August is traditionally the busiest time of year for Brits heading off on their holidays. Hopping across the Channel to explore the continent by car remains a popular holiday choice. However, many of us aren’t aware of some of the more obscure laws that many European countries have.

This vast lack of knowledge has been highlighted by a Green Flag survey. It found that a staggering 81% of Brits don’t realise that speeding on the continent could result in a £640 fine dropping through the letterbox once we’re home.

What goes around apparently doesn’t come around

In days gone by, speeding in the EU wasn’t followed up. The process was just too complex. However, that’s all changed now. A new law, passed in May, allows EU authorities to access DVLA data, enabling them to track down your details and issue an official fine of up to £640.

The situation is being exacerbated by the survey’s next revelation: that 69% of UK motorists are putting their bank balances at risk because they don’t know how to convert speed from miles per hour to kilometres per hour.

Strangely, this new law though doesn’t apply to EU drivers caught speeding in the UK. As in Ireland, Austria, Spain and Germany, Britain operates a ‘driver liability system.’ This means that the responsibility for a breaking a driving law lies with the person behind the wheel at the time. In countries such as a France, however, it’s the vehicle owner who is ultimately responsible for any fine, no matter if they were driving or not. The net result is that our police are unable to go after EU drivers.

Know your laws

The issue of speeding on the continent only represents the tip of the iceberg. Over half a million UK drivers will risk facing prosecution for driving offences committed overseas during their holidays – and that’s just based on figures from just France! To avoid a sting in the tail on your return from the continent, here are some of the more obscure laws and regulations you could fall foul of when driving in Europe:

Rules of the road

When driving in Germany, you must ensure your car is fitted with winter tyres when conditions require them (not, as is commonly mis-stated, at certain times of the year). Also, make sure you don’t lose your rag while at the wheel in Germany; making obscene gestures or using foul language will get you fined if you’re caught.

In Spain, how to park in cities can confound even the most cosmopolitan of drivers. You are only able to park on certain sides of the road on certain days of the week. Confused? Head here to unravel the nightmare. Alternatively, enjoy cheap parking by heading to Belarus, which has no parking meters whatsoever.

Be careful what you drink…

Alcohol limits vary from country to country (click here for a full breakdown). Countries with particularly tough policies include Macedonia, where no front seat passenger should be visibly drunk. In Cyprus, be wary of consuming any drinks or food when at the wheel – such behaviour is banned and could incur a fine of €85.

Finally, in France, all drivers are required to carry a self-test breathalyser. However, don’t worry too much if you are caught without one; the fine is only £11 (if enforced in the first place). Of course, those wishing to comply with the letter of the law should actually carry two breathalysers – so that there’s still one available for use on your onward journey, even if you’re stopped and required to use one!

Odds and sods

Do you wear glasses or contact lenses when driving? Then make sure you have a backup pair in the car when motoring in Portugal, Spain or Switzerland. Motorists there are expected to carry spares at all times. Also, don’t soap down your car on a Sunday in Switzerland because it’s against the law.

In Portugal, you shouldn’t carry a can of petrol in your car (no matter how safely), as doing so is illegal. You’re also not allowed to strap bicycles to the back of your car.

Which obscure motoring laws have you fallen foul of while driving in Europe? What about further afield? Let us know in the comments section below.

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