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Motoring: Pitfalls of EU driving; Cautionary tales from abroad.

TAKING your car abroad can be a mixed pleasure. As long as you don't mind covering big mileages, it can be the most convenient way of going on holiday - particularly if you manage to avoid the queues at the Channel ports.

But there can be hidden pitfalls because of the different motoring legislation that applies across the Continent.

The AA has compiled a country-by-country list of potential problems.

Austria Tourist vehicle access to some parts of Austria may be restricted at times where air pollution exceeds limits. An exhaust emissions test for catalytic converter-equipped cars carried out by the Austrian equivalent of the AA, the OAMTC, provides an exemption.

Belgium If caught drink-driving with a level of 0.05per cent alcohol in the bloodstream, Belgian police will confiscate the driver's licence for three hours and demand an on- the spot fine of up to 125euros (pounds 90).

At 0.08per cent, the fine can rise to 10,000 euros (pounds 7,050) with the police holding on to the driver's licence for six hours. The police also have the option to prosecute offenders with a licence suspension of up to five years and imprisonment of up to six months. The UK alcohol in blood limit is 0.08 per cent.

Czech Republic Any visible damage to a vehicle entering the country must be certified by the authorities at the frontier. If any damage occurs inside the country, a police report must be obtained at the scene of the accident. Damaged vehicles may only be taken out of the country on production of this evidence.

France Failure to pay an on-the-spot fine when asked by a police officer will lead to your car being impounded until you can produce the money. It has been known for tourists to be taken to the nearest cash machine to draw the money for the fine. (In Finland and Estonia, the police provide details of an official bank account into which the fine must be paid).

Germany Exceeding speed limits, using abusive language, making derogatory signs and running out of petrol on the motorway are four ways to get pulled over by German police and fined on the spot.

Greece The police are empowered to confiscate the number-plates of illegally parked vehicles throughout Greece.Generally, this only applies to Greek-registered vehicles, but the drivers of foreign registered and hired vehicles should beware of parking illegally.

Cars carrying bicycles on the back must display a reflective square panel, as must any vehicle with an overhanging load. If not,expect to be pulled over by the Italian police.

If caught drink-driving with a level of alcohol between 0.02 and 0.05per cent in the bloodstream, police will fine offenders and withdraw their driving licences for between one month and one year. Between 0.05 and 0.08 per cent, drink-drivers will be fined and lose their licences for between two months and two years.

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HOLIDAY WARNING: Different motoring legislation applies across the continent
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 1, 2003
Words:499
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