Expats urged to check driving rules in a new country

by Ray Clancy on August 21, 2015

When expats move to Europe they often take advantage of the freedom to drive around the continent and experience new countries easily, but research suggests they need to be more aware of the rules of the road.

Drivers are risking a heavy fine or even being arrested if they do not understand the rules of the road when driving abroad, according to British car insurer Aviva. This is particularly true of those used to driving on the left hand side of the road, whereas most of Europe, for example, drives on the right.

Acquiring a vehicle in Mexico

Acquiring a vehicle in Mexico

“Know before you go. Check you understand the driving laws for the country you’re visiting and make sure you have the right car insurance and roadside assistant to ensure you’re covered in the event of an accident or breakdown,” said Steve Ashford, head of motor underwriting at the firm.

Its survey of British drivers found that 23% do not research the rules on the road of the country they are driving in and 22% don’t bother making sure they have insurance for other countries.

Some of the least known rules include the fact that devices capable of detecting speed cameras and warning drivers of their locations, including this function on satnavs, are illegal in France. Before driving in France you need to disable these alerts on a satnav. If you’re caught with a working device, or break any French driving laws, the French police can confiscate your license and impound your vehicle.

Recently new rules in France ban drivers from eating or drinking while driving. There is a similar law in Cyprus so refreshing yourself at the wheel in both countries can result in a hefty fine.

You need two pairs of glasses to drive in Spain. If you usually wear glasses or contact lenses to drive then make sure you have a spare pair with you in Spain. If you happen to be caught without then you could have to deal with a fine.

It’s compulsory in Norway to keep your headlights on 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Even in the middle of summer, where the sun doesn’t set in some parts of the country, it’s a legal requirement to have them on.

Drivers are advised to watch out for wildlife in Finland. There are a number of big animals that roam the countryside. Should you be unfortunate enough to have an accident involving a reindeer, elk or any other large animal, it’s illegal not to report it to the police. Also avoid using your horn when driving in Finland as it’s illegal unless you’re in danger.

The autobahn in Germany has lengthy sections with a 130 km per hour speed recommendation and drivers should make sure they have enough fuel for their journey as it is illegal to stop on the autobahn even if you run out of petrol.

Drinking and driving rules vary enormously. France has tightened the rules on alcohol and in Norway the legal limit is just 0.2%, so even a very small glass can put you over the limit and drivers are advised not to drink at all before driving. While in Japan if you are in a car with a drunk driver you are regarded as just as culpable.

It is against the law to drive a dirty car in Russia and you won’t find any guidelines on the matter; it is seemingly up to the discretion of the local police. In Thailand it may be hot and humid, but driving without a top on is not allowed.

The Aviva research concludes that all drivers should do their homework and be aware of changes in driving regulations when they are driving in a new country.

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