According to the RAC, around two million British motorists each year take driving trips to European Union countries. The vast majority admit they are nervous about unclear road signs, speed limits, breakdowns, toll roads, driving on the opposite side of the road and the array of unfamiliar driving rules….for example in France, a yellow diamond sign changes the ‘priorité à droite’…or in Spain, if you wear glasses you must carry a spare pair in the car when driving. More of a concern is the lack of basic knowledge about insurance cover when driving abroad
Remember Green Cards?
A Green Card is not required by law to cross borders within the European Union. This is because every EU country complies with the First Directive on Motor Insurance which says that every insurance policy issued in the EU must provide the minimum insurance cover required by law in any other EU country. Green Cards are also not necessary for some non-EU countries who are signatory to Section III of the Internal Regulations, which is an international agreement between Green Card Bureau. These countries are Iceland, Norway, Switzerland (incorporating Liechtenstein), Andorra and Serbia. Although a Green Card is not necessary for these non-EU countries a UK insurer is not legally obliged to provide cover for non-EU countries, although some may choose to do, so one to consider.
Minimum third party cover v. Full UK cover (via European cover extension)
The First Directive on Motor Insurance means UK insurance policy provides the ‘minimum’ cover required by law in every EU country, and in many EU countries the minimum cover required by UK law, if that is greater. This tends to be basic civil liability (third party liability / limited property damage). Without a European cover extension – damage to the vehicle, personal injury, theft of the vehicle etc will not be covered. Some policies also exclude damage whilst on the ferry, another one to consider.
Whilst the First Directive on Motor Insurance has harmonised minimum insurance in the EU, there are still plenty of national variations on what you need with you or on your vehicle, which you may wish to consider the next time you take a ‘booze cruise’, skiing trip or blast down to your villa in Portugal…
EU Compulsory documents – (The V5 document / proof of ownership is the one most drivers are unaware they need when driving their own car in the EU)
You must carry;
UK licence (& paper) / photo ID Original registration document/proof of vehicle ownership (V5C) Original motor certificate
For the car (compulsory for most of EU members / recommended for majority of others)
GB sticker Warning triangle(s) Reflective jacket Fire extinguisher First aid kit Headlamp adjustment No radar/safety detectorsDaytime running lights
Self-test breathalysers in France
Originally the proposal was from March 2013 anyone stopped who fails to produce an approved (French certification mark NF), unused and in date (usually kits only valid for 12 months) single use breathalyser when requested was to receive an on-the-spot fine of 11 euro. However in January of that year the French government announced the fine has been postponed indefinitely. So whilst you are still required by law to carry an approved self-test breathalyser when driving in France there is no current legislation demanding a fine for non-compliance. Suitable kits can be purchased from French petrol stations for about one euro.
Some more quirky regulations
- For Spanish registered vehicles, two warning triangles are required (regardless of regulations, local on the spot fines are not uncommon for non-Spanish registered vehicles).
- In Switzerland, the warning triangle must be kept within easy reach (not in the boot)
- In Belgium wearing of a reflective jacket (driver only) must be worn should you stop at a place where parking is not allowed
- In Italy the police are limited to collect a quarter of the maximum fine amount for foreign registered vehicle
- In Portugal, some traffic police carry ATMs
- Many EU countries now stipulate that GPS based navigation systems which have maps indicating the location of ‘fixed speed cameras’ must have the fixed speed camera ‘point of interest’ function deactivated.
Remember, if you have an accident or problem in Europe – 112 is the common emergency telephone number that can be dialled free of charge from any fixed or mobile telephone in order to reach emergency services (ambulance, fire and rescue, police) in all member states of the European Union, as well as several other countries around the world.