Monday, 16 June 2014

Switching airports for autobahns this summer? Good advice from the IAM

With more than four million of us planning a holiday drive through Europe this summer, I'm looking at European driving this month.  Germany is a popular destination for drivers with its speed-limit free autobahns. Follow my tips for safety and remember, you are not the Lord of the Nurburgring.

As with much of Europe, the drink drive limit is lower in Germany, 50 rather than 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. There is a zero tolerance alcohol limit for drivers aged under 21, or drivers who have held their licence for less than two years. New drivers stand to lose €250 if they don't obey this rule – a hefty dent in your spending money. 

Think about what countries you're passing through to get to your destination. If you're driving to Germany via France, from July 1st all drivers and motorcyclists (excluding mopeds) need to carry a breathalyser kit, with two disposable breathalysers. The breathalyser must meet the NF standards (similar to the BSI here in the UK) and carry an NF certification. And while you're allowed to carry petrol in a can in Germany, this is forbidden aboard ferries.

Don't get caught in a trap-nav. Radar speed camera detectors are illegal in Germany, whether or not you are using them. Penalties include fines of up to €1,500, confiscation of the device and of the vehicle. This includes satnavs which show speed camera information.

Germany is famous for its autobahns (motorways), well known for being free of speed restrictions. But this only applies to parts of the network. Where speed limits are marked, they are strictly enforced. Bear in mind that if you're driving faster, you'll burn more fuel too, so make you schedule fuel stops into your journey. It's illegal to run out of fuel on the autobahn.

During daylight, you must use dipped headlights or daytime running lights if fog, snow or rain restrict visibility. As with any journey, check all of your lights work before you go, and walk round the car every day before you set off to check there are no obvious problems with it.

You should carry a warning triangle, set of bulbs and first aid kit, although these are only compulsory for residents. And don't forget your GB sticker.

You're not allowed to wash your car in a public place, even by the roadside, unless there is an Autowaschstra├če or Waschplatz sign. Some regions even have restrictions on which days car washing is allowed. Be careful where you park too. To park in Germany you need to buy a blue parking disc (Parkscheibe) available from newsagents and service stations, although parking vouchers (Parkschein) and parking meters are also common.

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