Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Driving Me Crazy: Austrian Driving

We’ve found Austria is one of the safer places to drive when on holiday, particularly compared to Greece or Poland. Austrian drivers tend to be law abiding, and the police aim to catch those who flout the law. However, there are a few things you need to know before driving, even if it’s just from the airport to your hotel.

Only drivers aged 18 and above can drive in Austria, and you will need a full driving license along with photographic identification. In addition, if you are driving your own vehicle, you may need proof of ownership and proof of insurance.

Drinking and driving is strictly forbidden in Austria with an alcohol blood level of just 0.5 mg/ml required for a fine or a ban. That’s a half glass of wine or a very small bottle of beer. If you are drinking, don’t drive.

If you are using the motorways or S-roads in Austria, you need to have a vignette (sticker) displayed on your windscreen. These can be bought from border crossings or from the Austrian automobile clubs. Many petrol stations close to the border also sell them. In addition, you must carry a first-aid kit, a warning triangle, and a high-visibility jacket.

If you are driving a right-hand drive car, you need to have headlight converters. These are simple stickers that prevent your headlights from dazzling others. Unlike several countries in the EU, though, it is not compulsory to have your headlights on at all times. Seatbelts, when fitted, are compulsory, and there are on-the-spot fines for those not wearing them.

Between November 1 and April 15, you must carry snow chains and you must also use winter tires when driving in poor conditions, defined as mud, snow, ice, or slush.

The speed limits in Austria are enforced reasonably strictly, and they are 130 km/h for motorways, 100 km/h for main roads, and 50 km/h for towns and built-up areas (80 mph, 60 mph, and 30 mph).

One of the more bizarre pieces of legislation to come out of Vienna concerns congestion on single-lane and multilane roads. If there is congestion, all vehicles must form an emergency corridor for emergency vehicles. Follow the traffic in front for guidance in this case and don’t attempt to use the new clear stretch of road!

Now, Austria is a safe place to drive thanks to its adequate policing of road safety laws. Whether you are driving, cycling, or walking, you can be sure you’ll reach your pension in one piece.