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Car Checks: Before, During and After a Journey

By: Norman Thomson - Updated: 30 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Car European Eu Gb Lights Speed Road

Driving abroad can be a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Stunning scenery and different cultures can add to the adventure, providing the independent traveller with a cost-effective alternative to organised tours. However, care must be taken when travelling abroad with your own car. It is important to ensure that you and your car are properly prepared for the adventure.

Basic Car Safety

A service before travelling on a journey abroad is essential. Of course, simple checks should also be carried out, such as water, oil and tyres.

If your car does not have a European number plate, a GB sticker will have to be displayed. In non-European countries, a GB sticker is required at all times. Stickers can be obtained from retail outlets that specialise in motoring but they are also available at most ferry terminals.

It is important to think about your lights when travelling abroad. Remember, lights are set up for left-hand driving and this may cause a hazard for oncoming cars when travelling on the right. It is important to install anti-dazzle deflectors to your car headlights. Again, ferry terminals usually supply the necessary equipment for car headlights. Alternatively, your car may be fitted with the latest xenon lights, which are adjustable to prevent dazzle when driving on the right. Consult your car manual if in doubt about adjusting these lights.


In the UK, most speed cameras are clearly visible. In fact, on most roads in the UK warning is given before approaching speed cameras. However, this is not the case in European countries. Abroad, speed traps are aimed at trapping drivers, rather than persuading them to reduce speed. Therefore, they are often well hidden. Getting caught by a speed camera in one European country doesn’t mean that you might escape penalty when travelling to another country. EU law is such that police departments are able to claim fines in any country.

Driving on the Right

Most European countries drive on the right-hand side of the road. Although this is not too difficult once you get used to the difference, initially it can present some problems. It is very important to take it easy for the first 100 miles so that you can get used to driving on the other side of the road. Keep your speed to a minimum during this familiarisation period and don’t drive too far at any one time.

Most accidents that occur with foreign drivers happen as a result of tiredness. It is all too easy to stray onto the other carriageway or to exit a give-way junction without looking properly. Reaction time and concentration lapse when we get tired, especially when trying to cope with driving on the opposite side of the road. Tiredness can kill, so be sure to take regular breaks.

Vehicle Security

It is important to realise that foreign cars are prime targets for crime, especially in large European cities. Hire cars and left-hand drive vehicles are easy to spot. Thieves usually think that the tourist will be less vigilant than local drivers, possibly leaving valuables and cameras inside their vehicles. Find a busy place to park your car, somewhere there is adequate street lighting or at a designated car park with security personnel. Above all else, make sure you never leave valuables in the car, including personal documents such as passports and driver licenses.

Personal security is also important. In busy cities, you should always lock car doors when travelling, especially when stopped at junctions or traffic lights. Never open doors or windows to street vendors and always ensure that the vehicle is parked in well lit and busy areas before opening doors.

Taking some simple precautions will ensure your trip abroad is remembered for the right reasons, that is, beautiful scenery and welcoming locals.

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