driving in Europe regulations is included in this invaluable and exhaustive AA Country by Country Guide.
European Travel Kit
There are a number of products you’ll need, or be well advised, to have in the vehicle as your own European travel kit (though not all relate to motorcycles).
These include a high-vis vest, a warning triangle* and a travel first aid kit or travel first aid pouch together with a small fire extinguisher. Sometimes replacement light bulbs, where they can be changed at the side of the road, have to be carried too. Spare fuel in a can may be useful, but you’re not allowed to have it on the ferry. Fill the empty can after you’ve disembarked.
*don’t put this too close to your car; it needs to be some distance away so oncoming drivers have time to react.
Passports and National Identity Cards
It’s worth remembering that getting your car out of the country became a little more complicated from April this year, when the Government introduced compulsory exit checks at all ports and Eurotunnel. All travellers now need to produce passports or national identity cards. It means check-in will take longer, so allow extra time for your journey. Have a happy holiday!