Ringing in the changes

A round up of New Year’s changes in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Latvia and Portugal.

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ITALY: ROAD TOLLS NOW VIE WITH FRANCE.

Even Ferrari owners struggle to pay the motorway tolls in Italy.

Even (Swiss) Ferrari owners struggle to pay the motorway tolls in Italy. Photo, Milan @DriveEurope.

Motorway tolls increase by an average 3.9% in Italy today.

The biggest increase is 8.28% on the A24 and A25 east of Rome. The largest operator Autostrade per l’Italia raises prices by 4.43%.

The 226km from the Austrian border to Verona on the A22 Autostrada del Brennero now costs €16.40 (or €39.70 for a five axle truck).

Italian motorways are operated by different companies. There’s no official national toll planner. www.ViaMichelin.it claims to include accurate toll charges – or see this AISCAT roads association page which lists each road by operator.

Italian roads have edged up on their French counterparts. The 555km of motorway Milan-Rome now costs €40.10 (up from €38.30) compared to 458km Paris-Lyon at €32.90. That’s 0.0722c per km versus 0.0718c.

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NETHERLANDS: TRAFFIC FINES NOW ‘MOST EXPENSIVE IN EUROPE’.

Fines and – worse – fuel both up today.

The A4, Amsterdam-Den Haag. Pic @DriveEurope.

The A4, Amsterdam-Den Haag. Pic @DriveEurope.

Traffic fines in the Netherlands are the most expensive in Europe according to the ANWB motoring organisation.

Following the automatic 2.8% increase today being caught using a mobile phone behind the wheel now costs €230 compared to €40 in Germany, €135 in France, €100 in Belgium and €75 in the UK.

Other €230 penalties include overtaking on the right, driving through a red light, ignoring an overtaking ban or carrying too many passengers.

The fine for using the emergency lane, parking in a disabled spot or using the horn unnecessarily is €370.

Not placing a warning triangle on the road after an accident or breakdown however is only €140.

Even electric car drivers will be clobbered by the Dutch exchequer in 2014. The tax exemption for company EVs has been removed meaning an extra 4% purchase tax.

Most daunting for all motorists is the rise in fuel duty. From an average €1.753/l for unleaded95 in mid-December the price today according to Fuel Prices Europe is €1.774 (now more expensive than Italy). Diesel follows suit, from €1.459 last month to €1.503 now.

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1 January 2014: daytime running lights - or dipped headlights - are now mandatory in Switzerland. Also, the blood alcohol limit for professional and new drivers is just 0.1%.

1 January 2014: daytime running lights – or dipped headlights – are now mandatory in Switzerland. Also, the blood alcohol limit for professional and new drivers is just 0.1% from today. Meanwhile, Latvia joins the euro and the fee for the annual vignette in Slovenia jumps from €95 to €110 (weekly and monthly are unchanged at €15 and €30). We also hear – unconfirmed – that all winter tyres used on a car in Croatia must be identical. FYI from 1 July 2014 a safety vest becomes compulsory equipment in Germany.

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PORTUGAL: HIGHWAY CODE CHANGES.

As of 1 January 2014, more than 60 amendments have been made to the Highway Code in Portugal.

Alcohol limits – the new blood alcohol limit has been cut from 0.5g/l to 0.2g/l for professional drivers and those who have held licences for less than three years (UK limit 0.8g/l). Drivers can demand re-tests. Tests after accidents now include drink and drugs.

Roundabouts – rules now in line with UK practice. Drivers must now give way to traffic on the roundabout and only use the outside lane when exiting. Fine €60-300.

Priority from the Right – AngloInfo (see below) says, ‘Anyone arriving at an intersection from the right now has priority, either vehicle or a bicycle, ending the give way rule for cyclists’. If so this is a big change. We will confirm. In the meantime, be aware.

Mobile phones – only single earpiece headphones now allowed for drivers not using hands-free kits.

Vulnerable Road Users – this concept is now enshrined in Portuguese law. Drivers now have a duty to avoid behaviour which endangers VRUs, including cyclists, pedestrians, etc. VRUs can use entire width of road but not ‘unnecessarily’ impede traffic. Drivers must allow at least 1.5m when overtaking cyclists and reduce speed.

Shared space – new Coexistence Zones can be set up by local councils, likely within town limits or residential areas. Maximum speed 20kmh. No parking except where indicated. Drivers must stop to protect VRUs. Drivers must Give Way when exiting. Fines from €60-450.

Child seats – children under 12 and/or under 1.35m must use a child seat (limit cut from 1.5m).

FYI – resident drivers must now carry the fiscal ID card to prove they have no tax debts. Fines over €200 can now be paid in instalments.

This is a summary of an AngloInfo summary as recommended by the British Embassy in Portugal. Also see similar from The Portugal News. Read the Highway Code in Portuguese.

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