In response to a crackdown by European traffic police, yesterday evening's Tonight programme on ITV reported the differences in European driving laws that lead British holiday drivers to inadvertently break the rules, resulting in hefty fines and even confiscation of vehicles.
It featured some very sobering statistics and case studies that really highlighted the importance of planning a car journey properly. Apparently up to 5,000 European road accidents a year are caused by Brits driving abroad, and one in five of us don't understand foreign road signs. Add to this the fact that we often have no idea of the emergency roadside number, what paperwork to carry, or the speed limits and it's not surprising that the authorities are no longer willing to make allowances.
When you think about it, the idea of driving when you have absolutely no idea of the rules is crazy. You wouldn't just forget your Highway Code and hope for best here in the UK (you certainly wouldn't have a licence for long if you did), so why do we do it so regularly in other countries?
Perhaps we don't realise how different traffic laws are across Europe, or maybe it's that same holiday madness that makes many British tourists eat far too much saturated fat, drink their own body weight in tequila and forget any normal codes of conduct for a week or two each year. We just want to escape normal life and indulge in some no-holds-barred fun - and quite right too, that's what it's all about, right? Not if you end up getting into trouble with local police, or worse still are involved in a serious accident.
One man interviewed in the Tonight programme thought he'd driven to the letter of the law in France last year, until he was stopped as part of a routine police check and was heavily fined for carrying a radar detector, a gadget that's perfectly legal here in the UK.
A bit of research to find out what the driving rules are and what documents you need would take a few minutes, but it could save lives. There are plenty of websites available to help, like driving abroad
. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office
also provides some great tips as part of its ongoing campaign with about 250 travel industry partners to help Brits stay safe and healthy abroad. And look out for the range of destination guides coming soon to the Auto Europe website, featuring all sorts of practical advice to make sure your holiday goes without a hitch.