Recent research findings in the annual Motoring on the Continent Report (produced by Post Office Travel Money) have revealed that about half of all UK motorists have at some time driven in continental Europe and almost 20% of them have been stopped by the police.
Now that you can drive throughout almost the whole of Europe without stopping at borders, it is easy to forget that each country has its own distinct set of driving rules, which the police will enforce. It doesn’t help to plead ignorance because you are a foreigner!
For example, having got used to the high speeds driving along the autobahns in Germany – many of which have no speed limit – you need to remember that surrounding countries have definite, enforced limits, e.g. on motorways in Belgium the speed limit is 120km/h.
Another example is use of dipped headlights during the daytime. This is compulsory outside built-up areas in many Eastern European countries and strictly enforced. On most other European roads dipped headlights are only required when visibility is poor. However dipped headlights do very much help to make cars visible even under good lighting conditions, so it make sense to use them wherever you are travelling, even in the UK.
And of course there is the new law in France that requires cars to carry a certified breathalyser, but this law has now been put on hold according to the AA.
Routine spot checks by the police are becoming more frequent in countries such as France, Italy and Spain, which often have safety crackdowns. The offences that UK drivers are most often caught for include speeding, using a mobile phone and driving on the wrong side of the road. But in addition drivers have received large fines (up to €1,500) for using a Sat Nav that indicates speed cameras (that function needs to be switched off) and cruise control is illegal on some Belgian motorways.
Minimum driving ages vary throughout Europe between 17 to 18. Fortunately for Seniors there is no maximum driving age anywhere in Europe! However Seniors may have problems in car hire in some countries, like Ireland and the Czech Republic, from the age of 70 onwards.
It is all very confusing and could prove very expensive if you get it wrong. So make a point of checking European Driving Rules in my Quick Links to the top left, for every country in which you intend to drive.
Also check my Road Travel Tips for lots of good advice when driving in Europe including information on fuel prices, motorway tolls, car hire and how to avoid the busiest traffic.