Sunday, February 7, 2010

Driving Basics

I've been on a couple of road trips lately to Germany and Austria so I figured that I'd share a little bit about driving here. First of all, I don't drive because my U.S. driver's license is not valid here. Since I'm in the ČR on a long-term visa, and not an EU citizen, I'm required to obtain a Czech license. Maybe one day but not right now. I mean the public transportation system is great. Plus, I don't want to go through the required bureaucracy of completing driving school, taking both written and practical tests, paying fees, and so on. Besides...I'll have to learn the different European road signs and I don't have time for that right now.

So here are the things that stand out...
Czech drivers are extremely aggressive. The rules of the road tend to be rather fluid at times which probably explains why the insurance rates are so high.

Like the rest of Europe, you have to be at least 18 years old to get a driver's license. There are no 16 year old drivers like in the U.S.

Traffic lights are placed before the intersection and not after.

Passing is only permitted on the left side and it is illegal to make a right turn on a red light.

It is illegal to talk on a mobile phone while driving. You have to use a "hands-free" device. Czech law requires that headlights must always be on, even during the day.

For everyone back home, gas here is around $7 per gallon, so no complaining about how how high it is there.

Czechs are required to have two sets of tires - summer tires and winter tires. I was told if you have the wrong tires on and get into an accident, even if it wasn't your fault, you are still held at fault.

The speed limit in residental areas is 50 km/hour (~30 mph) and 130 km/hr (~80 mph) on the highway.

In most countries you have to purchase a vignette (windshield sticker) in order to drive on the highways. These can be purchased at gas stations, border crossings, post offices, etc., and can be purchased for 7-10 days, a month or a year. A one-year permit for the ČR is 1200 Kč (~$66). The one-year sticker for Austria was €76,40 (~$105). Germany is the best because they don't have this so you can drive on the highways there for free.

The police are allowed to collect traffic fines on the spot, up to 5000 Kč (~$275).

There is a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to drinking and driving here. The maximum blood alchohol level is ZERO. And now the country is cracking down even more. As of January 1, 2010, the law requires that every driver stopped by the police will be breath-tested.

Update:  Link to Czech driving rules in English.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, zero? That's amazing. I don't think that would fly in the U.S. because so much of the U.S. is rural. In Wisconsin, shockingly, they give a traffic ticket for a first offense. Not surprisingly, WI has the highest per capita number of alcoholics in the nation and the powers that be are trying very hard to change the excessive-drinking culture. It's hard to change culture!