Driving in Europe: Be aware of recent driving law changes wherever you’re headed

Robert Myles By Robert Myles, 20th Aug 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>Tips>Driving

Different countries' road traffic laws are changing all the time ready to catch the ill-prepared driver unawares, warns the UK Foreign Office

How to avoid recent driving law changes putting a dent in your vacation

Recent research issued by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and online car hire comparison site, Carrentals shows that almost 50 percent of British motorists who’ve driven abroad didn’t check up on local rules of the road before setting off on vacation.

The study also highlights a number of changes in different countries’ driving laws — just as relevant whether those taking to the open road in foreign lands are British or not.

According to the FCO, even experienced drivers displayed a casual attitude to road traffic regulations in force in different states: 64 percent said they didn’t consider it necessary to prepare for their next trip.

More than one-quarter of those surveyed declared themselves unsure of drink-drive laws in their destination country while one-fifth couldn’t say what equipment they should carry in their car, by law.

Such lack of research, says Carrentals, coupled with constant changes in road traffic regulations could see many tourists transgressing their holiday destination’s rules of the road. The results could be severe: the poorly prepared driver could be left out of pocket having to settle local fines, or finding that an invalidated insurance policy is the consequence of failing to check out local laws.

To help steer those driving in continental Europe to negotiate the traffic-jam of different regulations, the FCO has produced a useful video. Although the video is aimed primarily at UK citizens hiring a car in Europe or taking their own vehicle abroad, it provides information that’s equally as useful to travellers from outwith Europe who may be planning to incorporate car hire as part of a vacation in Europe.

Focus on recent road traffic law changes

Car hire comparison site, Carrentals, also highlights some of the recent road traffic law changes in different countries to help drivers ensure incident-free holiday motoring:

Spain: Spain recently followed France’s example by banning the use of in-car devices that warn of speed-traps, such as many satnavs. The speed-camera alert function on a satnav or GPS system must be deactivated.

Spain: The speed limit on Spanish autopista — motorways or freeways — was raised from 120 kph to 130 kph in June 2014.

Portugal: Portugal undertook a major overhaul of its road traffic laws during 2014 with over 60 amendments to pre-existing laws. Drivers in Portugal involved in an accident now face compulsory drug screening on top of automatic testing for blood/alcohol level. All drivers on Portugal’s road’s must now carry their passport, in addition to driving licence/permit, ready for production to police if stopped.

Ireland: From August 1st 2014, new drivers are required to display an ‘N’ badge or plate, ‘N’ standing for ‘novice’, on their vehicles for two years after passing their driving test. Those hiring a car in Ireland and who have held their license for less than two years should display an ‘N’ plate as a precaution.

Scotland: UK road traffic laws generally apply to the whole of the UK but a significant change is in prospect in Scotland with the devolved Scottish government set to reduce the current drink drive limit of 80mg alcohol per 100 ml of blood to 50mg per 100ml.Some drivers crossing the (invisible) border from England into Scotland could thus find themselves complying with road traffic laws as they apply in England yet potentially facing a driving ban of a minimum of one year in Scotland if they happen to have a blood/alcohol level falling between the different limits set in the different parts of the UK.

U.S.: Both New Mexico and South Dakota are the latest U.S states to ban texting while driving after new laws came into force, July 1. There are now 41 U.S states with a ban on texting behind the wheel.

UK: Until now, in England and Wales, police officers engaged in accident investigation seized mobile phones in cases involving serious injuries or fatalities resulting from road traffic accidents. Now police forces operating in England and Wales are engaged in a crackdown on the use of mobile phones while driving. As a consequence, mobile phones and other electronic communication devices will be routinely seized even in cases of minor collisions.


Car Hire, Car Rental, Changes In Driving Laws, Changes In Driving Laws 2014, Driving Abroad, Driving In Europe, European Road Traffic Laws, Foreign Office, Hire Car, Road Traffic Laws, Road Trip

Meet the author

author avatar Robert Myles
Originally from Scotland but living near Le Mans in France since 2008, writing on a range of subjects including the environment, climate change, astronomy and space exploration - and France!

Share this page

moderator Peter B. Giblett moderated this page.
If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know


author avatar cnwriter..carolina
23rd Aug 2014 (#)

thank you for this important information Robert...

Reply to this comment

Add a comment
Can't login?