The Easter break is nearly upon us, and many people will be setting off on that Spring getaway for a chance to unwind. But with airports reporting cancellations and lengthy delays, will you be choosing to take the car? Getting behind the wheel for the first time overseas can be a daunting experience. Fortunately, IAM RoadSmart is here to help you get through the hard parts and make your trip one to remember… for the right reasons!
Being on the opposite side of the road (and car if you choose to hire one) as well as different rules and regulations means there’s a lot to contend with. Make sure you are familiar with these safe motoring tips from IAM RoadSmart’s Head of Driving and Riding Standards, Richard Gladman, before you set off on that getaway.
Is your vehicle prepped and ready for the adventure ahead? Carrying out POWDERY checks on your vehicle is key to staying safe on the road so remember to check the following:
Find out more about the POWDERY checklist here.
Driving laws vary widely across Europe, even between neighbouring countries. For example, in France the motorway speed limit is reduced from 130kph (80mph) to 110kph (68mph) when the road is wet, and there’s no speed limit on some parts of Germany’s motorway network. Remember your speedometer will be reading in mph but many newer cars will have the facility to alter the display to kph so it’s worth checking before you set off.
Before you leave, it’s important that you’ve checked what paperwork you need to drive abroad, remember to include your:
Did you know…?
Were you already aware that a hi-viz bib for all occupants is mandatory in most European countries and must be carried in the car, and not the boot? A warning triangle is also required by most countries, and a bail bond is recommended when travelling in Spain. It’s important you ensure you have up-to-date travel information and the correct kit for your vehicle.
It’s not normally necessary to obtain an international driving permit to drive in Europe, although in some circumstances it may be required.
You will be required to display a UK sticker on your vehicle, this replaces the old GB sticker. It can be incorporated into your number plate, but older GB versions will no longer be valid.
If your destination is a French city, you may well need a vignette for the CRIT’Air scheme. It’s always worth doing your research beforehand and purchase it ahead of travelling.
A useful guide on the government website can be found here.
Towing your trailer or caravan abroad
Before towing your trailer abroad, check if you need to:
Refresh your skills
Refresh the skills you gained while preparing for your advanced test to make travelling easier. All that observation, anticipation, planning, positioning and systematic decision making will help you cope with unfamiliar situations. Don’t be shy to remind the family that you need to concentrate at roundabouts and junctions to get it right.
It sounds obvious, but you will likely be driving or riding on the right, and there will be different road customs. You may already have a way of reminding yourself to be on the right when you start off or turn out of a shopping complex on a quiet road, and remember you’ll be cutting across the traffic in this manoeuvre, so give way to oncoming vehicles – just like a right turn in the UK. Don’t cut the corner when turning into a side road either.
If you must overtake another vehicle, take extra care as it’s not easy in a left-hand drive car and will be safer when you reach a stretch of dual carriageway.
Respect the locals
It’s important to drive or ride carefully and cautiously and increase your observation. If you’re exploring the area for the scenery, remember tourist destinations also have local road-users going about their day-to-day lives. They need you to let them past, so pay attention to your driving and riding as well as the sight-seeing.
If you are unfortunate enough to find yourself involved in a collision, it’s important you contact your insurer immediately and call the police. Collect the other driver’s full details and the names and contact details of any witnesses at the scene. It’s always a good idea to take photographs of the damage to your vehicle – it could come in handy if you are required to provide evidence. Make sure before you travel that your recovery service extends to Europe and how they would bring your vehicle back to the UK in the event of a crash.
Richard Gladman, Head of Driving and Riding Standards at IAM RoadSmart, said: “Driving holidays in Europe can be enjoyable for the entire family, while allowing you to get off the beaten track. Make sure you plan extra breaks into the journey as the concentration required when driving abroad in an unfamiliar environment may bring on fatigue. If you are indulging in a glass or two of wine in the evenings make sure you plan your onward journey the following day to take this into account.”
For further information, visit the Foreign Office for more advice on driving abroad.
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