Mike Waters' Blog: 13 May 2009 - Don't let a foreign journey trip you up
13 May 2009
Mike Waters is head of market analysis at Arval
Summer is on the way so it's the time of year when we are most likely to lock the house up, load the car, strap the kids in, select some tunes for the CD player and head off on a road trip abroad. While the prospect of hitting the open roads in a foreign land is an exciting one, don't underestimate the importance of properly preparing and getting clued up on local road rules and regulations which can be very different to those in the UK.
Travelling abroad whether on business or pleasure is about more than understanding which side of the road to drive on! It is essential to comply with foreign motoring regulations whether that means altering the set up of the vehicle, carrying certain equipment, holding necessary documents or having the right insurance and breakdown cover.
The enforcement of motoring laws abroad can be more severe than in the UK so it is worth getting things right. Penalties can range from large fines to impounding the vehicle. In France, anyone caught travelling at more than 25km/h above the speed limit can have their licence confiscated on the spot.
To give you a taste, there are basic requirements such as having a GB sticker visible on the back of your car and headlamp converters if you're driving on the right-hand side of the road. Some countries vary the speed limits depending on weather conditions so it is just as important to understand the rules and regulations in the colder weather as in the warmer months. Drink driving limits are also often stricter in other European countries so don't get caught out.
For business drivers it is essential to obtain a VE103 document from your leasing company but regardless of the reason for the journey always carry your driving licence, the vehicle registration document and certificate of motor insurance. Visibility vests are now compulsory in Italy, Austria and Spain if you need to walk on a motorway and it is recommended that you carry a warning triangle in case of breakdown. If you're off skiing, in some colder countries the fitting of snow chains to vehicles is compulsory under certain conditions.
Those are just a few of the things to consider and with each country's motoring laws subject to constant review and interpretation it is very important to understand the difference between the rules that are advisory and those that are mandatory. Don't get complacent; even knowing the terminology for fuel in a foreign language can be crucial during your trip. Get some advice well before you travel so that you know what you need to do to stay legal. Driving on unfamiliar roads with different rules is not something to be taken lightly and if you get it wrong the consequences can be severe.