Travel tips for those driving in Europe

It has long been a British tradition to hop over the Channel in our cars – the boot rammed with luggage, the back seats our nearest and dearest – and visit our European cousins for a nice driving holiday in France, Spain or perhaps Belgium.

These kind of trips are often a headache on their own – as well as bundles of fun, of course – as logistics and time schedules can very easily clash with one another, but now the modern world has thrown another curveball, with the introduction of new driving laws being introduced making such holidays a little trickier.

These days it is vital to familiarise yourself with local driving laws before you’ve even set off. France is one potential destination where new rules have been introduced, with more on their way. Here is the lowdown on a few of the more popular European destinations and their regulations on the road.

Belgium

  • To be able to drive temporarily through Belgium you will need to be 18 years of age and have a full UK licence.
  • Alcohol levels are not to exceed 0.049 per cent. Anything between 0.05 and 0.08 will be met with a three-hour ban and an on the spot fine of €150; if you’re caught with levels over 0.08 per cent, you’ll be banned for six hours and fined €550. Further sanctions include prosecution and a licence suspension of up to five years.
  • Dipped headlights should be used by car users in poor daylight conditions, whereas motorcyclists require dipped headlights to be on at all times.
  • A minimum of third-party insurance is compulsory in Belgium. The police can impound an uninsured car.
  • Speeds tend to be the same everywhere: 50kph in built-up areas, 90kph outside built-up areas and 120kph on motorways and dual carriageways. Don’t forget to use your Fleetpass Card if you’re able to use business mileage.
  • Users of broken down vehicles require a hi-visability jacket as soon they leave the car and a warning triangle must be placed and visible to traffic.
  • A new sign has been introduced that bans the use of cruise control on congested motorways.

France

  • Speed limits in France are fixed according to the place, the vehicle and the weather. General speed limits are similar to Belgium, but motorway speeds are slightly increased to 130kph. Wet weather can bring all speed limits down and anybody exceeding any limit by more than 40kph will have their licence confiscated on the spot by the police.
  • Children up to the age of 10 must travel in an approved child seat or restraint which is adapted to their size and age. Children under the age of 10 must not travel in the front of the car, unless there are no rear seats.
  • The use of dipped headlights during the day for cars is highly recommended and compulsory for motorcyclists.
  • Anyone with alcohol levels over 0.05 per cent (0.02 per cent for bus/coach drivers) can be fined, imprisoned and/or have their licence taken away by the police.
  • General fines for breaking the law on the road can be very severe in France and on-the-spot fines are issued without hesitation if found disobeying rules.
  • Compulsory equipment in France is as follows: warning triangles, snow chains (when in appropriate conditions) and reflective jackets.
  • As last July, it is compulsory for all drivers of motor vehicles to carry with them a breathalyser. This is being enforced from March 1 and carries an €11 fine for those without them.

Spain

  • The use of full headlights in built-up areas is prohibited and dipped headlights must be used in tunnels. Dipped headlights compulsory for motorcyclists.
  • Children up to the age of 12 and measuring less than 135cm must be seated in a child restraint system adapted to their size and weight.
  • General speed limits are the same as both Belgium and France, although Spain categorise some roads as 2nd and 1st category roads, with limits of 90kph and 100kph respectively.
  • Compulsory equipment in Spain is as follows: spare tyre, warning triangle and reflective jacket.
  • The use of radar detectors is prohibited and there is a severe penalty for those that use them.

About the author: Samuel writes for Fleetpass Tankkaart, a Belgian fuel card services NV (Tankkaarten Belgie).