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Staying Within The Law On Your Summer Holiday

By raccars Published

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Families are increasingly choosing the car over 'planes as their preferred mode of transport on foreign holidays. In fact, the Euro-tunnel recorded its highest ever number of vehicles crossing this Easter. However, driving abroad is fraught with pitfalls for the unprepared, so here's how to stay safe and legal on foreign roads.

The first and most basic rule is to remember to drive on the right! Other rules also differ from country to country, so it pays to do some research into the laws applying to your specific destination. As an example, in France, drivers are required to carry two breathalyzer kits with them at all times, while Spain has an extensive list of items you need in your car, such as a spare pair of glasses for those who need prescription lenses. In Bosnia Herzegovina, all cars must contain a tow rope or bar and in Croatia, cars must have a shovel to hand in winter. Drivers in Estonia must carry two wheel chocks for parking.

A general requirement internationally is a basic safety kit. This includes a couple of red warning triangles, enough reflective jackets to clothe each passenger, spare light-bulbs and some simple first aid equipment. A GB sticker and headlamp conversion kit will also help you stay on the right side of the law.

As in England, you should also make sure you have essential documents to hand. Your insurance policy document, vehicle registration and driving licence are sufficient within the EU, but certain other countries require a 'green card' as proof of minimum insurance and an International Driving Permit.

Local regulations demand attention and can be a minefield. In Germany, you must not overtake school buses displaying hazard lights, in Spain you must park your car on different sides of the street on different days or risk getting towed and, in France, roundabout priority can be frighteningly fickle – don't assume that because you are on the roundabout you have priority over drivers joining it. In Austria, motorists are not permitted to use the horn within the vicinity of a hospital, while Belgian motorways carry a minimum speed limit of 43mph/70km/h and, in Russia, it is illegal to pick up hitchhikers. In Portugal, drivers are not permitted to carry bicycles on the back of cars, while in Germany, you can be fined for being abusive towards other motorists even by gesture!

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office can give you country-specific advice.

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