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Whether it means taking your own car or hiring a rental vehicle, taking a driving holiday around Europe is now one of the most popular roads trips.
However, there are different road laws in each country and if you're not familiar with the local rules then you could be putting yourself at risk of being fined for reasons you're not even aware of. Thankfully it's quite easy to do a little homework before you set off and to make sure that you are best placed to avoid any financial penalties by staying on the right side of the law.
One of the main things to bear in mind when it comes to preparing yourself for a law-abiding driving holiday in Europe is that there are likely to be far more rules to take into account than simple speed limits and other road signs. There is a whole range of 'road etiquette' regulations that can apply to how you drive and how you interact with other road users.
What makes things even more confusing is that each country is likely to have its own take on the rules of the road, so when you are planning your route you must make sure each section that covers a different country is accounted for in your research to avoid picking up unnecessary fines.
One of the most popular driving destinations is Germany and although the speed limit rules on their autobahns may be much more relaxed than at home in the UK, there are plenty of other road rules that might catch you unawares. For instance, all motorists are banned from revving engines unnecessarily and the noise considerations even cover loud slamming of car doors. Unless you're on a one-way street you can only park on the right-hand side of the road and if your car is in the same place for more than three minutes, it's considered as being parked - definitely one to watch out for when it comes to avoiding tickets.
Italy has something of a reputation for a certain 'wild west' approach to driving and whether this is warranted or not, things are definitely different when it comes to how drivers are expected to behave. There are certain unwritten rules that are part of the driving etiquette in the country and the way that other drivers change lanes, tailgate and nip in and out of gaps in traffic might come as a shock to UK drivers.
Rules that could lead to fines include having headlights switched on and dipped when driving on motorways and dual carriageways during the day and, like Germany, stopping and parking are only allowed on the right side of a street which carries two-way traffic.
For the many people who take their cars to mainland Europe via the Channel Tunnel, France is home to the first roads that will be travelled on. There are definitely some quirky rules that could catch you off guard, including the fact that in some French towns, you can park on one side of the road in the first half of the month and the other for the latter part! In other places, this type of parking alternation may happen on a weekly or even daily basis, so it really is something to watch out for if you want to keep a clean sheet on parking tickets.
Like the UK, it’s also illegal to use your mobile phone in the car, but in France, this even extends to making a call or text if you've pulled over and switched off your engine. However, there are exceptions if you have broken down or have parked in a designated space. Another thing to watch out for is SatNavs that show fixed speed camera locations – this is illegal in France and the function needs to be deactivated.
Some of the more quirky rules of the road can be found in Spain, which is also an extremely popular place for British drivers to visit. It's against the law to carry spare fuel in your car, which many drivers abroad might do especially if they have a larger vehicle. Also, if you need to wear glasses while you are driving you are required to make sure a spare pair is kept with you in the car at all times.
If you are unlucky enough to pick up a fine while driving in Europe, don't make the mistake of thinking you can just ignore it and it will go away. You're not out of the woods once you get back home to the UK even though the DVLA isn't obliged to give out information to overseas police forces. Foreign authorities can employ companies based in the UK who can legally obtain the information.