Five top tips for staying safe when driving abroad this summer

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Every year the rules of the road can change in other countries so it is vital that you are up to speed on the latest developments. For example, in France it is now compulsory to carry a breathalyser test in your vehicle so that if you are stopped by the police and tested for alcohol levels, you supply the equipment.  If you don't have a breathalyser test then you can expect to pay the nice local police officer or Gendarme a small fine.

I cannot change the weather, the traffic you may encounter or the temperament of your fellow passengers.  I can, however, invite you to not even think about driving abroad this summer without considering the following five simple but essential tips for safe and hassle free motoring:-

1. Check your insurance cover before you go.  When travelling abroad with your motor vehicle you will need to have good motor insurance in addition to travel insurance.  The travel insurance policy will, depending on the extent of cover, help out with additional costs such as hotel bills which arise as a result of you not being able to get to your destination or if you need to unexpectedly cancel your travel plans.

2. Check you have adequate breakdown cover.  Make sure it covers you for all countries you plan to visit and do not skimp on the cost.  Having to pay several hundred pounds for your vehicle to be recovered from continental Europe will be far more expensive than paying a top-up premium on your existing insurance or taking out separate cover.

3. Research the rules of the road in the country you plan to visit.  Speed limits will be different to the UK, as will the requirements on what drivers are supposed to carry with them.  Check the Foreign Office or AA website for further country-by-country details.  You will need to have a GB sticker displayed on your vehicle.  Do not think you are beyond the law in your destination country - I was amused to hear that even Radio 1 DJ Greg James fell foul of the speed limit on his summer holiday to France and had to dig into his pockets to pay a fine to the local Gendarme.

4. If you are involved in an accident ensure you gather plenty of evidence at the scene and that the local police attend, particularly for more serious incidents.  Evidence should include photographs, diagrams and sketch plans as well as witness contact details and anything else of relevance.   If travelling in an EU Country (and it is well worth checking which countries are in the EU before you set off) then for the emergency services just dial 112.

5. Be prepared.  Check your vehicle maintenance and carry plenty of supplies (including snacks and water) in case you are delayed or breakdown.If you are involved in an accident abroad and need to make a claim on your return home then do not delay.  Time limits for bringing claims vary from country to country.  Quick contact with a solicitor specialising in Claims Abroad will ensure you get the advice you need.  It is likely that the damages you can recover will be governed by the country where the accident happened.  A solicitor specialising in Claims Abroad will be able to give you an indication early on as to the merits of your claim and what level of compensation you might recover.   

Chris Deacon

Solicitor - Claims Abroad team

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