Post by International Military Life Community Manager, Courtney Woodruff
The first time I slid behind the wheel to take my car out for its inaugural spin in Europe, I found myself wanting to throw my hands up in the air in excitement and hide my face in the steering wheel at the same time; thankfully, I did neither. Cruising alongside fast European cars that zoom by at dizzying speeds is both thrilling and intimidating. Check out these seven tips for driving in Europe to help relieve some of the stress and anxiety you may be feeling about hitting the road across the pond.
Get your International Driver Permit (IDP).
If you plan to do any driving outside your host nation while stationed in Europe, it’s important to apply for an International Driver Permit (IDP) in addition to your USAREUR driver’s license. IDPs are accepted and often required forms of identification in more than 150 countries around the world. Visit www.aaa.com for more information.
Go easy on the gas pedal.
Europe has a reputation for fast cars for a reason, and it’s easy to get caught up in the thrill of the road. Even though it isn’t likely you’ll be pulled over for driving too fast in Europe, beware the traffic cameras hidden along highways, in construction zones and down high-traffic city roads. If you’re caught, you just might receive a ticket with photographic evidence like I did in the mail, along with a hefty fine.
Familiarize yourself with regulations.
Each country abides by its own set of driving laws. Before you journey across the border to visit neighboring countries, it’s a good idea to review the road rules specific to your destination. Unknowingly violating local road rules will put a serious damper on vacation plans.
Know what to do in an emergency.
Many European countries require vehicles to carry an emergency kit, which includes first aid kits, reflective vests and warning triangles. I also encourage you to carry the International Accident Statement in your glove compartment. Visit the European accident statement site, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and print a copy of the form for your host nation. Fill out the report, take photos of the damage, and refrain from signing any documentation other than the accident report. Once you are safe and secure, get in touch with your auto insurance company to file a claim.
Acquire proper insurance.
You will need to set up an international auto policy before you can drive your personal vehicle in Europe. USAA has offices in Frankfurt and London to serve the U.S. military community on foreign soil. It’s also highly recommend that you make sure your policy covers towing and labor costs just in case your car breaks down on a European roadway.
Winterize your vehicle.
In most European countries, drivers are required to prepare their vehicles for icy winter weather. For example, in Germany, vehicles must have snow or all-weather tires installed from October to Easter (Ostern). If you are caught in an accident in inclement weather without proper equipment, the punishment will likely be far more severe, not to mention the risk of endangering yourself or others is much higher.
Take a deep breath and enjoy the ride.
Now that you’ve made sure your paperwork is in order, you know the road rules, your vehicle is covered in the event of an emergency, and you’re prepared for winter weather, relax and revel in the roadside sights and experiences. After all, you’re in Europe! Where will you be heading next?
What are you most anxious about when it comes to driving overseas? Do you have any tips to add for fellow members?
About the Blogger:
Courtney Woodruff is a military spouse, mom, writer, editor and web content manager currently living in Germany. She has a heart for our troops and their families and hopes to share what little she has learned along the way to help others overcome the unique challenges of military life. You can follow her adventures at her blog, Courtney At Home, or through her social media: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest
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