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Safety First: Driving Abroad Legally

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Off on holiday over the bank holiday weekend? Jackie Violet goes through what’s needed to drive abroad – legally

If you’ve got plans to drive abroad this summer, take time out to prepare well for the trip before leaving the safety of old Blighty. Something as simple as driving without a GB sticker on the rear of your car can result in an immediate on-the-spot fine in most European countries.

Some motorists believe that the French Police actually look forward to the upsurge in holiday traffic and view us Brits as an easy target. Speeding is the most common problem for British motorists, and the police can time a car from one toll booth to another. If you arrive in record breaking time at the next one, you’re easy pickings for an on-the-spot fine.

In most European countries, the carrying and use of radar detection devices is illegal and can land you in trouble, with penalties harsh.

In Germany, the Autobahns are famous, with many still speed limit free. But where there are speed limits displayed, usually at road junctions, they are enforced rigidly. Be on the look out for the all important signs and slow down. And don’t be fooled into thinking that a speed trap detector will save your bacon; in most European countries, the carrying and use of radar detection devices is illegal and can land you in trouble, with penalties harsh.

The kind of kit that you need to carry in your car varies from country to country. For example, in France only one warning triangle is required, while in Spain you’ll need to be carrying two. A new rule in France means that you need to carry a high visibility vest inside the car for every person, and failure to do so could result in a fine. In some countries, you’ll need a first aid kit, while in others spare bulbs are required. If you wear glasses and it is recorded at the DVLA, in Spain you’ll need to carry a spare pair in order not to fall foul of the rules of the road. See our table below for more information on what you need to carry.

It’s vital that you carry the correct documents with you on your worldwide travels, as you could be asked to produce them at any time. You’ll need to carry your driving licence, including any paper counterpart, the vehicle registration document, together with your motor insurance certificate and green card. If you are towing a caravan, trailer or boat, make sure you have any documents relating to those too. Breakdown cover is pretty important, so make sure you have adequate cover, as getting towed back to the UK is extremely expensive in the event of a breakdown or accident. And of course if you’re taking man’s best friend (no, not the wife), you’ll need to ensure that you have all the relevant papers for the pet passport, and all of the necessary jabs are up to date. A spare set of car keys is also always handy, as you will be a long way from home if you lose them.

Drinking and driving limits vary from country to country, and the only safe way is not to drink at all. In Sweden, for example, there is a zero tolerance and the penalties are severe. The use of hand held mobile phones again is generally prohibited, unless you are using an integrated Bluetooth system. Failure to adhere to this can attract a hefty fine. Most European police are empowered to hand out an on-the-spot fine that can be as much as £250. Beware that credit cards are not accepted and if you don’t have the cash available, the Police will escort you to a cash machine to withdraw the money. Inability to pay the fine may result in your car being impounded.

Equipment required for travelling abroad – by destination

Austria: GB sticker; first aid kit; headlight beam converters; high visibility jacket; warning triangle. Speed trap detectors are banned.

Belgium: GB sticker; fire extinguisher; headlight beam converters; high visibility jacket; warning triangle. Speed trap detectors are banned.

France: GB sticker; headlight beam converters; high visibility jacket; warning triangle. Replacement bulbs are recommended, and speed trap detectors are banned.

Germany: GB sticker; headlight beam converters. First aid kit, replacement bulbs and warning triangle are recommended, and speed trap detectors are banned.

Italy: GB sticker, headlight beam converters; high visibility jacket; warning triangle. Speed trap detectors are banned.

Netherlands: GB sticker; headlight beam converters; high visibility jacket; warning triangle. Speed trap detectors are banned.

Portugal: GB sticker; headlight beam converters. High visibility jacket and warning triangle are recommended. Speed trap detectors are banned.

Spain: GB sticker; headlight beam converters; high visibility jacket; two warning triangles. Speed trap detectors are banned.

Switzerland: GB sticker; headlight beam converters; warning triangle inside the car. Speed trap detectors are banned.

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