Many of us will be planning a trip away, out foreign, for some part of the coming summer (well, we say summer but it's belting down outside as we write this…) but almost all of us might feel a touch of trepidation when it comes to taking the wheel of a hire car, or driving your own car on foreign roads, European Driving Rules.
Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to ease the transition. For those unused to it, driving your own car on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, or driving a left-hand drive car, can take a little bit of time to acclimatise to. The best bet, if you’re nervous, is to try and wait a little while. Pull over soon after getting off the ferry and have rest, while you re-set your brain to work on the other side of the road. If you’re picking up a rental from the airport, stop and have a bite to eat once you get off the plane, and again give yourself a moment or two to get set.
Those of us bringing right-hand drive cars to the continent will almost certainly have to pass through France, and the French police do like to try and catch you out. We’re all probably well aware by now of the need for headlamp beam deflectors, reflective jackets for all occupants of the car, disposable breathalysers, and the clampdown on speeding, especially close to the channel ports.
New regulations for Paris
This year, there’s a new wrinkle for those looking to drive in Paris itself. To gain entry to the city, you have to have a ‘Crit'Air' sticker which shows the emissions band into which your car falls. The cost less than €5 and if you Google Crit’Air you’ll find the right website, but it’s a €130 if you try to drive into Paris without one.
Obviously, coming from Ireland, you’ll have Euros with you so toll booths won’t be a problem, but it helps to have a responsible fellow adult in the passenger seat if you’re bringing your own car.
The less known rules
The biggest hurdle of all, though, can be the rules of the road. The biggest rules are, to all intents and purpose, the same as they are here, so don’t drink and drive, keep an eye on the speed limit, and don’t overtake on a solid white line — all the sorts of rules that we have here too. There are some esoteric ones though. In Spain, if you wear prescription glasses while driving, you must by law carry a spare set. You’re not allowed to drive in flip-flops in Italy.
Spare parts experts Euro Car Parts recently carried out a survey which found that 29 per cent of motorists don’t feel confident enough to drive on the continent, full stop. Another 26 per cent say that continental driving makes them feel ‘uneasy.’ EuroCar Parts has now set up an online theory test for European rules, which will allow users to brush up and test themselves before they set off.
Commenting on the research, Martin Gray from Euro Car Parts said: “Driving abroad needn’t be a scary thing. With the right preparation and by taking plenty of care, a foreign road trip can be an exciting and be a great part of your holiday. If you’re uncertain of how the driving laws and rules change abroad then our quiz will help you swot up.”
And this really should go without saying, make sure your car is up to the long journeys. Here at home it’s harder to do any one journey which takes more than four hours or so, but distances in France, Spain, and Germany are much bigger, so make sure your tyres are in good order, and properly inflated. Make sure your brakes are in good condition, and check things such as wipers and lights too. Make sure you have plenty of windscreen wash, and make sure too that those in the car have plenty of water to drink for those long, hot, journeys.
Beyond that, stay safe, put some sunscreen on and enjoy your holidays.