If you’re going to take a motoring tour of Europe, it’s important to learn more about each country’s traffic laws. Pleading ignorance or passing yourself off as a tourist isn’t likely to work when you get pulled over. The Foreign Office website is a great place to start; they have in-depth information about every European country. Here’s some more on the rules of the European road.
Driving on the Correct Side of the Road
It may sound like common sense, but you should remember that every European country besides Ireland and the UK requires that you drive on the right-hand side of the road. It’s all too easy to get confused when you’re leaving a parking lot, in a roundabout, or driving there for the first time.
In some European countries it’s legally required that you carry a reflective warning triangle in case of mechanical breakdown. Some countries, such as France, Austria, Spain and Croatia, require that you wear a reflective coat if you need to leave your vehicle on a busy stretch of road.
Driving While Intoxicated
We don’t recommend drinking and driving at all, but in some countries the legal limit is different from others. The legal blood alcohol limit for driving is lower in most other European countries than the UK, so drink with care when you’re out at a restaurant or pub. The Czech Republic has Europe’s strictest DWI laws; the legal limit is zero, meaning you can’t even have a drink with dinner unless you’re eating at home.
The Foreign Office says you should have a GB sticker prominently displayed on the rear of your vehicle if your private number plate doesn’t have that information. If you own a vehicle more than six or seven years old, it probably won’t include it. Failing to display the sticker could result in an immediate fine in many parts of Europe.
Turning on Your Headlights
Before you go out for a drive, be sure to adjust the beam pattern of your headlamps so it’s suitable for right-side driving (it’s the law in most countries). Beam converter kits are available, but don’t put it off until the last-minute in case you need to hire a mechanic or dealer to do the work.
To drive in most European countries, a valid UK driver’s license is enough, but to pass through some countries you might need an International Driving Permit (available over-the-counter at many post offices). As always, research your destination country’s laws before you leave.
Driving through Europe is much like driving anywhere else—you need to drive with caution and obey the rules of the road. Keep up to date on some countries’ quirky laws; for instance, it’s against the law to run out of gas in Germany, and in France, amber traffic signals allow you to turn right (cautiously). Don’t let an unexpected fine or law enforcement encounter ruin your vacation—know the law before you leave.
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