Brits largely unaware of driving rules abroad

by Ray Clancy on August 6, 2012

Driving rules and speeding regulations vary across the EU

Family and friends visiting British expats in Europe for the summer holidays are likely to be largely unaware of the rules of the roads, new research suggests.

British people have limited knowledge of speeding regulations, drink driving limits and necessary equipment for driving in Europe, says MoneySupermarket.

The UK based comparison site polled over 1,000 British motorists who have driven in Europe, or who plan to do so soon, and the research exposes a worrying knowledge gap.

Speeding regulations vary across the European Union, but some countries like France and Italy also reduce the speed limit when it’s raining. A third, some 34% of respondents weren’t aware of any wet weather restrictions, and only 4% of those questioned knew exactly which countries enforce it.

Nearly half, 47%, of motorists who have visited France are unaware that your licence is automatically confiscated on the spot if you drive 40kph (24.8mph) over the speed limit and only 15% of motorists knew that France, Germany and Italy will fine you on the spot for speeding, with a further 13% having no awareness of on the spot fines at all.

Some 74% of drivers were unaware that the use of camera alert sensors, including those inbuilt within sat nave systems, is illegal across most EU countries.

‘As soon as your wheels hit European soil, Continental driving rules will apply to you. Speeding is probably one of the most likely offences that motorists will be caught out for when on European roads, and it’s essential motorists are clued up on the rules and regulations for the country they plan to drive in before getting behind the wheel,’ said Peter Harrison, MoneySupermarket’s car insurance expert.

The Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia operate a zero tolerance policy to drink driving but 58% of those surveyed had no idea which, if any, of the EU member states operated this policy. Only 1% got all the answers correct.

Harrison also pointed out that popular countries such as France and Germany only allow 0.5mg alcohol in the blood if driving, the equivalent to one small beer, and this is lower than the 0.8mg allowed in the UK.

France is one of the main European countries to stipulate compulsory equipment when motoring such as a warning triangle, a first aid kit, headlamp converters, a reflective vest, at least one breathalyser and a GB sticker in their car.

‘France is a classic example of a country which has strict regulations on what you legally have to carry within your car while driving in the country. Motorists planning to drive to France this summer need to remember essential requirements such as a warning triangle and the recently introduced breathalyser kit. Motorists caught without these could face hefty fines,’ Harrison explained.

‘It is clear that there is a substantial knowledge gap among British motorists when it comes to driving in Continental Europe, and for those unlucky enough to be caught out for not adhering to the driving regulations of their chosen motorist country, the fines could be significant. Drivers, for example, breaking French driving laws, could have their license confiscated by the French police,’ he added.

The research also reminds people that many UK insurance providers will automatically downgrade a fully comprehensive policy to provide only the minimum level of cover required for the country you are driving in, normally third party only.

‘No one wants their great motoring getaway to turn into an expensive nightmare so motoring Brits should not assume their existing cover is valid when driving abroad. A number of policies automatically downgrade as you soon as you hit continental soil,’ said Harrison.

‘It’s therefore crucial motorists study the small print of their policy, as their provider could automatically downgrade a fully comprehensive policy to either the minimum cover required for the country you are driving in or even third party only. If you were unfortunate enough to have a crash while abroad and were only covered for third party, you could be left with a hefty bill,’ he added.

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