Reducing the risks of motoring abroad: Always tell your insurer, warns Caroline Merrell

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The Independent Online
MOTOR insurers believe that the chaos caused by the IRA's mortar attacks on Heathrow airport will drive many people into taking their cars abroad for the Easter break.

However, the risk of death on the roads of Europe, the destination of most people travelling over the four-day break, is in some cases four times higher than that in Britain.

The most dangerous European country to drive in is Portugal, where road deaths per 100,000 population are 34 compared with Britain's eight. Other dangerous countries include Spain and the former East Germany.

The AA said that last Easter it dealt with 700 claims from its policyholders travelling in France alone, where the road death rate is more than twice ours.

Insurers are warning that anyone contemplating taking a car to Continental Europe over Easter should tell the company before they go.

The insurance companies will then issue a green card, which means the driver will be given the same level of cover abroad as in the UK.

If drivers do not use the green card option they will only be covered for the minimum in the country where they are travelling, typically third party. Some insurers charge extra for the green card while others include a certain number of days free.

Mark Wood, AA Insurance managing director, said: 'While strictly speaking a green card is no longer needed, motorists must tell their insurer when they plan to take the car abroad, so that UK cover can be extended to the countries to be visited.'

Drivers unfortunate enough to have an accident while abroad should tell the insurance company's representatives in the country concerned and the insurance company when they return.

Many insurers issue a European Accident Statement, under which drivers can exchange facts while the events are still fresh in their minds without admitting liability.

If the car is a write-off or is stolen drivers may have to pay import duty to the government of the country concerned.

The cost of extending insurance cover for motoring in Europe varies. Direct Line, for instance, would charge pounds 15 to extend the cover for a Cavalier driver over the Easter break in France and Germany.

Many insurers will apply higher rates for drivers contemplating driving in Eastern European countries.

A driver insuring with Norwich Union and contemplating a two- centre break in Berlin and Prague will not be charged for extending cover in Germany, but will pay for cover in the Czech Republic.

Drivers may want to take out extra cover in case of a more complicated accident. According to the AA the cost of being towed to a garage in France, which would not be covered under comprehensive insurance, is about pounds 43.

Recovering a car that has been involved in an accident somewhere in Europe can cost thousands of pounds.

Many insurance companies offer special driving-abroad packages that cover this type of eventuality and give medical cover and replacement car hire.

For example, the AA estimates that 10 days in a hospital in Spain will cost about pounds 3,800.

Churchill Insurance offers Churchill Abroad, which costs on average about pounds 33 for 12 days in Europe. The cover includes pounds 100,000 in medical expenses, up to pounds 700 for care and hotel accommodation in the event of medical emergency or vehicle breakdown.

Anyone who insures with the AA will automatically be given 45 days a year cover for travelling in Europe at no extra charge. It also offers an enhanced package - Five Star - which covers medical expenses and vehicle recovery.

----------------------------------------------------------------- INSURING YOUR CAR IN EUROPE ----------------------------------------------------------------- Extension of private car insurance to include travel on the Continent Company Standard period European Union of cover Austria, Norway, Sweden & Switzerland ALS at Lloyd's Up to 30 days No charge Commercial Union Up to 31 days No charge for each trip up to 31 days Drake Insurance Periods Comprehensive Non-comprehensive 1 to 17 days pounds 20 pounds 10 18 days to 1 month pounds 25 pounds 15 Additional 2 months pounds 20 pounds 10 Eagle Star Up to 60 days No charge General Accident Up to 45 days No charge Guardian Insurance Up to 90 days No charge Provident Up to 30 days pounds 20 Up to 60 days pounds 40 Up to 90 days pounds 80 ----------------------------------------------------------------- Source: Telesure, tel: 081 665 9988 -----------------------------------------------------------------

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