In the UK, we love to travel – and as a driving nation, the idea of taking to the open road to explore Europe by car is very popular.
The RAC’s Driving Abroad Report 2014 throws up some interesting and pertinent facts about our nation’s wanderlust and love of the road. In 2014, 4.2 million motorists travelled to mainland Europe by car, enjoying the sense of freedom that a driving holiday can bring. But it’s wise to remember that driving in other countries is often very different to driving in the UK and we have therefore compiled some useful guidance and points to remember.
Often, drivers cite better roads on the continent as a major plus to driving abroad when compared to those we experience in the UK – but remember, depending on where you are travelling you will experience massive differences in road quality. Our advice is to stick to well used routes and always drive with caution and according to the conditions of the road. If you’re in the mountains for example, road conditions can change in the blink of an eye and you should be prepared for steep inclines/declines and extremely tight hairpin bends – sometimes with no safety barriers.
Remember that driving styles are likely to vary in foreign countries and the advice from the foreign office is to drive defensively and to expect the unexpected.
Know the rules of the road
It is very important to familiarise yourself with the driving laws and regulations of countries you drive in. Yes, you are likely to have to drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, but did you also know that in France, drivers must carry a breathalyser with them in their vehicles at all time and that you are legally obliged to carry a warning triangle and fluorescent vest? Or that in Germany, it is illegal to drive without using winter tyres at certain times of the year? If you head north to Scandinavia, you should also be aware that it is illegal to drive without using your headlights, even in daylight!
Before you travel, you should take the time to research the rules and regulations relating to driving in the country you are visiting. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has created a very useful tool – an interactive map which includes a link to driving restrictions and information for many countries across the world. You can use the map by visiting http://www.fcowidget.com/
Mopeds and motorbikes
Many road accidents abroad involve the use of motorbikes or mopeds and in some countries safety laws such as the use of helmets are not enforced. We advise that you ALWAYS wear a helmet and long sleeved shirts and trousers when riding abroad.
Use your common sense
Driving in a foreign country can be a liberating experience – but don’t neglect your common sense. Always wear a seatbelt, take regular breaks if driving long distances and don’t use your mobile phone. All little things which carry big implications for accident statistics!
Love and care for your vehicle
It goes without saying that you will cover many miles if you decide to take a driving holiday. Therefore we advise that you check your car thoroughly before setting off. Ideally, get your car serviced prior to your trip and check your tyres (including the tread and tyre pressure), and top up oil, coolant and water levels. A poorly maintained vehicle will not perform as you need it to in an emergency and may put you more at risk of an accident.
With due care and attention, we can all enjoy the freedom that driving abroad gives us. Get out and explore but stay safe too!
If you are involved in a road traffic accident abroad, the process of making a claim for compensation can be very complex so it is essential that you speak to a solicitor who has experience of handling these sorts of claims.
At Freeclaim Solicitors we have over 30 years’ experience of handling road accident abroad claims. If you have been involved in an accident, call us FREE on 0800 612 7340 and we can offer expert advice on making a claim.