If you’re travelling to Europe for a break this summer, driving can be one of the best ways to get off the beaten track, travel through different countries and have the freedom that simply isn’t possible when staying in one particular destination for the duration of your trip.
Driving abroad for the first time however, requires more consideration than you probably initially imagined. Holding a UK driving licence doesn’t exempt you from following the different countries motoring laws. Whether you’re hiring a car or taking your own vehicle, there are some strange laws that you may have never even heard of, but have the potential to land you in hot water. Here are some European countries quirky driving rules and possible sanctions if you fail to abide by them.
France – Breathalysers and Sat Navs
There has recently been a change in French motoring law which requires motorists to carry a breathalyser when using a car or motorcycle, in a bid to clamp down on the problem of drink driving. The law will come into effect from 1st July 2012 and will be an offence which carries an on the spot fine of €11 (which is subject to change) from 1st November 2012. Seeing as it comes into effect during the peak holiday season, this one’s definitely worth bearing in mind if you’re considering driving around on holiday to France this summer.
If you have a Sat Nav on-board your vehicle, then you need to be aware that changes to French motoring law, which came into effect 3 January 2012, prohibits you to enable functions which identify or alert you of upcoming speed cameras.
Austria – Seating for Under 14’s
Whilst it’s a legal requirement to have appropriate child car seating for children under the age of three in the UK, in Austria an appropriate restraint for their height or weight must be given to those under the age of 14 years or less than 1.5 metres in height. This applies to both front and rear seat child passengers. If you have children under the age of 14 in your vehicle and you’re planning to drive through Austria this summer, make sure you have appropriate safety restraints.
Italy – Restricted ZonesIn Italy some historical and major towns have limited traffic numbers. These are also known as restricted zones or “ZLT’s” where limitations and restrictions apply to driving in certain areas of the city. In some cases, driving within these zones may be only permitted to residents or may only be allowed during certain times of the day.
Attempting to drive within these zones is almost guaranteed to land you a fine, which may not appear at your home address until months after offending – not the best reminder of your summer holidays!
Bulgaria – Fire Extinguishers
In Britain there are no pieces of equipment that are compulsory to have on-board whilst driving. In Bulgaria however, it’s a legal requirement to have a fire extinguisher in your car. Whether it’s for moments of bravery, in which you pass a blaze and decide to put it out or to extinguish your burning car, you need to have one of these in your boot.
General Europe – Snow Tyres
In some European countries it’s a legal requirement to have snow tyres on your car in winter weather conditions. If you’re heading off to a glacier this summer or thinking of hiring a car for your skiing holiday then ensure your car is fit to drive in the snow! Bear in mind, winter weather conditions can occur over 0 degrees Centigrade. Winter weather conditions include; black ice, ice, snow, slush and hoarfrost. In Germany a €40 on the spot fine will be given to any motorist without snow tyres on in winter conditions. The fine will be increased to €80 if your failure to possess snow tyres causes a delay or hold-up in traffic – so it’s better to be safe than sorry!
Estonia – 2 Wheel Chocks
In Estonia they have a rather strange rule that it’s mandatory to carry 2 wheel chocks at all times. These chocks (wooden or plastic blocks) are placed under the vehicle’s wheels when stationary to prevent it from free rolling. Perhaps they haven’t quite grasped the concept of the handbrake in Estonia?
General Europe – Toll Charges
As with entering the city of London, motorists in many tourist and capital cities in Europe will have to pay a toll to enter the city. If you’re heading to a heavily congested city or one which attracts high numbers of tourists, have spare change in the appropriate currency on hand in case you have to pay a toll charge as some toll booths may not accept credit/debit cards.
Driving around Europe can be an exciting experience, as well as being a cost-effective way to see Europe’s attractions and various cultures. Before setting off on your travels, check out the AA’s guide to driving around Europe to familiarise yourself with the specifics of each country’s motor law that you intend to visit. It’s better to be prepared than to ruin your holiday with a fine or worse, a driving conviction.
This guest post was written by Stephanie Staszko on behalf of Just Motor Law who are UK driving solicitors. Stephanie enjoys visiting different places in Europe, particularly cities, but would always choose to take a backseat when it comes to navigating her way around.