summer holiday driving dangers
sun, sea, sand & sirens ?
The most dangerous part of many motorists' summer holiday is driving abroad. Sadly, British tragedies on foreign roads are a regular part of the holiday season.
Death rates on the roads in Greece are 5 times greater than death rates in the UK, while UK motorists who drive to Spain or Portugal are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than at home.
The Top 5 EU holiday destinations with the most dangerous roads are:
Motorists can reduce these risks by using Europe's motorways as these are far safer than main roads: the risk of being involved in a fatality on Greek motorways falls to twice that of being killed at home in the UK. Mile-for-mile, motorways in Spain and Portugal are actually safer than our own. Across the EU, just 8 per cent of fatal accidents occur on the motorway network.
Three million British motorists head to the continent by ferry and chunnel every year, while many more hire a car on arrival. In Europe as a whole, 57.3 per cent of holiday trips are made by car.
It is very easy to slip into holiday mode and, feeling more relaxed and less inhibited, take risks behind the wheel that would not be taken at home. It's also easy to be caught out by unfamiliar foreign motoring laws.
Edmund King, executive director of the AA, observes: 'High holiday spirits and poor local knowledge can turn a drive to the beach into a trip to A&E. British motorists driving abroad need to expect the unexpected at all times if they want to bring home holiday photos rather than X-rays.'
Brits abroad can reduce their risk of being involved in an accident by learning a little about how to 'speak motorist' in other countries. Knowing more about how drivers in other countries behave reduces the risk of being caught out by different rules of the road.
British motorists are the most uptight in Europe, with 87 per cent agreeing that they are sometimes very annoyed by other drivers. Belgian drivers are the most laid-back, with just 55 per cent annoyed by other people's driving.
French motorists top the road-rage league table, with 60 per cent admitting that they have behaved aggressively to other road users.
German road-ragers are most likely to flash their headlights and tailgate, while UK motorists stick to hand signals. Greek motorists are the most likely to offer a few words of advice.
Italian drivers are most annoyed by motorists using their mobile phones; while Greek motorists are most annoyed by last-minute lane changers.
In France, a motorist flashing his lights at a junction is not inviting you to pull out - he is warning that he intends to come through and is asking you to give way to him.
It's also essential of course to stay on the right side of the law when travelling abroad as well as the right side of the road.
Speed limit: lower motorway speed limits apply to inexperienced and young drivers in France, Portugal and Luxembourg. Lower limits also apply in wet weather in Italy and France. In Italy, cars and motorcycles with small engines are limited to 68 mph on the expressway.
Holiday wardrobe: France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria and Croatia, require motorists to carry a hi-visibility jacket or waistcoat to put on if the car breaks down. Myopic motorists in Spain and Switzerland must always have a spare pare of spectacles in the car.
Holiday reading: Most European countries insist that motorists carry driving license and insurance documents in the car. If driving a rental car, check the small print - many contracts prohibit drivers from taking rented vehicles into eastern European countries.
One for the road: alcohol limits in most European countries are much stricter than the UK's. In Eastern European countries like Hungary and Slovakia, the limit is zero.
Holiday money: On-the-spot fines are taken in many European countries. Police can escort the driver to a cashpoint if necessary, or may even confiscate the car until the fine is paid. French police can collect up to 375 Euros at the roadside, or confiscate the driver's license if they were speeding at 20% above the limit. Italian police can collect one-fourth of the maximum fine on the spot as a deposit. In Spain, police will require 100% of the fine unless the driver can present a Spanish bail bond or an address of a Spanish friend or company who will guarantee payment of the fine.
Laws you didn't know you could break on holiday:
In Germany it is illegal to run out of petrol on the autobahn, and an on-the-spot fine will be levied.
In Belgium, it is illegal to use cruise control in heavy motorway traffic.
Don't take your speed camera detector to France. Simply having one in the car, regardless of whether it works on GPS or radar signals, is an offence.
In Greece, you may not carry a petrol can in the car.
In Belgium it is illegal to leave a dog unattended in a parked car.
German motorists follow the 'zipper law' - If traffic starts queuing where two lanes merge into one, the Reissverschluss law applies. It means vehicles from each lane must give way one at a time.