Driving In Europe - Know The Law
Before taking your trip to the Continent, make sure you know the European driving laws and the differences from our rules of the road here in the UK. These tips should help you prepare for your trip.
Right side of the road
We are actually in the minority in the UK; Europe is dominated by countries that drive on the right-hand side of the road, so prepare yourself for a shock to the system, and drive carefully.
When you drive on the other side of the road, the headlights built into UK cars are not naturally designed to suit Continental driving conditions. Our lights will dazzle the drivers in a European mainland country where they drive on the right, so by law you must make adjustments. As every model of car is different, the best solution is to take your car to a UK garage to get the adjustment made, or purchase a kit to do it yourself. Kit brands such as Eurolite come with exact instructions.
Take your full driving licence including the paper counterpart, as well as your certificate of motor insurance, and the V5 document (logbook). And don’t forget your passport!
You may also need to apply for an International Driving Permit, depending on the country you are visiting.
In case of breakdown, you should have a warning triangle and reflective jacket on hand. In many countries the reflective jacket is now compulsory for visiting motorists. The jacket must adhere to EU Standard BS EN 471: 1994 Class 1 or 2.
This shows the vehicle’s country of origin, and whilst it doesn’t seem like much, it is 100% compulsory. You are looking at an on-the-spot fine if you don’t have one. Although number plates with the GB symbol are accepted in a lot of countries, some still require the sticker, so better safe than sorry.
There are minor differences in accepted blood-alcohol levels for driving depending on which country you visit, but the only real safe solution is to avoid drinking at all if you plan to get behind the wheel. Driving over the limit is illegal, and you can endanger other people’s lives, as well as your own.
Driving whilst using a mobile phone without a hands-free kit is illegal in several European countries, so don’t risk it. It’s a hazard and can cause a serious accident.
- Here are a few more helpful pointers:
- Bring a First Aid kit and a fire extinguisher
- Take some change for tolls (in the right currency!)
- Remember that speed limits are in Km/h.
- Strap in your seatbelt and drive carefully; if you aren't experienced with driving on the right side then take extra care.