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Driving in the Alps? Learn the traffic laws and be ready for snow!

Posted on 01 December 2013

British skiers with plans to drive out to their home in the Alps for Christmas are being warned about driving in winter conditions being ignorant of road laws in France.

Millions of British motorists are taking to the roads in France without understanding some of the most basic road rules, according to a 2013 report by a leading UK insurance firm. More than a third (34 per cent) of UK motorists have driven in France at least once, equivalent to around 12.8 million people. However, 15 per cent of these drivers didn’t know or were unsure about which side of the road to drive on in France and nine per cent weren’t aware that French road signs display speed limits in kilometres.

With 14 per cent of UK motorists planning to drive in France within the space of a year, the research raises concerns that many drivers may unknowingly break the law. When questioned, 65 per cent of those who have driven in France were not aware that using a hands-free mobile phone whilst driving is illegal. A further 49 per cent did not know that using speed camera alerts on a sat nav is against the law, and 43 per cent were unaware that children under 10 must travel in the backseat of a car.

Besides being familiar with the rules of the road in France and ensuring your car is suitably road worthy, drivers off to the Alps should be in mind these tips for driving in winter conditions, especially  around snowy resorts:
– Ensure wiper blades are in good condition, with no splits, de-ice the screen completely and ensure the blades are not frozen to the screen before operating. Failure to do so may result in the protective fuse blowing. It is also worth adding an anti-freeze inhibitor to the screen wash fluid container
– Once on the road, check your speed and turn slowly, even if the roads have been gritted.
– Give more warning than usual to other drivers when turning, stopping or changing lane.
– Keep plenty of distance between cars. You never know when you’ll hit an icy spot. If you pass the same landmarks as the car in front of you within three seconds, you are following too closely.
– Pump the brakes slowly and gently if your car does not have anti-lock brakes. Constant pressure can cause them to lock and skid. Be extra wary of black ice – it is an invisible danger that can catch out the most careful driver.
– Approach corners at a steady speed, in as low a gear as possible. Don’t touch the clutch unless it is absolutely necessary, steer smoothly and avoid braking on the bends.
– If driving in poor light, ensure your headlights are in working order so you are visible to other drivers.