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Right side of the road, wrong side of the law?

27 June 2016

Interactive map created to help motorists check local driving laws in Europe

  • 23% of Brits plan to drive abroad this year but, only 72% check the driving regulations and requirements of the country they will be visiting;
  • Only 41% check whether their car insurance gives them the same level of insurance to drive in another country as they have in the UK;
  • Nearly a fifth (19%) of drivers mistakenly believe all they need to drive their car in Europe is a GB sticker and headlamp deflectors.
  • Gocompare.com makes interactive European driving map to help motorists stay on the right side of the law

New research* reveals that thousands of Brits planning to drive abroad this year could find them themselves on the wrong side of the law because they don’t know the driving laws of the country they are visiting.

The survey of 2,000 UK motorists, commissioned by Gocompare.com Car Insurance, found that more than a quarter (28%) of drivers do not check the driving rules and regulations for the country in which they will be driving. What is more, 6% said they thought that driving rules are exactly the same everywhere.  Just under a fifth (19%) thought that all that they need to do when driving their own car in Europe is to attach a GB sticker on the boot of their car and headlamp converters on to their headlights.

Although post ‘Brexit’ there may be changes to regulations for UK drivers  in Europe, any changes as a result of the UK’s decision to leave the EU will not come into force until the formal separation takes place, which is likely to be at least two years away.

The study also revealed that many people planning to drive their own car abroad could be left with a serious dent in their finances. Only 41% of those surveyed said they check that their insurance gives them the same level of cover to drive abroad as it does in the UK and just over a third (34%) arrange European breakdown cover.

Rules and regulations for driving abroad:

Speed limits, traffic signals and priorities, local rules on alcohol limits, safety equipment and even requirements for travelling with children (e.g. age limits for car seats and position in the car) differ from one country to the next.  Holidaying motorists could face hefty on-the-spot fines or run the risk of an otherwise avoidable accident if they fail to properly prepare for their trip. 

When asked about the equipment they thought they were legally required to have in the car when driving in some European countries the top answers were:

  1. One or more warning triangles (73%);
  2. A high visibility vest or jacket (64%);
  3. A first aid kit (60%);
  4. A full set of spare headlamps, tail lamp and brake light bulbs (55%);
  5. A fire extinguisher (48%).

To help motorists prepare for their journey, Gocompare.com has produced an interactive European driving map.  Country by country, the interactive map provides essential information on a wide variety of motoring-related matters - from driving licence requirements, fuel availability, motoring fines, to speed-limits and compulsory equipment.

Car insurance and breakdown cover:

UK vehicle insurance provides the minimum compulsory third-party insurance cover to drive in other EU countries (and any other country stipulated in the policy document).  Policies don’t always offer the same level of protection as when driving in the UK.  Therefore, drivers need to check with their insurer to see if their car is covered against fire, theft and/or damage while abroad.  Likewise, motorists shouldn’t assume their UK breakdown cover extends to driving on the continent.

A comparison of 249 comprehensive car insurance policies** by Gocompare.com Car Insurance found that not all policies fully cover you to drive abroad.  While most (89%) provide some cover for foreign use as standard, 10% only provide foreign cover as an optional extra (for which a fee is payable).

Typically, policies cap the number of days you can drive abroad in a year and also put a limit on the consecutive number of days in any one trip. The comparison revealed a dramatic variation in the number of permitted foreign use days.  The annual foreign use varied from eight to 365 days and the maximum length of any one trip varied from just three days to 180 days.

Only 57% of the policies compared provide EU breakdown cover, of these 79% provide cover as an optional extra and 21% as a standard.

Matt Oliver spokesman for Gocompare.com Car Insurance commented, “Preparation is key to make driving abroad both an enjoyable and safe experience.

“Driving on the right-hand side of unfamiliar roads, in a country with unfamiliar language can be a challenge.  So, before heading off you should always take the time to familiarise yourself with the local driving rules and regulations of the country you are visiting.  Being able to recognise and understand road signs and potential hazards and, knowing what equipment and documents you’re supposed to carry will help to ensure that you’re driving both safely and legally.”

Matt Oliver continued, “Car insurance policies vary widely in the availability of cover for driving in continental Europe.  So, to make sure their road trip isn’t memorable for all the wrong reasons, we recommend drivers speak to their insurer, well in advance of their holiday, to make sure they have the cover they need.  

“In the event of an accident or mechanical breakdown, not being fully covered could not only ruin your holiday but leave you seriously out of pocket if you have to pick up the bill to get your family and your car back home.”

Gocompare.com has produced a guide on driving abroad.

- ENDS -

Notes to editors:

**Between 18th and 24th May 2016 One Poll conducted an online survey among 2,000 randomly selected British adults.

**Source: Defaqto Matrix of 249 comprehensive car insurance policies - instant and unbiased market and competitor intelligence, from independent financial researcher Defaqto (6 June 2016).  Percentages are rounded up to the nearest whole number.