Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Greece, you will encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Drivers and pedestrians alike should exercise extreme caution when operating motor vehicles or when walking along roadways or crossing streets, mindful that Greece's traffic fatality rates are the fourth-highest of the 27 nations that make up the European Union. Visitors to Greece must be prepared to drive defensively. Heavy traffic, poor roads, and high speeds pose hazards, especially at night or in inclement weather. Be especially careful if you are riding a motorbike. The law in Greece requires motorcyclists to wear a helmet. You may see many wearing theirs on the arm, but do not be tempted to follow their example. When driving, be sure to double-check rear and side mirrors, as motorbikes will often ride between lanes and pass on both the left and right. On many two-lane highways, slower traffic will drive on the shoulder and cars will pass straddling the center, double yellow line. Talking on a cell phone while driving is illegal in Greece; the police check cell phone call records when investigating accidents. Driving while under the influence of an alcoholic substance is illegal. A breath-alcohol test (BrAC) showing 250-400 carries a fine of 200; from 400-600, it is 700 and a three-month suspension from driving; if your BrAC is more than 600 the case is remanded to the local court of misdemeanors. Additionally, the blood-alcohol content limit is 0.05% (mg/L), lower than the U.S. limit of 0.08%. For motorcyclists, professional drivers, and those holding a license less than two years the limit is 0.01%. Exceeding the limit may result in arrest, heavy fines, and/or license confiscation. There are a number of nationwide auto-service clubs and plans, similar to those in the United States, providing towing and roadside service, which a tourist can call and pay for per service; the largest, quite similar to AAA, is ELPA, whose nationwide phone number is 10400.
Tourists and temporary residents who will stay in Greece for fewer than 185 days, and plan to drive, must carry a valid U.S. license as well as an international driver's permit (IDP). Failure to have both documents may result in police detention or other problems. The U.S. Department of State has designated two organizations to issue IDPs to those who hold valid U.S. driver's licenses: AAA and the American Automobile Touring Alliance. Issuance of an IDP is quick and inexpensive, but must generally be done before a traveler leaves the United States. Vehicles may not properly be rented without the IDP, although sometimes they are. A driver without one, however, will be cited for failure to have one in the event of an accident, and may be open to civil suit as well. Fines are high. Small motorbike rental firms frequently do not insure their vehicles; customers are responsible for damages and should review their coverage before renting. Individuals who expect to spend more than 185 days in Greece should either obtain a Greek license or convert their valid U.S. license for use in Greece through their local Nomarchy Office of Transportation and Communications.
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