New research for Post Office Travel Money's annual Motoring on the Continent report has revealed that almost half of UK adults (47%) have driven in Europe and almost one in five (18.6%) of them have been stopped by the police.

Almost three-quarters (73.6%) of the UK motorists who had driven in Europe said that they had been stopped for a routine check – increasingly frequent in countries such as Spain, France and Italy where traffic crackdowns have been implemented.

However, 25% of those stopped were pulled over for speeding and 20% had their Sat Nav system checked by police to see whether it was detecting speed cameras.

UK drivers were most likely to be stopped in France (12.4%), followed by Italy (12.1%) and Spain and Germany (11.6%)

Percentage of UK adults who have driven in Europe (% stopped by police)
  • France 55% (12.4%)
  • Spain 42% (11.6%)
  • Germany 28% (11.6%)
  • Belgium 27% (8.6%)
  • Italy 20% (12.1%)
  • Netherlands 20% (9.7%)

The Post Office found that there was widespread uncertainty about European motoring regulations. At least one-third of survey respondents said they were unclear about speed limits, rising to around two-thirds when they were asked about the rules governing the use of speed camera alerts on GPS devices or Sat Navs and carrying a breathalyser kit in the car.

Three-in-five were unclear about the ways in which speeding laws might be enforced and did not know that they might be liable to on-the-spot fines.

Who was unclear about what

  • Carry breathalyser in car 67%
  • Use of speed camera alerts on GPS devices/Sat Navs 66%
  • Enforcement of speeding laws e.g. on-the-spot fines 59%
  • Carry V5 registration and insurance 49%
  • Adapting headlights for driving in Europe 48%
  • Mobile phone use 47%
  • Legal requirements for safety equipment 47%
  • Drink/drive limits 46%
  • Regulations on seatbelt use 35%
  • Speed limits 33%

Andrew Brown of Post Office Travel Money said: "Our holiday motoring report revealed significant levels of uncertainty about the rules of the road in Europe. Since it also showed that large numbers of UK motorists have driven on the Continent – over half of the UK population in the case of France – it is really important to gen up on the current laws before setting out.

"There are heavy fines for breaking the law across Europe and signs too that the police are taking a firm line in enforcing the rules, which helps to explain the high number of UK motorists stopped while driving on the Continent.

"Holidaymakers who fall foul of these could find themselves with fines, which often have to be paid on the spot – and sometimes in cash. Holiday motorists should therefore make sure they take enough foreign currency with them to cover all eventualities."