Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Aspects to consider when driving through Europe.

If you drive through different European countries you have to bear in mind that the traffic regulations of each country can vary considerably.
More and more Europeans are travelling for both pleasure and business within the EU countries. But whilst being within the European Community you should know that the traffic rules may be different in each country, although central governments are making great efforts to try and unify them, but there’s still a long way to go.

How fast I can drive?
When we go to another country the first thing we should know is the speed limit. If travelling by car, by just entering the country you should see a panel indicating the highest speeds and the basic rules.

Be aware that in many countries the highway speed is 130km/h unlike Spain where it is 120km/h. In Germany you can find sections of the highway with no speed limits. It is very common to see cars driving over 200km/h here, so you have to pay extra attention when overtaking.

Am I covered by my insurance in case of an accident?
Insurance is indispensable when travelling. If we decide to go with our own car we have to have a green card that will be provided by your insurance company. We should consult our insurer about which countries we can drive in with the same conditions as in Spain, with regards to coverage. It is advisable, as well as having the phone number for roadside assistance, to contract a travel insurance policy.

If you hire a car the company will provide you with at least the compulsory insurance for within that country. Consumer organizations recommend that users contract the full insurance that is usually offered by car hire companies. If you decide to leave the country from which the car was hired, you have to consider what coverage you have, generally you are only given a valid insurance for the country you hired the car in and will not be supplied with a green card.
What documentation do I have to carry while driving?
When travelling you always have to have your ID or passport, along with your driving license. If travelling outside the European community you have to carry an international driving permit which is obtainable from your current country of residence. In addition, the documents must be valid for at least 6 months. Photocopies are not valid, so you must be always carrying the originals.

The vehicle must contain the registration certificate, an up to date ITV (MOT) and the insurance policy. In the registration plate it should have a symbol of the country you’re in, which can either be etched on the plate as a white letter on a blue background with white stars, or a white sticker with the letter of the country stuck on the back of the car in the same area.
What happens if I get fined?
Having different rules can make it very easy for us to be fined while driving abroad. In most cases the authority will ask you to pay the fine on the spot, otherwise they will have the authority to detain the car until payment thereof. In some countries, like Italy, we are only obliged to pay 20% of the fine on the spot.

At the same time, the amounts of the fines can vary widely from one country to another. For example in some places you may have to pay about 10€ for a small offence, whilst in others you can expect to pay about 6000€ for an excess of alcohol, as is the case in the UK.

Remember that if you do receive a fine abroad, although in theory you could appeal the charges, it can be very annoying. Due to the language barrier in some countries the process is judicial and not administrative, meaning that most people don’t appeal and settle the payment.
The best thing before leaving home is to take time to study the basic rules of each country and thus try and avoid being fined.

What about you? Have you had a mishap in a European country when you've gone on a trip with your car?

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