Traffic rules abroad take note
Summer is already in full swing! The kids are on holiday, the rental car at your destination is booked and the holiday is perfectly planned.
However, one last minute, worthwhile piece of research that you should do before you leave is to find out exactly what the specific traffic rules in the country you are visiting are. Knowing what the specific traffic rules are, can help you avoid unpleasant surprises whilst on holiday. As a visitor, with a foreign passport, you might have to pay extremely exorbitant spot fines to avoid further legal repercussions. This will not only leave a bad taste in your mouth but also a big hole in your pocket. Considering the fact that there might also be a language barrier, the probability of being able to explain your side of the story is low.
Every country, even within the EU, has its own specific speed limits that you have to adhere to. Some countries, such as Germany are less rigid and allow speeding on certain sections of the highway (autobahn), but this is an exception. With borderless crossings from one country to the next, it can happen that you have crossed into a new country and speed zone without even noticing it. In France, Italy and Austria, one is allowed to drive 130km/h on the highway, in Switzerland and Spain 120km/h and in England only 112km/h. Speeding fines can range from 150€ in Italy to over thousands of Euros in France or England. This doesn´t need to be the case – be smart and make sure you know what speed limits you can expect on your route.
Alcohol and driving
The alcohol limit and law enforcement in each country differs. For example in Germany, France, Holland and Croatia the blood alcohol limit is 0.05%. In the UK the limit is currently still 80g but the country has stringent penalties for drunk driving, and has better enforcement than many countries that have lower limits. Many countries do random alcohol breathalyzer tests and the limit is strictly regulated and can vary from 0g to 0.08%. If you get caught driving under the influence of alcohol, you will face not only receive a fine as high as 6500€ but may also have your vehicle removed (for levels at/above 1.5% in Italy) or face criminal charges with a possible prison sentence to follow.
Phoning and Smoking
In most countries, phoning while you drive is illegal and is only allowed if you use an earpiece or a hands-free kit. In the UK motorists who use a hand-held mobile phone or fiddle with a satellite-navigation system while driving could be jailed for up to two years. The law is so strict in some countries such as Spain where even the use of an ear pieces is forbidden and in Ireland your phone even needs to be switched off in your pocket whilst driving. If you do decide to use your mobile phone while driving and get caught, you should be prepared to pay a hefty fine. With regards to smoking while driving, in countries such as Scotland, Belgium and Norway it is completely forbidden to smoke behind the wheel whilst in the USA, it is illegal to smoke in the car whilst accompanied by children or teenagers.
First aid kit and safety vest
Carrying a first aid kit and a warning triangle with you in the car is compulsory in most countries. In popular holiday destinations such as Spain and Italy, if your car breaks down and you get out of the vehicle, you could be fine 34€ - 138€ and get two demerit points on your license if you neglect to wear an approved yellow or orange safety vest.