Thinking about driving abroad? Be aware that rules and regulations for driving vary across countries, including legal driving ages, breakdown laws and seatbelt laws. The table below gives the rules and regulations of driving in France, Italy, Spain, Germany and the United States, as well as other useful tips for motorists.
|Legal Driving Age||Minimum age 18 years old (for stays of less than 90 days)||Minimum age 18 years old||Minimum age 18 years old||Minimum age 18 years old||Minimum age for driving is 16 in most states but some states will not allow unrestricted driving until 18.|
|Age to Rent a Car||At least 20 years old and have held a full driver’s license for at least a year||At least 18 years old. Drivers need to hold a full driver’s license||Minimum age for a UK driver is 18 years old||Minimum age for UK license holder is 18 years old||Some car rental agencies refuse to rent a car
to any person under 25 years of age. Other agencies will rent to
but require an added surcharge. Some rental agencies in the US will not rent to drivers over 71 years of age
|Documents that need to be kept in the car||Drivers must have a driving license, vehicle registration document and a certificate of motor insurance in the car. If your license does not incorporate a photograph ensure you carry your passport to validate the license. If the vehicle is not registered in your name, carry a letter from the registered owner giving you permission to drive||Always carry a driving licence, vehicle registration document (V5) and certificate of motor insurance. If your license does not incorporate a photograph ensure you carry your passport to validate the licensee. If the vehicle is not registered in your name, carry a letter from the registered owner giving you permission to drive||Always carry a driving license, vehicle registration document (V5), and certificate of motor insurance. If your license does not incorporate a photograph ensure you carry your passport to validate the license. If the vehicle is not registered in your name, carry a letter from the registered owner giving you permission to drive||Original registration document and motor vehicle insurance. Travellers driving in Italy need their driver’s license and an International Driving Permit (IDP) is sometimes advisable||UK driving license. The International Driving Permit (IDP) is not always required to drive in America but some states and car rental agencies request the IDP. You can get an IDP in your home country|
|Drink Drive Limit||Blood alcohol limit may not exceed 0.05mg/ml||Blood alcohol limit may not exceed 0.05mg/ml.
Drivers with less than 2 years experience 0.03%.
|If the level of alcohol in the bloodstream is 0.049% or more, penalties include fines and the licence holder can be banned from driving in Germany.
The blood alcohol level is 0% for drivers under 21or drivers who have held their licence for less than 2 years, should even a small amount of alcohol be detected in the blood the fine is €125.
|If the level of alcohol in the bloodstream is 0.051% or more, severe penalties include fines, confiscation of vehicle and imprisonment.||Blood-alcohol content should not exceed 0.1% (it is occasionally lower, e.g. 0.08% or even 0.05% for minors).|
|Seat belt Law||Seat belts are strictly compulsory, heavy fines are imposed on those who fail to wear one.||Seat belts are compulsory for front and rear seat occupants.||Seat belts are compulsory for front and rear seat occupants||Seat belts are compulsory for front and rear seat occupants to wear seat belts, if fitted||Nearly all states have laws requiring the driver and front passengers to wear seat belts.|
|Breakdown Law||All vehicles must carry a red reflective warning triangle. This must be displayed 30 metres from the vehicle in case of a break-down or accident except on a motorway where the triangle must be displayed at a reasonable and safe distance from the broken-down vehicle. It is recommended that visitors equip their vehicle with a set of replacement bulbs.
It is obligatory in France to carry in all vehicles a warning triangle and reflective jacket for use in case of a breakdown. Anyone found to not be complying with this requirement from 1st October 2008 could be subject to a fine of 90-135 euros.
|Place two warning triangles one in front of the car and another behind the car. A reflective jacket/waistcoat and head lamp adjustment are compulsory.
For most drivers in Spain, vehicle breakdown and recovery services are included in their insurance policy, and the insurance firms have contracts with breakdown and recovery companies to provide this service. Make sure your policy includes a recovery service.
|In the event of a breakdown the warning hazard lights should be switched on and a warning triangle has to be positioned in sufficient distance, on a motorway at least 100m behind the vehicle. If the vehicle is carrying disabled passengers a triangle must be placed 200m behind the vehicle on the Autobahn.||Warning triangle, reflective jacket/waistcoat and head lamp adjustment are compulsory.||Set out reflective triangles to warn other traffic. Make sure other drivers can see them in time to avoid the accident.
Across America, 911 is the free call universal emergency phone number for an ambulance, a fire engine, or the police. Emergency phone boxes are located along major highways and Interstates
|Car Seat Law||Children under 10 years old are not allowed in the front seats. If sitting in the back they must have a child seat if they weigh between 9 and 15kg. Over this weight they can use seatbelts with a booster cushion.||Children under 12 years of age cannot travel in the front seat unless there is a suitably adapted restraint system. In the rear, passengers under 135cm tall must use specially adapted safety devices and restraints.||A child less than 1.5m must be seated in a child seat/ child restraint in any vehicle. Where a child restraint/seat is not available, a child three years and over must travel in the rear seat of the vehicle using a seat belt or other safety device attached to the seat. A child under three years old may not be transported in a vehicle without a suitable child restraint/seat.||Children less than 1.5m require a suitable restraint system or an adaptor for a seat belt and must travel on the rear seats. Children are only permitted to travel on the front seats if they are over 1.5m in height. Rear-facing child restraints must not be used in a passenger seat equipped with an active passenger airbag||Many states require children to wear seat belts even in the back seats. Nearly every state requires special child restraint seats for all young children.|
|Roadside Assistance||Visitors to France should be aware that failure to stop and help a third party in difficulty, should they be a witness to an incident on the road or elsewhere is an offence.||The Traffic Control Department maintains a network of emergency phones along main roads and provides roadside assistance; call the operator and ask for auxilio en carretera.||On German Autobahns, Road Patrol Assistance can be called free of charge from the emergency telephones. The breakdown services can also be contacted directly: ADAC Info-Service: Tel. 0049 18 05-10 11 12 Breakdown Service: Tel. 018 02-22 22 22||In case of breakdown on any Italian road, dial 116 at the nearest telephone. The nearest ACI office will be advised to come to your assistance. On superhighways, use the emergency telephones placed every 2 km.||In a rented car call the emergency number that is pinned to the dash board. Alternatively wait for the highway patrol or state police who pass by regularly. Raising your car hood is a call for assistance – women travelling alone should be wary of this.|
|Other Useful Tips||Motorcycles: Use of dipped headlights during the day is compulsory. Wearing crash helmets is compulsory for both driver and passenger of any two-wheel motorised vehicle.
Lights: Dipped headlights must be used in poor daytime visibility. It is highly recommended by the French Government that 4+ wheeled vehicles use dipped headlights day and nigh
Horns: In built up areas the use of the horn is prohibited except in cases of immediate danger.
|Motorcycles: Use of dipped headlights during the day compulsory.
Apparatus with a screen which can distract a driver (such as television, video, DVD equipment) are prohibited. This excludes GPS systems.
|Motorcycles: Use of dipped headlights during the day is compulsory. The wearing of a crash helmet is compulsory for both driver and passenger of a moped and motorcycle
It is prohibited to overtake or pass a school bus that has stopped in a built up area to let passengers on or off, a fine will be imposed for non-compliance.
Low emission zones are now in place in a number of German cities. A special permit is required to drive through these zones
Fines: Motorists can be fined for such things as exceeding speed limits, using abusive language, making derogatory signs and running out of petrol on a motorway
|Motorcycles: Use of dipped headlights during the day is compulsory on all roads. The wearing of crash helmets is compulsory for both driver and passenger. The vehicle can be seized for non-compliance. It is prohibited to carry a child less than 4 years on a moped or motorcycle.
Horns: are widely used to warn other vehicles of your approach, although they are officially banned in built-up areas except in cases of immediate danger.
|Other: You can turn right at the red light as long the road is clear, there isn’t a sign that says you can’t, and you have to come to a complete stop before turning. Try not to be in the right lane at traffic lights if you intend to go straight ahead, as you’ll probably get hooted.
Flashing yellow lights usually at a road junction mean proceed with caution. If they flash red it means stop and treat it like a “4 way stop”.
No lanes are designated as either “slow” or “fast”. However, some motorway signs ask slower drivers to use right lanes
Sarah Salord / Jessica Meins / McCluskey International / 020 8237 7979 /