Driving In Europe
Taking Your Company Car Abroad
Is The Car And Driver Covered?
Cars may need to be equipped with a warning triangle, Health and Safety kit, spare bulbs and fire extinguisher – and several countries also now require a reflective jacket to be carried in the car (not in the boot) and worn if exiting the car on a motorway or main road. In Spain drivers who wear glasses are required to carry a spare pair in the glovebox in case of loss or breakage.
If adequate breakdown cover is not in place it is estimated that the average cost to bring home four passengers and the vehicle from Southern Europe is £2000.
Drivers of vehicles on Contract must carry a VE103 Vehicle-on-Hire certificate, which gives the Leasing Company’s permission for taking the vehicle abroad. If the car has an MOT certificate this must be taken as well.
Photocard driving licences are valid throughout the EC, but if an old style licence is held or if they are driving further afield then an International Driving Permit may be needed.
Newer members of the EU may have unexpected road rules, for instance in Estonia speed limits vary on certain roads from summer to winter, headlights must be used at all times and winter tyres must be fitted from October to April.
LPG is harder to find in some countries such as Spain. Carrying a can of spare fuel in the boot is not advisable and is illegal in some countries, including Greece. Gas-fuelled cars are not permitted to use Eurotunnel.
If a car is not fitted with europlates then a GB sticker must be fitted as close to the rear number plate as possible – if towing a trailer or caravan a separate GB sticker is needed for that too.
Beam deflectors are available for some headlights, others can be manually adjusted, but in the case of high-intensity discharge or xenon lamps a trip to the dealer is usually necessary. Italy has recently made it a legal requirement that headlights are used at all times out of town.
Check with your insurer that your motor policy gives comprehensive cover for cars taken abroad, and double check this includes the new EU states. Green cards are no longer a European requirement but if your insurance can issue one then this will save any confusion in the event of an accident.
Drivers must be careful when driving on “the opposite side” particularly at junctions and roundabouts where cars will be joining from the right. On main roads in France for instance, look for yellow diamond road signs which indicate traffic on your road has priority; a diamond crossed out means traffic joining has right of way.
The UK is now the sole European country still using miles – even Ireland have adopted kilometres.
Overloading cars with duty free can be a hazard. The French police in particular, will prosecute drivers of overloaded vehicles.
As in the UK, many countries have introduced laws which specifically outlaw the use of mobile phones whilst driving.
One in five motorway accidents are blamed on drivers falling asleep at the wheel. It is advisable that a break is taken every two hours.
On The Spot Fines
The French Police for instance, may demand a fine to be paid there and then. They are empowered to collect up to €375 on the spot. Exceeding the speed limit by more than 25mph (40km/h) will mean confiscation of the driver’s licence, resulting in the driver and car possibly being stranded.
On some French streets, for instance, parking is allowed on one side of the road for the first half of the month, after which it switches to the other side. In Austria, sidelights must be left on where street lights aren’t lit – beware of street lights that turn off at midnight.
In car devices are outlawed in many European countries. In France even having a detector in the car is punishable by a large fine and possible vehicle confiscation.
Speed limits remain variable across the continent.
Foreign cars are targeted by thieves; keep doors locked to prevent valuables being snatched which stationary at traffic lights; be alert in Spain where “highway pirates” prey on foreign cars, who trick victims into stopping on the hard shoulder by gesturing that there is something wrong with their vehicle.
When driving abroad “on the wrong side” the Institute of Advanced Motorists advises to “think right – look left”
Driving in Austria, Switzerland and the Czech and Slovak Republics its necessary to purchase a “vignette”, or motorway tax disc, and display it on the windscreen. These are available at border crossings and fuel stations. There are hefty fines for not complying.
When heading for a winter skiing holiday harsh weather should be anticipated. Antifreeze and windscreen washer fluids should be topped up to the recommended concentration for sub-zero temperatures and snow chains taken. Winter tyres are compulsory in some Scandinavian countries.
In Germany even making a rude gesture or shouting obscenities will earn the offending driver a fine.
Under 18s are not allowed to drive in France even if they hold a current UK licence. For the first two years after passing their test drivers must stay below 70mph (110km/h) on French motorways too.
The best advice is if you are driving don’t drink any alcohol. The limit in Hungary and Slovakia is zero. Almost all European countries have a lower blood-alcohol limit than the UK.