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Get geared up for this year’s European road trip

Now summer round the corner the best way to get the family to the sun has got to be by road. But bear in mind that several European countries have specific – and different – driving regulations. These range from how you should drive to what safety equipment you should carry in the car.

The first thing to check is that you’re correctly covered to drive at home. If your occupation has changed, for instance, you’ll need to notify your insurers. Courier car insurance, for example, is likely to be more expensive, as are policies for young and inexperienced drivers and those with points on their licence.

France route mapOther regulations continue. In France and in most European countries each car must carry a warning triangle and high-vis jackets in case of breakdown, a set of spare bulbs and headlight deflectors for continental use. France is embarking on something of a blitz of speed cameras and red light cameras: they’re adding more, hiding them and removing the warning signs that used to help. It’s also illegal to have any radar detecting device, or even a satnav that displays camera locations. Sometimes it is possible to switch the feature off, though with some built-in systems you’ll have to get in touch with your manufacturer. It’s also become illegal to drive while wearing headphones, ruining those long overnight hacks across the continent, listening to audiobooks or radio plays while the family sleeps all around.

Cross the border into Spain and drivers that wear glasses must carry a spare pair in the car. It’s also illegal, here, to accelerate when being overtaken – even if you’d already started before the tailgating little git behind gave way to impatience. Drive into Austria and you’ll have to add a First Aid kit to your car equipment: in Denmark you’ll have to turn your sidelights on. Go into Italy and barely-marked car restrictions apply to many central areas of cities and towns and they’re strictly enforced by hidden cameras. The fine might take months to arrive but it’s substantial, made worse by incurring a £25 transaction fee to use their payment methods.

And don’t forget the paperwork. Though in the UK you can always present your documents to a police station this does not work in Europe. You need to carry your driving license, insurance and car ownership document at all times. Immediate fines will follow if you don’t.

Still, it’s not all bad. At least you’ll get away from Britain’s gridlocked traffic and experience, once more, stretches of open road. The road to the beach is likely to be clear.
Wheel tracks on sand

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