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Beware unfamiliar European driving laws

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UK motorists risk hefty fines or even arrest by not familiarising themselves with the rules of the road when driving aboard.

Figures from Aviva highlight troubling trends in respect of Brits driving abroad, with 22 per cent doing so uninsured. It is illegal to drive abroad without a motor insurance certificate at a minimum.

The findings also indicated that 23 per cent of drivers do not familiarise themselves with the rules of the road before driving abroad. The insurer has identified several key areas in which foreign Highway Codes deviate from the UK’s, which drivers may not expect. Ignorance is no excuse, however, and drivers risk fines, points on their license and arrest if they breach these road rules.

For instance, many satnavs are capable of detecting speed cameras, and informing drivers of their locations. In France, this function is illegal, so motorists must disable these alerts when they visit. French police have the power to confiscate driving licenses and impound vehicles if a motorist breaks any highway law.

In Spain, drivers who wear glasses or contact lenses are legally obligated to carry a spare pair with them, and face fines for failing to do so.

In Norway, drivers must keep their headlights on 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – even at the peak of summer, when the sun never sets in some parts of the country. In nearby Finland, reindeer and elks are a common sight on roads. It’s a criminal offence for drivers unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident involving a wild animal not to report it to police. It’s also illegal to use a horn unless you are in danger.

Germany’s autobahns famously have relaxed rules on speeding. Certain stretches have some the highest speed limits in the world, others don’t have any – and there are recommended speeds of 130 kilometres (81 miles) per hour. Some motorists visit the country expressly to take advantage of these loose regulations. Those who do should bear in mind it’s illegal to stop on the autobahn, even if they’ve run out of petrol.

Steve Ashford, head of motor underwriting at Aviva, said: “Know before you go – check you understand the driving laws for the country you’re visiting and make sure you have the right car insurance and roadside assistant to ensure you’re covered in the event of an accident or breakdown.”

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