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Motorway Driving in Europe

By: Tracy Whitelaw - Updated: 2 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Motorway Driving In Europe Driving On

Driving on motorways is an integral aspect of driving on modern roads. Motorways are often the quickest route from point A to B and although they often suffer from traffic jams, they're generally less susceptible to them than city roads.

If you're planning a trip through Europe, it's inevitable that you will have to do some motorway driving at some point. This shouldn't prove to be a worrying time as in most cases, the basics of driving on UK motorways are applicable on European motorways. Still, in some cases there are slight differences and learning these before you leave home can help your journey be as safe and stress free as possible.

General Tips on Motorway Driving

Motorways are actually safer than normal roads in general, but are dangerous because vehicles are moving so quickly on them. You must stay alert on motorways and following a simple set of rules should keep you safe.

  • Stay in the inside lane until you are used to the speed of the road. Only use the outside lanes for overtaking, never sit in them.
  • Develop good lane discipline. Know where your car is positioned in the lane and check to ensure you're not drifting in and out.
  • Maintain a safe distance from the car in front of you and behind you. Always ensure you are leaving yourself enough space to stop in an emergency.

Motorway Driving in Europe

There are a few differences when driving on motorways in Europe compared to the UK. Speed limits will usually be noted in kilometres per hour rather than miles per hour and drivers may act in an unfamiliar way. The only true way of understanding the motorways of Europe is to drive them, but before you do, researching a little can help with your confidence on the road.

For most motorways in Europe the left lanes are strictly for overtaking, in comparison with the UK where the right lanes are used for overtaking. If you are taking your UK car with you to Europe, make sure it has km/h on the dial as well as mph and always ensure you're checking your speed on the right one!

  • Germany – The infamous Autobahn in Germany is known for having areas that have no speed limit. If you're driving on the Autobahn, you should stay on the lane that is furthest right unless you're overtaking. Due to the high speeds some cars reach on this motorway, you should check your mirrors every 6-8 seconds so you always know what is behind you. Always ensure you have fuel if you're venturing onto the Autobahn – it is illegal to break down there due to low fuel.
  • France – In France, many motorways are also toll roads. They have varying speed limits dependent on this, but most are 130kph. If you break down on a motorway in France, you must ensure that you have a neon vest on if you're planning to get out of the vehicle.
  • Spain – Many UK visitors to Spain are surprised at the behaviour of local drivers on the motorway. It can be a dangerous place and it's best to remain in the slowest lane and let others overtake. The speed limit is 120kph, but locals will often exceed this. Always carry two warning triangles and a neon vest with you if you're travelling on a motorway in Spain.
  • Netherlands – Similar to Spain, the Netherlands has a motorway speed limit of 120kph. You must also carry with you a warning triangle and a reflective vest. Keep your distance from other drivers and don't be tempted into racing. Certain areas of the Netherlands are known for impatient drivers, so stay cool and you'll stay safe.

If you're planning to drive on motorways in Europe, it is always worth checking with the embassy of the country you're visiting to see if there are any new rules you should be aware of. Combining your skills of driving in the UK on busy motorways there with local knowledge of the country you're visiting, should help you have a fun, safe time abroad.

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