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Family in Car on Way to Holiday

Image via Flickr user: Professional Images

With the school holidays in full swing, and the month of August nearly upon us, thoughts turn to the holiday period - and with the task of driving to destinations. 

According to an article in the Daily Mirror, a lot of UK families have changed their yearly plans of long weeks (abroad and at home) to short breaks in this country with Cornwall, Devon and the Lake District proving the most popular; so it is certainly worth taking a look at our Motorway Laws Guide before you set off.

These Staycationers are getting more and more prevalent with fears over terrorist activity high on reasons for NOT travelling abroad, but there are, of course, many UK travellers who will be visiting foreign roads this summer.

This is why the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has published tips to make sure you stay safe when driving abroad.

The Basics

It goes without saying that driving on unfamiliar roads can have a disorientating effect with the likelihood of having an accident on the roads outside of the UK increasing, so firstly we will take a look at what you need to do not only when driving abroad, but also here in the UK.

  • Make sure that you know where you are going to BEFORE you set off by looking at a map so that you have at least an idea of roads you will be using to get to your destination.
  • Remember to ensure your car is in good mechanical order. Perhaps get a garage to check it over before you set off, but make sure that you give them time to do this - don't leave it to the day before - otherwise if it does need some work they may not have time to carry it out. 
  • If you don't want to use a garage, carry out your own POWER CHECK. 
  • Petrol (Make sure you have enough - and know where the next petrol station is)
  • Oil (Check levels before you leave)
  • Water (Check levels before you leave and check screenwash too)
  • Electrical (Make sure all lights work and are not dim. You will need a full set of replacement bulbs in some countries if travelling abroad); 
  • Rubber (Check the condition of your tyres, the tread depth and that they are inflated to the correct pressure for the car weight with passengers and load).

If you need any help with this, check out our Car Maintenance Guide here

Driving Abroad

And then there are the extra considerations when travelling abroad.

  • Rules are different in each country so make sure that you check the rules of the road in the countries in which you will be driving so you know what documents or extra equipment you need to take with you.
  • If you are taking your own car and travelling by ferry, make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to reach the ferry terminal, and make sure that you check what the traffic will be like on the way to the terminal so that you can avoid potential delays. Be aware that there are extra border checks in progress at all terminals and you will be asked to present passports or national identity cards which will result in longer check in procedures.
  • Remember to pack your full driving licence, international driving permit (if it is required), vehicle registration (V5) document, motor insurance certificate, and travel insurance documents. You will find that policing in other countries can differ almost as much as that country's driving regulations.
  • Make sure that you know which side of the road you need to be driving on. In Europe, apart from the UK, you will generally need to drive on the right but you can check out which side in which country here. If driving on the right, be extra careful - it is very easy to forget which side of the road you are supposed to be on for a moment, especially when setting off from a petrol station.
  • Beware of drinking alcohol and driving. The legal alcohol limit varies from country to country but as in the UK, the best advice you can take notice of is not to drink any alcohol before driving.
  • Beware of using your mobile phone whilst driving because it is not only dangerous but, in many countries, also illegal to use your phone behind the wheel.
  • Beam deflectors are required for your lights if using your own car abroad, and it is compulsory in many countries for the driver to have a reflective jacket or waistcoat in the car. Warning triangles are also required in France and many other countries.
  • Be aware of speed limits as the will vary from country to country and from road type to road type. And remember that road signs in Europe are usually in kmph and not mph.
  • Key in the Emergency number 112 into your phone in case the worst should happen.

Finally, if you are hiring a car abroad, when picking up the car, familiarise yourself with all the controls, and make sure that all the lights are working before driving off on your holiday. 

Happy Driving and Happy Holiday!