As half term approaches and the summer holiday season begins, figures suggest an estimated 10 million people plan to drive their cars abroad this summer.
More than one in three of these people will knowingly take risks with the law that they wouldn’t do at home says AXA, one of the UK’s largest car insurers. Meanwhile, millions of others will inadvertently break the law through a lack of knowledge or preparation before they leave.
The research, carried out among drivers planning to take their own cars abroad this summer, showed that just over a quarter (27%) were less concerned about breaking speed limits abroad than at home, while 18% took drink driving less seriously than at home.
A further seven per cent said they were less likely to use seatbelts abroad and four per cent said they were more likely to use a mobile while driving than they would do at home. Only 38% said that none of the above applied to them.
Around one in ten Brits who have driven their own cars abroad have had an accident while doing so.
Meanwhile, statistics showed that those preparing to drive abroad were woefully unaware of other foreign legal requirements with less than half (49%) making any effort to check on the driving rules and regulations that apply before leaving home.
Only 49% will use a GB sticker – a requirement for taking a car abroad. And just 24% will spend time learning what local road signs mean.
Nearly two thirds (63%) will set off without checking that they have the necessary and valid driving documentation with them (e.g. proof of vehicle ownership, international driving permit). A third of drivers don’t know whether their car insurance covers them for driving abroad and two thirds of these make the potentially disastrous assumption that it does.
The most common destination for British drivers taking their cars abroad is France followed by Spain then Germany.
Yet nearly a third (30%) of those heading to France are unaware that carrying high visibility vests are a legal requirement, while 38% of those heading to Spain are unaware of the fact that using a mobile phone even when pulled over at the side of the road is an offence. And 29% of drivers heading to Germany do not know that running out of fuel on the autobahn is punishable by law.
Sarah Vaughan, motor director at AXA insurance said: “A combination of inexperience and disregard for the laws of driving abroad is a recipe for disaster for British drivers. It is shocking to see so many people willing to take risks that they wouldn’t take at home such as speeding and drink driving.
“Add to this unfamiliar roads, driving on the other side of the road and unknown road signs and holidaymakers could find their holiday ends in tragedy – made even worse for those who have wrongly assumed they have adequate insurance in place.
“We would urge all drivers to prepare properly before heading away and to drive with more, not less, care than they would at home.”
AXA’s tips for driving abroad
– Check what equipment you are required to carry in your car by law. This varies by country but, for example, you may be required to have warning triangles, reflective jackets or petrol cans.
– Get some international breakdown cover – being stranded in a country where you don’t speak the language is no fun.
– Brush up on local driving laws for the country you are travelling to – speed limits, regulations around child seats, seat-belt requirements, minimum driving age etc.
– Don’t drink and drive. Many countries have stricter drink drive rules than the UK. The safest bet is to avoid alcohol completely if you’re behind the wheel.
– Get your car serviced or at least checked over before you leave – both for safety and to make sure you are not breaking any laws on wheel tread etc.
– Adjust your lights for driving on the right hand side of the road. You may be stopped if you ‘dazzle’ other drivers.
– If you don’t have an EU plate with a GB sign on it, get yourself GB stickers.
– Check the paperwork you may need with you: e.g. driving license, insurance documentation, proof of vehicle ownership, international driving permit. Your insurer or a motoring organisation should be able to provide these details.
– Talk to your insurer to find out what cover your policy offers for driving abroad.
– Plan your journey – check the map before you leave, take drinks and snacks and stop regularly to get enough rest.