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Information Disclaimer: This is an unofficial collection of European road sign conventions and rules.Whereas every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information presented, there may be errors and omissions.The entire risk as to results and performance of the information rests with its user.

Travlang logo Signs logo European International Road Signs And Conventions

Throughout, we refer to individual countries by their international (1 to 3)-letter symbol, tabulated in the vocabulary

The European countries have coordinated traffic codes. Various countries' remaining significant differences are listed in an atlas available from each European automobile club. See the following paragraph.

We discuss here first, as typical, the traffic code and road signs of Germany (D), and collect other countries' differences in Signs of other European countries See also Table of Contents (at the end of the Comments Sec. below)

Careful map reading best precedes any trip in unfamiliar areas. Attention ought to be paid to road use restrictions, traffic rules, and grade of some mountain roads. Descriptions of the latter are available in book stores.

Beneficial is familiarity with the rational notation of map scales, such as 1:1 000 000, meaning 1 cm on the map = 1 000 000 cm = 10 km in the real world. In other words, strike the last 5 places to get the 1 cm-equivalent in kilometer. Voilà! See also Conversion Table.

Counted back or forth from the decimal comma (point, in UK), numbers are stated in digital groups of three separated by space, sometimes (in D and A ) by point, or (in CH ) by ' . Except in the UK, decimals are separated by comma from the integer part and not by the point customary in USA. A number must be started with a numeral and not a point or comma.

Our emphasis, in these pages, is on differences between US and European practice and code. Comprehensive paper-backs on the traffic code are available in European book stores. Sufficient command of the language to understand the traffic signs is required under these laws. We have a special note on city parking

o On this page, we show first our suggested 10 rules for safe travel on the European roads;
o then follow 15 comments to expand on the rules, offering reasons and practical aspects;
o there follows the table of contents of our web pages connected hereto - some of them showing the traffic signs, plus one page with traffic related vocabulary and the nationality designators;
o still on this page, follows a table of stopping distances, and a conversion table for distance and weight.

See Table of Contents (at the end of the Comments Sec. below) address directory

Rules:    red Porsche   Rule1,   Rule 2,   Rule 3,   Rule 4, ..... Rule 10

Based upon our interpretation of the code, let us suggest the 10 rules following.

General Comments

Required to have with you in the car are driver's license (US or an European Führerschein), the registration (Fahrzeugschein), "parking disk" (Parkscheibe), and emergency gear consisting of warning triangle Warndreieck and first aid kit.

Certain countries honor a US driver's license only in conjunction with a certified translation (notably E, A, and eastern European countries). The internat. driving permit (I.D.P.) is an honored certified translation written in 9 languages. Particularly with a US driver license, good common sense should probably suggest to carry also an I.D.P., the US driver license being so small in size and print, and unique in format. To understand it, requires training. Most people abroad are probably mystified by such cryptic jargons as "expires 101499", "height 507", "restriction: auto trans (non-cdl)."

Be sure the insurance you carry is accepted wherever you operate a motor vehicle. Also, to carry only liability insurance is definitely insufficient. There are many driving habits that are poor, though common practice in the USA, that will automatically prompt coverage exclusion in Europe, by virtue of prior court ruling. An example is following too closely under poor visibility. Clearly, full coverage for collision seems strongly adviceable.

A valid vignette should be displayed in the windshield, when a trip is planned to, or in, CH or A. The vignette is a toll sticker, which can be purchased at the border. That is for cash. Technically, the vignettes are required only for Autobahn travel in CH, and toll road travel in A, respectively. Yet, with no vignette in the windshield, and refual to buy one, the control officer would have to decide whether the driver may be sufficiently adept at navigating exclusively off Autobahn and toll road. Also, the cash penalty for violation is indeed stiff, in both countries.

Because penalties are due on the spot, one should carry sufficient cash. In border areas, either country's cash is good, particularly the DEM, SFR, ATS, LIT, and FFR. This is so also when paying autostrada toll or automobile service in northern Italy. Credit cards are nowhere accepted in official business, and dollar notes (USD) not generally, because of gyrations in notation, and depending on the collector's volume of dollar intake, and his willingness.

Some countries require a fire extinguisher. Inquire.

Beware: In the event of car theft, when the registration paper was left in the unattended car for hours, your insurance might not indemnify when negligence is potential root cause of the authorities' inability to locate or reclaim the property. Drivers generally seem to take heed, in view of fairly open borders. Don't let your belongings become unintended car donations to thieves - be safe.

Valuables left in the unattended car may not be covered by your theft insurance. Check. The courts have ruled driver's gross negligence in the case of keys stolen from the glove box in a locked car.

Our ten rules


Signs and Table of Contents

Return to the Table of Contents

Some Comments on Driving under Wintry Conditions

The central European winter is known for mostly gray sky and dark nights, with lots of moisture, ice or snow on the road, whichever. Only the freeways (Autobahnen, autoroutes, autopistas, autostradas) and numbered principal through highways (Bundesstraßen, Nationalstraßen, routes nationales, carreteras mayores, stradas interregionales, stradas nationales) get to be sanded and salted. That is with less sand and salt than most people are accustomed from the US. Less salt is being used every year. In fact, there is political pressure to eliminate road salting altogether. To be at ease with genuine winter driving is expected and seems a necessary prerequisite to driving under wintry conditions. Beware of some speeders with poor judgment who do exist, unfortunately.

Last revision of this page: 25.10.00: H.F.V.
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